Fixing the leaky bucket - How to optimise value from programmatic media buying

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Most advertising is now digital and almost 90% of digital display ads are traded programmatically.

The programmatic digital media supply chain is incredibly – and often unnecessarily – complex. In certain areas, it has become this way almost by design. It’s no wonder that many marketers struggle to understand how it works, let alone appreciate the potential value that all of the links in the chain can add and subtract.

Optimising the return on investment that programmatic can deliver comes from knowledge and experience of the market. The key to unlocking value in programmatic ecosystems is for brands to build a detailed understanding of how it works. Central to building this understanding is a willingness to ask questions of your agency and technology partners until you’re satisfied with their answers.


  • Ten things advertisers can do to optimise value from programmatic media
  • Mapping the supply chain to follow the money
  • Managing relationships and taking control and ownership of data
// What we want to investigate and why


In a first-of-its-kind “bid log data” study of more than 16bn media impressions traded programmatically. Ebiquity media experts and research partners have calculated that more than 40c in the dollar is typically eroded along the chain between advertiser and publisher, 42c was the average value erosion. Less wasteful minima were 30c, while more wasteful maxima were 85c in the dollar. And that’s before you start to factor in the impact on ROI of diverse issues such as non-human traffic, ad fraud, brand safety and viewability. “Non-working” media costs have ballooned at the expense of budget available for media space or inventory. It’s not surprising that one of the more popular and colourful metaphors used to describe programmatic media buying is “the leaky bucket”.

While getting to grips with programmatic may seem like a daunting task, our clients’ experience shows that it’s possible to demystify your programmatic ecosystem – and in the process improve return on investment – by navigating through the different aspects of it logically, step-by-step.

  • How value can be eroded in programmatic digital media trading
  • Improving effectiveness and efficiency in programmatic
  • The complexity of the programmatic digital media supply chain
// What we've discovered and suggest


The programmatic digital media supply chain in 2020 is incredibly complex, involving multiple links between advertisers and publishers.

The complexity of the ecosystem has meant that some advertisers now accept the status quo without fully realising the cost and value of their programmatic investments. Armed with the right questions, we believe that it is possible to drive value through programmatic media, but to do so takes an informed
and holistic approach.

  • The case of a non-transparent supply chain
  • The case of excessive segmentation

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