Transparency in digital advertising is a journey. We discover new requirements for clarity along the way. Fee transparency, which has been a clarion call from marketers for the last few years, can mean much more than simple disclosure. Fee ambiguity and opacity within the digital advertising marketplace experience – no matter how well disclosed – may feel just as hidden.
TRUSTX was founded on the principle of 100% transparency. So, imagine our surprise when some prominent media buyers confided that even our disclosed 12.5% sell-side fee still could feel hidden. Although the way we described our fees was standard industry practice, these Transparency 1.0 disclosures were apparently not enough.
As a result, on January 1, 2019, TRUSTX eliminated our fees entirely from the media buying supply chain. We have unbundled our fee from the media transaction. A dollar bid from any of our connected DSPs now buys a dollar of media from all of our publisher-members. Advertisers and agencies now get 12.5% more media buying power from every dollar they spend with TRUSTX. And our publishers still cover the cost of TRUSTX services, however now as a separate line-item on our payments to them at the end of each month.
Let me explain this in practical terms.
The typical SSP levies its fee in-stream, between the winning DSP bid and the publisher’s ad server. Prior to January 1, when a DSP spent $100,000 of an advertiser’s budget with TRUSTX, $87,500 of that budget ended up buying media from our publishers. We and other SSPs have always referred to this as a “sell-side fee,” but in reality, since this practice ends up reducing working media value for the buyer, one could argue that SSPs are, in effect, a cost to the advertiser.
It was after many conversations with media buyers that we have come to understand that even full disclosure of our fee structure does not completely solve the transparency challenge. Anyone who has purchased an airline ticket or pays a monthly mobile phone bill understands that bundling a stack of incremental fees and taxes inflates and obscures the real cost of a stated price. These fees are all disclosed, but they still feel hidden.
This is why we think transparency is ready for an upgrade.
Transparency 1.0 has been mainly about disclosure. We are advocating for Transparency 2.0, where clarity and simplicity are equally important.
By unbundling our fee from the media transaction, we have completely removed ambiguity. Media buyers know that 100% of their media spend in the TRUSTX marketplace goes directly to publishers, and publishers can fully account for the cost of their TRUSTX marketplace services. If every digital advertising data and technology company were to do the same, far closer to 100% of every advertiser’s budget would pass through to publishers as working media. All fees would become totally clear both in the amounts charged and the entity responsible for paying the bills.
35 premium content publishers created TRUSTX to help lead the industry’s journey towards greater transparency and accountability. From day one, TRUSTX promised advertisers a 100% premium, brand-safe publisher environment. We have guaranteed humanity and viewability for every transaction. And now, since January 1, 2019, TRUSTX is making a new promise – that all TRUSTX marketplace participants get 100% clarity on the cost of our services and exactly who pays our fees. For the benefit of all digital advertising buyers and sellers, we urge the industry to follow our lead.
TRUSTX is a public benefit corporation created with the singular purpose of restoring trust, transparency and safety to the digital advertising supply-chain.