Today's column is written by Andy Vogel, global head of digital products at NewBase.
The ad supply chain is underregulated, and this has become obvious with the recent Financial Times spoofing scandal that uncovered at least six industry players offering fake inventory.
With new revelations coming out regularly about the Russians meddling in the US presidential election via social media campaigns, these latest scandals should act as a wake-up call to publishers and media owners. But right now, many publishers seem to be standing back waiting for others to act.
These ad tech scandals have come about, in part, because one type of measurement is being used to define success. Brands are obsessed with reach, and by implication this leads to an overreliance on quantity over quality, making it increasingly difficult for them to obtain what they want: transparency and openness.
As with any good business deal, everyone needs to win: Publishers want a fair price, advertisers want the right audiences and agencies want to effectively measure their work. Transparency has been the industry’s word of the year but without much change in the status quo so far. The conversation has been led by big advertisers and their name CMOs. It’s time for publishers to step up and become more involved in the industry self-regulation that’s being driven by the IAB.
I understand both sides of the coin. I previously worked on the publisher side running digital and mobile operations at Tribune Media, and I now work in ad tech. I think there are several ways media owners can be a force for good.
Marketers aren’t measuring the right things, but this is, in part, down to the restricted supply available. If there was increased quality inventory available in the open marketplace, accurate measurement could be more easily put into place. Currently, publishers are trying to keep their revenue up via private marketplaces, and thus restricting quality inventory supply. However, the more inventory openness there is, the more the market will bear out the true value and publishers will be pleased with the results.
A good starting point in cleaning things up will be adherence to Ads.txt, the industrywide effort to stamp out bad actors and domain spoofing. It will only work if all players do their part. Advertisers need to stick to the standard and agencies need to act as an enforcement mechanism and focus their efforts on only buying Ads.txt. inventory.
Publishers are masters in engaging people, and they understand their readers and know what they want to see. However, they’ve not always reacted fast enough to how people want to consume media or what advertisers want to buy. For example, video inventory is in short supply on premium sites but advertisers want it, so spoofing has taken a big toll on publisher’s revenue. Media owners need to focus on having more short-form content and will need to bring in more creators. This is one way publishers can increase revenue and eliminate the brand-side push for more quantity.
At the same time, there’s another conversation that needs to happen and that’s around audiences. The world has changed, and audiences are increasingly fragmented. Agencies and publishers need to push back against clients and say when there aren’t 10 million people in market that want to buy their razor. However, there may be 8 million, so perhaps they can work up an appropriate way to reach these people.
Some audiences also want and need politically charged content that sparks debate. Brands need to be much more audience-focused and share this with publishers to influence and direct them toward generating a better offering and contextually relevant content.
Finding the right audience at the right time on the right platform or device is in everyone’s best interest. The reality is that quality media reaching the right people will likely cost more. But if it’s more effective, then ROI will make sense to advertisers and everybody wins.