The ANA recently published the first look of their Programmatic Media Supply Chain Transparency study. While global open-web programmatic media spend is expected to reach $88 Bn this year, the study identifies the opportunity to realise at least $20Bn in efficiency improvement (media waste) – equating to 23% of spend.

This is very much aligned with the results from the data we have been analyzing at Ebiquity for the last 4 years. 

Across our global network of clients, we analyze trillions of digital media impressions and identify these areas of waste on a daily basis. In 2022 we identified that, on average, 21% of digital spend was wasted where we actively collaborate with our clients and their agencies to effectively identify and eliminate digital media waste.

Transparency remains an issue and is complex. From one end of the spectrum with fully non-transparent or inventory media deals through to full transparency and ownership of the entire supply chain, including data access rights. Most clients are somewhere in the middle with transparent buying but lack the right visibility into the data to make informed decisions about true programmatic value. But as outlined here by the ANA, there are critical and relatively easy steps that advertisers can take to take control and eliminate this waste. 

Its time to dive into the ANA findings and identify how you can take action now to clean up your programmatic supply chain:

Focus on value, not cost 

The ANA identifies the prioritization of costs as one of the key drivers of an untransparent programmatic supply chain. Not only does it incentivize a lack of transparency, it also results in cheap inventory that is often of poor quality. To get the most out of your investments, you should not aim for the most amount of impressions but rather on the value of the inventory you buy.

We have seen significant progress in this area, with commitments moving beyond cost and procurement departments focused more on value. However, there is still some way to go to incentives suppliers in the right way to deliver the best value from the supply chain.

Exclude Made For Advertising sites 

$13 Bn is estimated (by ANA) to flow towards MFA sites – translating to 15% of programmatic spend. MFA sites are characterized by high ad clutter & auto-refreshing ads. The game DSP algorithms, penalize premium publishers and provide user-hostile, low-quality advertising experiences.

Across our clients, we have seen as high as 27% of spend going to MFA sites. For those clients, we have helped to immediately exclude these bad actors from their supply chain, delivering millions of increased investment value whilst driving down CO2 emissions. This is as easy as activating and governing the right inclusion and exclusion lists. What we would describe as low-hanging fruit.

Reduce inventory fragmentation 

The average campaign in the ANA study ran on 44.000 websites. This high level of fragmentation and extended reach into the long tail increases the risk of poor ad quality. As per the ANA study, the top 500 domains had a 50% lower fraud rate and were 13% more viewable than the long-tail.

It underscores the importance of tightening controls to safeguard the quality and effectiveness of your programmatic ad campaigns.

With one of our clients, we identified 400.000 unique domains in a single market and increased efficiency by $2M by redirecting spend away from the long tail (where not part of the strategy).

Improve sustainability by practicing good digital hygiene 

ANA, recognizing the importance of a sustainable media ecosystem, emphasizes that advertisers should prioritize executing a sustainable digital advertising strategy. One crucial step in this process is for advertisers to evaluate the carbon impact of each inventory source and refrain from purchasing from those that do not meet your sustainability standards. 

Especially steer away from those supply partners that are simply not “worth it.” This comes down to practicing good digital hygiene. As a key example of this, our recent study with Scope3 uncovered that MFA inventory emits 26% more carbon emissions than non-MFA; this increases to 52% more emissions when compared to Trusted News Sites.

At Ebiquity, we have partnered with Scope3 to provide end-to-end management of your digital media sustainability: measuring, reporting, and reducing your advertising induced emissions across digital channels. The analysis sits alongside your campaign performance, powering decision-making that reduces your environmental impact whilst improving performance. These actionable insights allow you to structurally identify the opportunities to decarbonize or offset advertising-induced emissions. Our clients drive immediate impact by eliminating any wasted carbon emissions (MFA and non-viewable, unsafe, and Invalid Traffic impressions).

Approach log level data with caution

Log-level data can open up a wealth of insights and increases transparency throughout the entire supply chain. It enabled the ANA to uncover previously unattributable spend – the “unknown delta” as per ISBA’s 2020 Programmatic Supply Chain Transparency Study.

The ANA recommends pushing for log-level data from all your ad tech partners. However, getting access to log-level data is no easy feat. As per this AdExchanger article, 69% of the companies in the ANA study dropped out of the analysis as they were not able to gain access.

To explore if you can get log-level data, you will need to invest significant time and resources. Then, if you do manage to get it, extracting actionable insights will require further investments in both data management and media expertise. In our experience at Ebiquity, the effort-reward equation does not add up.

That said, the good news is that you do not need log-level data to eliminate the waste in programmatic media. Instead, prioritize cleaning your programmatic supply chain through the data that is already available to you, with no incremental effort.

We recommend using source data direct from the platform to uncover your digital media ecosystem, increase transparency and structurally identify the opportunities for improvement. Once you have ensured full adherence to best practices, and eliminated all the waste, then you can consider if log-level data is worth it for your company.

How you can act right now

There is a high risk of waste in programmatic advertising if you do not actively govern your investments. To clean up your supply chain and maximize value, we recommend advertisers to:

  1. Leverage source data to uncover your digital media ecosystem and increase transparency throughout the cost chain – (this can be done without log data)
  2. Set Governing rules for best practice and efficient trading with your partners. As we see from the ANA, excluding MFA sites and limiting inventory fragmentation are key mandates to implement
  3. Monitor your spending to ensure adherence to your trading rules, and hold partners to account where needed.

Over the past 4 years, we have been actively collaborating with our clients to effectively identify and eliminate digital media waste. Through our robust digital media governance program, we provide continuous support to our clients in identifying the challenges and implementing best practices in trading to address and resolve the areas of concern. The program is designed to proactively manage and mitigate digital media waste and maximize overall efficiency.

Are you interested to understand how your media investments stack up against ANA’s findings? Looking to take action now and eliminate the waste? Please reach out to your Ebiquity Account Manager or Contact us here.

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