AAM’s Steve Guenther on Programmatic Transparency

March 21, 2016

AAM’s vice president of digital services talks about the IAB, MRC and TAG standards and guidelines that govern the industry’s main digital issues.

Susan Kantor, Director, Marketing and Communications
 

AAM: AAM just released a white paper that outlines the need for more transparency in programmatic media buying. How much of a concern is programmatic transparency from an industry perspective?

Steve Guenther: As you may know, the IAB’s Open RTB Spec allows the seller to provide details such as the location of the ad and the audience to the buying platform. If the seller doesn’t provide details on where the ad is going to run, the advertiser has the opportunity to back out. On the other side, if the buyer doesn’t provide the seller with information about the creative, the seller can back out. The issue is that these attributes are optional in the current spec, so it’s up to the technology vendors to educate both the seller and the buyer on what information can be made available so that they can require the level of transparency they want, one impression at a time.

 

AAM: What should marketers and publishers keep in mind when it comes to programmatic transparency?

SG: Keep compliance with the Open RTB Spec in mind. There’s definitely a movement for companies in the open RTB space to comply with the spec. But it’s a lengthy document, so we need to highlight the important details to make sure that buyers and publishers are aware of their options to be transparent. The spec allows the buyer and seller to be totally transparent, and the industry needs to look at the attributes around ad placement or location, audience and creative as best practice instead of optional.

 

AAM: Do the same rules of auditing and transparency apply in a private marketplace (PMP) as in an open RTB environment?

SG: In a private marketplace, there is more transparency by default because it’s invite-only, so arguably, both sides should know all of the players and where the ads are going to run. It’s more of a direct relationship. But at the end of the day, you still need to make sure ads are served and measured properly because you can still have fraudulent activity. Whoever is involved in the delivery of an ad, regardless of platform, should be audited. We’re only as strong as our weakest link.

 

 

AAM: What is AAM’s stance on fraud and invalid traffic? How is AAM helping companies fight it?

SG: Fraud is a critical issue because it is costing marketers billions of dollars. Companies should employ better controls to ensure that they’re taking all of the steps to protect themselves from it. The low-hanging fruit is to work with certified companies and know who you’re dealing with. Marketers need to demand more accountability to be on par with what they require in traditional media. AAM helps companies address fraud because we are an independent third party with the expertise to ensure that companies are incorporating industry guidelines and best practices into their measurement and reporting processes.

 

Which industry guidelines are important to note?
AAM works closely alongside the IAB, MRC and TAG to help set industry guidelines and standards. Here are a few notable guidelines that organizations should be aware of to transact with trust.

Programmatic
IAB's Open RTB Spec: A detailed explanation of a real-time bidding interface, with optional and required parameters noted.
TAG’s Inventory Quality Guidelines: A framework for brand safety across the digital advertising supply chain

Measurement
IAB Measurement Guidelines: Guidelines focused on the various measurements reported to the marketplace.
MRC’s Invalid Traffic Detection and Filtration Guidelines: Guidelines for detecting and filtering invalid traffic from the measurements being reported to the marketplace.
MRC’s Viewable Impression Measurement Guidelines: Guidelines for measuring viewable impressions that supplement existing IAB measurement guidelines.

 

AAM: What progress has been made in fighting fraud over the past year?

SG: We have a lot of the pieces to the puzzle in place, but now they need to be implemented by the vendors in the digital advertising supply chain in order to move forward. The stage was set with the release of the MRC’s Invalid Traffic Guidelines that become effective at the end of April. The Trustworthy Accountability Group has a number of initiatives, all of which require registration with TAG as a critical first step. All companies need to be part of TAG to demonstrate that they are legitimate companies that are part of the solution and not the problem. Ad tech vendors need to adopt and implement the IVT guidelines and use the TAG tools to start squeezing out the bad actors in the digital advertising supply chain.

 

AAM: How are companies that are certified to industry guidelines better equipped to take on these issues?

SG: If a company is compliant with industry guidelines and best practices and goes through the certification process, they’re committed to being good stewards of the advertiser’s dollar. When you think about being a good steward, it means that you don’t take your business partners for granted so you provide complete transparency, which earns their trust.

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