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Programmatic ‘simply not working’ for brands or publishers

The Australian Association for National Advertisers (AANA) has warned marketers they need to take on responsibility for transparency – rather than relying on publishers or media agencies – as issues around ad fraud, viewability and programmatic advertising increase.

At last night’s AANA event – The Media Challenge: Achieving Transparency Effectiveness to Drive Business Outcomes – Nick Manning, chief strategy officer at Ebiquity, said even though ad fraud is growing, programmatic is “the biggest problem of all”, and it will be on marketers to find solutions.

“Ad fraud is an issue for everybody. It exists in different proportions in different parts of the world. In the US it’s really a very big problem. In some markets, it’s less of a problem. But it’s out there, and it’s growing. And you have to have an active management program, working with your partners to work out how that’s affecting you. Ditto for Facebook’s metrics… you need to understand how that affects you, what you should do about it, how you work with your partners to address it,” he said.

“And programmatic is the biggest problem of all… because programmatic advertising simply, for most of our clients, isn’t working. How do we know that? It’s because we do an awful lot of ROI analytics work and we very rarely ever see programmatic producing a positive return on investment. It can happen, we do see it happening, but for the majority of our clients, it doesn’t, and that is a real problem.”

Despite programmatic not giving brands a sufficient ROI, Manning said money was continuing to pour in “like there was no tomorrow”.

“The market is not going well. There is a channel that is not working well for many of our clients and yet there is money going in as if there were no tomorrow. So this is a problem. It means that an inefficient channel is receiving more and more investment and that shouldn’t happen and it’s damaging to the industry as a whole – because if the advertising in programmatic isn’t effective and it produces significant brand safety problems, it’s a problem for the entire industry.”

Manning contended programmatic also wasn’t working for publishers, who say despite its supposed efficiencies and automations, there is still too much manual labour involved which is “causing a problem”.

The onus to tackle the problem may be with marketers however, with Manning saying “it’s your money”, so you need to control it.

“You as advertisers have to understand how you tackle this and how you reduce the level of wastage that is inherent in the online and programmatic system,” he said.

“It is very important you have an active stewardship program at your disposal to make sure that you make all the right decisions…

“Media has to be treated as a significant business discipline. It is a lot of money. For many of you, it’s one of your biggest costs as a business. Therefore, you need to actively manage those costs, those investments, as much as you would any other investment in your business. And it is your money that we’re talking about here. The advertisers pay for the entire industry…we are becoming even more an ad-funded industry,” he said.

Sunita Gloster, CEO of the AANA echoed these sentiments and shared insights from some AANA members who had said “the only viable option to get transparency in this area [digital advertising] is to bring it in-house”. Gloster conceded many AANA members are “on the journey” to making that business decision.

Gloster shared another AANA member’s concerns who said: “The biggest area of transparency concern is digital media and programmatic buying. It’s the dark art. No visibility. My knowledge here is just not as strong as it should be.”

Another said the media transparency issue between publishers, media agencies and marketers was “the blind leading the blind”.

Manning said marketers need to tackle the transparency issue so they can make the best possible media decisions and drive better advertising, but conceded “transparency has never been harder to get”.

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