Ad industry tips on getting the best value for digital ads

29th June 2023

The Association of National Advertisers (“ANA”), which is the US equivalent of ISBA and the US advertising industry’s oldest and largest trade association, recently released its report on the state of “open web” programmatic media buying and advertising. “Open web” programmatic advertising (which excludes search engine and ‘walled garden’ advertising) makes up a large portion of brands’ digital media spend (estimated around 11% of total global media spend in 2022).

The aim of the report is to help ensure that brands are maximising the investment they are making in programmatic advertising. The ANA interviewed brands, as well as agencies and ad verification providers.

What are some of the key findings?

  • Information imbalances: there are large imbalances in the nature and quality of information that different parties in a programmatic ad have access to. The sellers of ad space generally have more or better information that sellers about the quality of ad space (namely type of inventory and audience reach) that is being auctioned or sold. As buyers are unable to properly access information about pricing and reach, they land up overpaying.
  • Limited access to data: buyers of these ad services often struggle to verify the data they are given by sellers. Buyers remain largely reliant on agencies and ad verification suppliers for this data and have limited ability to ensure there is transparency. The complex contracting structures within the programmatic supply chain also makes data verification difficult.
  • Beware clickbait spend: the report found that almost 15% of all programmatic spend landed up being placed on clickbait websites. Clearly having your brand associated with low-quality content, pop-up ads or other intrusive ads is far from ideal as a brand owner.

What is being recommended?

  • Advertisers should take a more “hands on” approach: rather than delegating responsibility entirely to agencies, brands should wherever possible take steps to ensure that agencies are acting in their best interests. As programmatic ads tend to be brands largest advertising spend these days, extra care and due diligence should be taken when engaging with the relevant agencies.
  • Access to supply chain data: brands should ask their agencies to ensure that they are able to obtain and provide access rights to data held by their supply chain partners. This will help the brand to verify and understand where programmatic spend is actually going.
  • Cheapest media may not be the best media: even though it costs more, higher cost ad inventory means more valuable, fraud-free and brand safe ad placements. Brands should work closely with their agencies to understand wherever possible what quality of placements they are getting in return for their payments.
  • Detailed “inclusion” and “exclusion” lists: brands should be clear on sites where their ads cannot be placed (for example, adult sites) and those where the brand would prefer its ads to be placed.
  • Quality service levels and reporting: brands should clarity what viewability, anti-fraud and brand safety metrics will be made available from the agency. The key here is to make sure that industry best practices are being followed by the agency and their supply chain.

What’s next?

This is only a preliminary report from the ANA and a more complete report is to follow. Even though this report has been pulled together by a US association, the issues remain the same for all brands operating digitally. To access the full report, click here.