In the current digital media marketplace so many are led to believe that in each of the billions of advertising transactions that take place in real time, there is always a winner and a loser. Some industry voices are quick to point out that for all of the efficiency and convenience benefits of ad exchanges, platforms and real time bidding (RTB) exchanges comes a decrease in inventory quality and impression value. This viewpoint begs the questions: “How can ad exchanges balance the needs of ad buyers and sellers so that both parties feel that value was attributed to each impression?”
In his article titled Helping the Invisible Hand: Simple Measures to Make Online Ad Exchanges Work, Advertising Research Foundation’s EVP of Digital Ted McConnell identifies a problem with inventory transparency. McConnell writes that although marketers work within “a miraculous ecosystem,” the structure does not satisfy the needs of the marketplace and exchanges make it difficult for buyers to bid on inventory according to the measures that designate ‘premium’ content. He employs a simple comparison to emphasize this argument by asking readers if they would “buy a cantaloupe while wearing a blindfold and gloves? [If you] buy impressions on blind exchanges, that’s exactly what can happen.” While McConnell doesn’t stop short in expressing the limitations of ad exchanges, he does concede that there are some useful metrics that can be used to determine audience interest in brand messaging: page-dwell time, topical alignment, ad-hover time, ad-load and content-sharing propensity.
Although McConnell raises some valid points, there are more advantages to the use of exchanges than he lets on. There are tools available at our industry’s disposal that will provide for a more open advertising environment and ensure that there is no such thing as “good” or “bad” content, only content that is relevant for each brand. Just as there are thousands of brands that have each carved out their own unique value propositions, there are just as many profiles that define the elements of a quality ad impression. The key to creating this optimal marketplace is by prioritizing trust and transparency throughout the automated exchange space. Trust is a primary issue for the publisher to guarantee that they are receiving maximum value for both their content and their brand. Transparency is a cornerstone concern for the advertiser so they can both see and appreciate the data that allows them to comfortably spend more dollars in an exchange system where impression value can be determined prior to a buy. The most interesting part of this conversation – outside of the obvious need for more openness – is how easy it is to implement a holistic solution. Key measurements exist that can help define premium content. The online advertising ecosystem offers the ability to verify content, confirm audience engagement, and assure that advertisers can purchase inventory that features attributes tailor fit for their brand.
Instead of focusing on the drawbacks of modern ad exchanges, it is a more worthwhile exercise to leverage the positives of automated buying and drive the marketplace forward on the promise of greater trust and transparency.