It is no secret that many of today’s digital publishers have serious concerns about the state of ad tech. They have yielded a huge amount of control to technology intermediaries and major platforms to operate and monetize their websites.
If you count the third-party pixels running on any publisher’s website, you will immediately see how complicated and convoluted the once simple process of putting an ad on a web page has become.
Beyond using Google and Facebook for everything from ad serving to traffic generation, there are many other demand-side platforms (DSPs), supply-side platforms (SSPs), data management platforms, customer relationship management platforms, verification vendors and reporting tools involved throughout the ad monetization process. They all provide some level of service and value, but with so many partners to keep track of, it is no surprise publishers are feeling a bit out of control.
Recently, we have seen the danger of being overly reliant on technology partners. A simple change in Facebook’s algorithm sent traffic referral volumes plummeting, and just a few weeks ago, Google’s position on GDPR left publishers scrambling to get their own compliance strategies in place.
Despite so much power and control being handed over to tech partners, there are still things publishers can do to regain some independence while increasing transparency into their ads business.
Audit the technology stack
Routinely auditing integrated technology partners should be a standard practice for all publishers, but it often gets overlooked due to resource constraints. But every media company needs to be sure it understands every component operating in the ad stack.
Forming a matrix for all tech partners that outlines their capabilities and limitations will help publishers identify where the greatest value, opportunity and risk can be found. A technology audit is not intended to replace all partners, but rather to take a step back, get a holistic view and determine which components provide the most value to a business at a fair price.
Conducting an audit may seem daunting, but there are plenty of resources available to aid the process and no shortage of companies that offer this as a service.
Regulate partners’ access to data
With GDPR, many technology providers are pushing the responsibility of gaining user consent to publishers, which shifts liability and puts publishers at greater risk of hefty fines for noncompliance. Ultimately, publishers are responsible for the information collected across their pages. This makes it crucial that they not only have a thorough understanding of what data is being collected, but also how that data is being used and by whom.
Programmatic advertising relies on rich data sources to deliver targeted audiences. As the owners and gatekeepers of that data, publishers must set limits to the number and types of partners who can use their data, for how long and for what purpose. This may mean sacrificing short-term revenue, but it will go a long way in rebuilding trust with their audience and creating long-term data scarcity in the market.
Due to the sheer number of players in the programmatic supply chain, ad tech has always had a fee transparency issue. Those within the industry continue to benefit from the perceived complexity of programmatic buying and oftentimes deliberately contribute to the confusion to serve their own interests.
The general thinking has always been that DSPs charge fees to advertisers, and SSPs charge fees to publishers. The Guardian’s lawsuit against Rubicon Project last year brought to the surface something most insiders already knew: SSPs sometimes also charge buy-side fees, and numerous other hidden fees take brand dollars away from actual working media.
Whether it’s a buy-side fee, a sell-side fee, a data fee or service charge, it’s critical that publishers not get caught up in the semantics but instead evaluate these costs in their entirety. Once they know where fees are being taken publishers can determine if the technology is doing its job and creating value.
The ad tech landscape is unpredictable, which is why many of us love it. It changes constantly and rapidly, and there are always new factors that will live outside a publisher’s control.
Publishers who stay vigilant about their technology stack and data security choices will create a long-term strategic advantage for themselves in both monetization and protection of their most valuable assets. Preparedness ensures better positioning for success and swift adaptability in the ever-changing tech environment.
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