Trust, Safety and the Pursuit of Transparency in Digital Advertising


Originally published on Huff Post

Our industry is suffering from a trust problem. With digital dominating content consumption, only 30% of American’s have a “great deal” or “good amount of trust” in the media these days according to a recent NPR/PBS poll. A full two-thirds of them believethat mainstream media is responsible for at least some of the “fake news” problem. And the two biggest players in the industry, Google and Facebook, have been called to taskfor their roles in enabling the widespread dissemination of fake news.

Unfortunately, things may get much worse before they get better. About a quarter of the more than 1,000 experts surveyed by Pew Research for its “Online Trust in the Next Decade” foresee ever-diminishing levels of trust—unless things change significantly. Co-creator of the Internet, Vinton Cerf, said that “Trust is rapidly leaking out of the internet environment. Unless we strengthen the ability of content and service suppliers to protect users and their information, trust will continue to erode.” While Cerf admits that the Internet may not have been constructed with transparency and trust at its core, he wisely noted that a successful road forward must be built on that foundation.

Marketers Lose Faith

Consumers are far from alone in their crisis of faith in digital. When their ads were found running adjacent to objectionable content, advertisers reacted swiftly and decisively in removing their messages from YouTube. Issues with viewability, bots, and ad-fraud top the growing list of marketer concerns. Add to that the fact that many marketers are losing faith in advertising agencies and demanding increased transparency in their practices and the digital picture is not pretty.

Programmatic, touted as the easiest way to deliver effective advertising to exactly the right person at the right time, is the latest to make the digital advertising walk of shame. Many CMOs are fed up with the fraud and lack of transparency in programmatic ad exchanges. Opaque trading practices, high fraud rates, and a general lack of accountability have given programmatic advertising a bad name. We have reached a crisis point. It’s time for the industry come together to restore value and efficiency to programmatic trading. We need to rebuild the fundamentals for which it was originally designed.

The Economic Return on Trust

Trust isn’t some fuzzy qualitative notion that simply makes participants in the digital supply chain feel good. Brand marketers, agencies and publishers are motivated to restore trust to the digital supply chain because it drives economic benefits that are clear and quantifiable.

In an August 10, 2017 communique to over 1,000 top marketers, Bob Liodice, CEO of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) stated that, “Trust, safety, and transparency have dominated the digital media conversation in recent years. The supply chain’s complexity and opacity net digital advertisers as little as 30 to 40 cents of working media for every dollar spent.”

A few days later, ANA publically announced a partnership with TrustX, a subsidiary of the non-profit trade association, Digital Content Next. TrustX is a premium, private programmatic marketplace designed for the singular purpose of restoring trust, transparency, safety and accountability to digital advertising. ANA is encouraging its members to allocate a portion of their digital advertising budget through TrustX to approximately 30 premium content publishers, which include CBS Interactive, Financial Times, ABC, Condé Nast, Hearst, NBCUniversal, ESPN, News Corp., the Washington Post, Meredith, and Vox Media, among others.

Advertisers and their agencies that buy media through TrustX are assured that their messages will appear alongside content from participating DCN premium publisher members. Their ad budgets will fund media that is deemed human and viewable in accordance with MRC standards, and buyers will enjoy 100% trading transparency down to the publisher URL, along with 100% financial transparency from bid to delivery, reporting and billing.

“When we think about key requirements for the future of programmatic advertising, these are the must-haves,” said Jason Kanefsky, Chief Investment Officer at Havas Media. “We’re providing our clients a far deeper level of transparency and control over their digital campaigns. We couldn’t be more aligned with the TrustX mission.”

And really: This mission shouldn’t be a mythical one. It really isn’t out of reach. If we set our sights on delivering digital experiences that everyone can confidently explore, enjoy, and invest in, we can restore trust and value to the digital marketplace.

David Kohl joins other experts in the digital media space on Thursday, September 28 at 12:45 for Trust, Safety & The Pursuit of Transparency at AWNewYork. Passes for #AWNewYork are now available.

by Paul Wyrembak

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