Joanna L. O'Connell is Manager of Strategic Development, ATOM Systems, Razorfish.It was with much enthusiasm, then, that I approached the exchange landscape as a buyer. While the exchanges didn't seem to offer much in the way of site-level transparency, they did offer the promise of direct control, insight and repeatability--all the elements which I'd been missing in my experience with networks. For the first time, I had access to a multitude of optimization levers never before at my disposal: things like geo, time of day, day of week, not to mention ad size and creative concept. I was able to "see under the hood" of my exchange campaigns and could finally start to answer the big question: what kinds of impressions convert and at what price should I buy them? I could make repeatable buying decisions, not to mention share new insights, time after time. This was a wholly different kind of transparency.
Certainly, I understand the desire to answer the question, "Yes, but where are my ads running?" And, I absolutely believe that serving as good stewards of clients' brands by keeping their advertising out of questionable or otherwise unsavory content is paramount. But being able to answer all kinds of other important questions that tap into the heart of what's driving campaign success or failure is a great leap forward, no matter how you cut it.
That said, buyers will continue to push for site level transparency and, as was the case in the network space, the exchanges will likely evolve to be more "transparent" in the traditional sense. But I would hate for buyers – and their clients – to miss out on a totally new kind of transparency that is available right now on the exchanges.