Lack of transparency in media buying: where does it lead advertisers to?

Published: April 20, 2023

min read

Data: one of the most valuable resources available in today’s business world.

However, data is only useful if it is of high quality.

In a year of economic uncertainty and the rapid evolution of advanced technologies, data’s position, value and pricing remain top of mind across the advertising supply chain.

Matt Frattaroli,

VP, Digital Platform and Agency Partnerships, Alliant

Following are the understandings based on Matt Frattaroli’s article from Digiday.

Many media professionals assert to be data-driven in their planning and buying processes, but audience decisions are frequently overlooked. In fact, in certain audience-first approaches, specific data selection is tied to a media buy at the last minute, controlled by a buyer seeking to ensure campaign delivery. That is, the media buyer regards data as nothing more than a commodity.

However, some strategic brands see data as the foundation of their campaigns to ensure successful campaign execution.

For years, advertisers have advocated for greater supply chain transparency. Buyers would be able to make well-informed decisions in this environment because the key elements influencing data purchase decisions would be visible. As a result, advertisers are demanding greater market transparency to make decisions that align with their marketing objectives.

The most common method for brands to acquire third-party audience data is through media buying platforms, which eliminates the ad buyer from the data selection process.

While many data providers can offer direct deals, custom audience builds, or agency-wide integrations, they are also compelled to package their product as a commodity, providing off-the-shelf components that are believed to satisfy the needs and requirements of marketers.

On the other hand, to provide credible audience data, providers need to invest in forms of quality assurance. It, in turn, reflects in the cost of the end product, which impacts the buyer’s decision.

However, buyers can meet campaign objectives with less inventory when expensive, high-quality audience data is used.

What does the lack of transparency in the media buying space mean to advertisers?

Transparency in media buying often seems like an illusion.

In fact, many in the ecosystem, from marketers, agencies, and publishers to media companies, doubt that bringing transparency to media buying is even possible due to the complex nature of media transactions.

We see it as a definite possibility, and all that is needed is the combined effort of all parties involved.

Whatever the case, there should be no compromise on bringing complete transparency and standardisation to this space. Because it is the only way to smooth the media buying cycle and to benefit everyone in this landscape.

Thus, we believe, the demand from the advertisers’ side for transparency must be vigorous so as to make better marketing decisions and get more control over marketing spend and outcomes.

If not, advertisers will only continue to face the following:

  • If advertisers do not have visibility into whether they are targeting high-value audiences, it will indeed result in less effective marketing campaigns.
  • The display of ads to the wrong audiences leads to waste of ad spend.
  • Spending money on irrelevant audiences creates a negative impact on brand reputation.
  • Advertisers lose the chance to gain more insights on their potential customers' interests and preferences.
  • Targeting low quality audiences leads to the loss of new opportunities to target customers who might be interested in their products.
  • Spending on low-quality data raises customer acquisition costs because more money is spent trying to reach the right audience.

And more.

Hence, in our opinion, the step towards increasing transparency in the media buying space, i.e., decreasing the distance between advertisers and data providers, is all we need to see meaningful progress in the ad market.


Bill Walker

Bill is a marketing strategist who believes in the power of storytelling. He's known for his creativity, wit, and ability to connect with audiences across all channels. When he's not crafting marketing campaigns, you can find him hiking in the mountains or reading a good book.


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