AdTech is complex ecosystem that can hide a lot of inefficient or, worse, nefarious activities. To be well-armed means asking lots and lots of questions.
As you review and manage your marketing P&L, you probably have seen the line item for a brand safety vendor. Just guessing here, but neither you nor your CFO are happy with spending money on non-working media.
I can’t stress this enough; this is necessary for transacting all of your digital spend. Besides choosing a vendor, understanding what is going on with this line item is even more important.
Make sure you push your team, agencies, and vendors by asking the right questions as you are managing this line item. If you (the client) do not care, nobody will. Contradicting reports from many different outlets may state that ad fraud is going up or that it’s going down, but it does not matter what the stats say. Just know that fraud exists and you need to combat it. As a senior marketer you have several questions you need to ask your agency, vendor, and team.
Do we own the contract?
The “in-house movement” and The Ebiquity Report has taught marketers to own the contract. Don’t let ad-servers or brand safety vendors be left off that list. Once you own the contract, you can dictate the rules. If your agency owns the contract with the vendors used in your campaign execution, those vendors are not in a position to take the advertiser’s directions or ever explain how their technology works. You can’t dictate the rules if you don’t have all of the information. After a lot of talk and very little action, “transparency” has become an empty buzz word in the space.
If you want transparency, you (the client) need to demand it.
Owning the contract is the first step in achieving this. Once you have all of the information, you can take back ownership and make educated decisions on your digital media spend.
Ask are the incentives aligned?
Most likely the incentives are not aligned. Remember, most of your media expenditure is on a CPM. Most of your ad tech vendors charge on a CPM. Therefore, the more impressions, the more of your money they all make. Your agency most likely charges on a percentage of expenditure. If they spend more money, they make more money — again, your money. This is not about trusting a vendor or partner, just a gentle reminder that your money is your money. Everyone in the ecosystem wants your money. If you are fortunate to have big budgets, you can dictate the rules that get people closer aligned with sheer brute force. If you are smaller, there are still a multitude of vendors to choose from out there, make sure you ask the right questions and set up the right relationship and expectation from minute one.
Is the team monitoring every campaign and vendor?
Occasionally, “direct” (as opposed to programmatic) campaigns are not measured because it would be “cost prohibitive.” Do we want to apply an additional cost for this campaign with a well-known and reputable big newspaper site or publisher? Yes, you do. This is one of the biggest mistake buyers make, and it is a shortcut that needs to be avoided. Have you seen the subsequent optimizations and make-goods that can result from monitoring your direct campaigns?
Is your agency or vendor just setting and forgetting? Don’t let them, this is a contact sport and they need to be vigilant for you.
What am I being billed on?
Ah, the million — potentially millions — of dollars question. Asking a simple question like what is the discrepancy between ads rendered and auctions won? This can lead to a conversation with your vendor that can both enlighten and frighten you.
Don’t get mad at the sales person when they say they don’t know the answer, get mad at them if their next words are not, “I will find out for you and confirm the billing model in writing.”
There are generally 3-5 companies involved with transacting an ad-impression between the publisher and the advertiser. Each company has different impression counts, each piece of the supply chain has different standards for what constitutes a “billable event,” but the advertisers are currently responsible for compensating suppliers for all of the lost non-working media along the way. Advertisers sit at the top of the advertising ecosystem, and should be considered the customers here. When you ask yourself, “why am I paying for impressions that never reached a customer?”, it starts to seem quite simple, but to stop paying for these impressions, you have to ask the right questions.
On top of cost discrepancies, which are a business process issue, there is an uncomfortably large issue with impression discrepancies that is industry-wide. Advertisers should not be responsible for covering the cost of inefficiencies in ad-technology. This is both a reality and foundational problem in ad-technology.
Are you taking action using all the available data?
Make sure you look at your log files! Ask your verification vendor for the logfiles. If you have people looking at these log files (impression by impression transactional data), you will see opportunities for make-goods. If you can recoup some of the lost dollars, this is where your CFO will be your biggest supporter. If you optimize via consistent use of the available data, you will continue to see success.
Original article appeared on ANA (Association of National Advertisers): https://www.ana.net/blogs/show/id/mm-blog-2020-02-asking-questions