Why publishers are receiving just half the money spent on their digital ads by premium brands.


In January 2018, ISBA’s Performance and Programmatic Steering Group, representing the UK’s advertisers, posed a simple question: what does my programmatic supply chain look like and how can I assess its value in terms of working media? It tasked ISBA with finding out the answer.

The resulting study, carried out by PwC, marks the first time that programmatic advertising supply chains – the way in which advertisers and publishers are served by the programmatic ad delivery system – have been mapped from end-to-end, anywhere in the world.

The study took a year to set up and a further year to carry out, revealing a market ripe for fundamental reformation to make it fit for purpose. 

Why?  Because the study established that publishers receive just half the money spent on their digital ads by premium brands, plus, the researchers also discovered that almost a third of those ad-placing costs were completely untraceable.  A critical conclusion of this study is the need for industry collaboration to further investigate the unknown delta and agree industry-wide actions to reduce them.

Due to the difficulties obtaining data and lack of transparency, the report also concludes that all market participants must contribute to industry evolution. This includes: a shared understanding and application of ‘transparency’; contractual arrangements with standardised definitions; clear and consistent protocols for sharing data; careful monitoring of log level reports; supporting industry initiatives to investigate any unattributable costs; and implementing robust governance and compliance programmes.

A year on, the AOP (Association of online publishers), a Cross-industry Programmatic Taskforce has made progress in laying out a future roadmap, responding to PWC’s key findings and recommendations.  Furthermore, findings from the 2020 study and the taskforce outputs will also be used to inform the new study into the programmatic supply chain announced by the ANA (Association of National Advertisers) on 29 April with fieldwork expected to commence over the Summer.

ANA CEO Bob Liodice said: “Marketers do not have a fully transparent line of sight into their programmatic supply chains. The lack of full transparency for ad delivery and ad quality is diminishing marketers’ ability to fully optimize investments and drive greater business growth. We believe this lack of transparency is costing advertisers billions of dollars in waste.”

Smartology is one of few in the industry who have adopted a fully transparent pricing model so we are delighted that there is such a focus on identifying the unattributable costs that make up such a significant proportion of the programmatic advertising supply chain.

Read the Executive Summary of the study here ISBA | Executive Summary – Programmatic Supply Chain Transparency Study



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