If you were to peek into mobile programmatic advertising about three years ago, it would have more closely resembled the Wild West than a promising opportunity to reach a growing body of mobile customers. In an exchange that mimicked a holdup, ad fraudsters manipulated advertisers and publishers to falsify impressions, take the money and run, costing marketers as much as $8.2 billion a year at the height of their reign.
Fortunately, there’s a new sheriff in town: transparency. In the past few years, the mobile programmatic community has come together to stabilize the marketplace and shatter the “black box” where user data enters a void and never returns. The result is a stronger and more balanced ecosystem in which advertisers can access the app inventory they need and understand the resulting ROI, making mobile programmatic a more transparent and value-driven method of advertising.
“The mobile programmatic advertising space is complex and has a lot of moving parts, which makes advertisers and publishers want to spend their marketing budget wherever they can find the most trustworthy sources,” said Linda Ouyang, head of demand for North America at MoPub, a Twitter company. “That confidence can only come from a free exchange of information between advertisers and their DSPs [demand-side platforms], because transparency builds trust — and that’s why so many platforms are moving toward self-serve UI dashboards, where this information is freely available.”
When advertisers gain transparency into what they are actually buying, they develop more trust in their supply sources. This opens up lines of communication and cooperation that together enable the industry to better combat fraud, expand insights, optimize marketing and maximize scale more efficiently. Here’s how:
1. Transparency minimizes fraud
Brands are spending more in the mobile advertising space than ever before, attracting bad actors who tout innovative and highly technical methods of exploiting the $32 billion market. But common means of programmatic ad fraud — click and impression fraud, ad stacking, forced redirects for desktop and mobile, malware, ransomware, geographic mislabeling, and attribution fraud for apps — rely on obscure metrics (that don't give you the full picture of your ad performance). Besides technical updates, such as IAB’s app-ads.txt, which designates an authorized digital seller to eliminate unauthorized reselling and app spoofing, programmatic partners that offer clean exchanges and accessible analytics dashboards shine a light on invalid traffic and can help minimize fraud.
“In a transparent programmatic advertising partnership, no one’s covering their eyes,” said Inbar Chap, chief business officer at Appreciate, a self-serve mobile programmatic platform. “Marketers know exactly what they’re buying, from where they’ll place their ads to what the performance looks like; they can even standardize their own acceptable gauges and metrics. We show marketers the full picture so that they can make informed choices about how to get to the results they want from their ad spend.”
2. Transparency delivers more insights
Without an accurate view of mobile programmatic ad performance, it’s impossible to make informed decisions about future campaigns. To measure incremental conversions, you need to first see a baseline of how your ads convert and take note of the change in conversion after deploying your ads. Access to transparent campaign metrics allows marketers to consider the results of each campaign and steer budgets away from underperforming campaigns and toward high-performing ones. Marketers can understand what’s working and what’s not working, reframe their budget, and improve accuracy over time.
“Trustworthy programmatic partners will care more about educating you about programmatic than selling certain inventory,” Ouyang said. “When a partner educates you about your programmatic strategy and provides you with transparent performance metrics, you can customize, tweak and test your campaigns and consider recommendations more intelligently.”
“The level of transparency we get in programmatic buying has allowed us better control of our marketing spend and much deeper insights into our audience and performance drivers,” said Yoav Fuchs, user acquisition specialist at Gett. “We are able to easily see and evaluate what we are getting in each publisher impression and judge the value against the costs, and decide whether or not the purchase is worth it.”
3. Transparency optimizes for and facilitates scale
When marketers are empowered with lower levels of advertising fraud and more insights about campaign performance, it sets the stage for better long-term performance. They can take steps to optimize campaign performance and build their reach with intention instead of blindly investing in ad space and hoping to see results. Both supply-side and demand-side platforms can provide the education and analytical expertise required to make ad spend more effective.
“Transparency improves the effectiveness of mobile programmatic advertising because it allows our clients to comfortably tap into a smarter way of buying inventory,” Chap said. “Marketers can find their unique sweet spots and capitalize on them with AI [artificial intelligence] and machine-learning options that scale their business effectively. Without transparency, there would be a lot more hesitance, and marketers would miss out on the massive benefits of programmatic marketing.”
As the years pass, the Wild West of mobile advertising is growing less wild and more organized. DSPs, marketplaces and vendors are working together to standardize the performance metrics, circumvent existing fraud and spread knowledge to all parts of the ad-buying ecosystem, leaving less and less space for bad actors to pursue fraudulent activities. As a result of this increased transparency, mobile programmatic advertising can better deliver on its promise to provide visibility into how, where and to whom marketers are serving their ads — allowing advertisers to secure their own unique pocket of value in the vast landscape of potential that exists among growing mobile app audiences.