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Brands expect transparency to be fixed, but brand safety is still a concern

By: MarketingJul 24, 2017

As marketers prepare for the evolving media ecosystem, they are increasingly focussed on taking ownership of their data and customer strategy, minimising brand safety risks, and experimenting with more customised and agile organisational models, reveals a report published by MediaSense, in association with ISBA and IPSOS Connect.


Media2020: Refresh” explores how businesses are organising themselves to meet the challenges of the rapidly evolving media ecosystem and revisits the themes of the original Media2020 report (published in 2015) to understand how marketers’ attitudes are changing and to identify emerging trends.


There is major concern that the media agencies are morphing from a buyer of media to a vendor of media, an indication that Holding Companies were putting profits before clients, and those concerns were played back by everyone interviewed in MediaSense’s Media 2020 Refresh report 2017: “I’m not entirely sure that most shareholders in media agency groups are terribly interested in the long-term.”



A common feeling among advertisers is that there needs to be honesty about where the money is made on the agency side - and recognition about the importance of paying fairly by the advertisers. Marketers are disturbed that their agencies are not internally aligned, and doubtless this is a toxic issue within agency organisations too.


MediaSense Media’s research shows that marketers are becoming increasingly savvy and more aware of the pitfalls of technology. They are modifying their behaviours and starting to take active involvement in the value chain and supply chain within which their content appears. Programmatic risk has caught up on them and it is this issue which is causing marketers to lose sleep. When they asked what aspect of the media industry respondents would like to fix, transparency was the most commonly mentioned topic (at 47%), but when we ask our respondents which topic kept them awake at night, 24% of our survey cited brand safety as the main cause of insomnia, with only 5% citing transparency.



Marketers believe transparency is addressable, and that it is within agencies’ power to fix it. However, there are concerns that brand safety is a systemic issue that will be much more difficult to solve.


Placement transparency is the overriding concern for marketers. In 2015 87% of clients expected their agency to be accountable for their brand safety and viewability, and this is still the case in 2017 (89%).


Marketers believe agencies have been too slow in sorting out the supply chain. Steps are being taken to clean up the digital supply chain with transparent programmatic models, TAG registration to minimise fraud, automated restrictions of non-compliant formats, independent verification of the walled gardens and more active policing of social media users. Publishers too, are starting to tackle this issue. Fearful that they will lose revenue if they don’t, they are attacking the supply chain from the bottom up. But there is still much more to do.



Fundamentally, agencies face an existential risk if they cannot offer complete disclosure to their clients, stamp out the brand safety risks, resolve the transparency issue and their own conflicts of interest. Moreover, if agencies want to be part of this data-driven world and retain trust and credibility among their clients, they must apply principles of transparency to their own businesses and to their business partners. As one interviewee puts it, “In a world of transparency, you are just better able to make the right decisions.”


Download our Media Quality Whitepaper to learn the best practice tips on how to protect your brand online through programmatic advertising, looking in detail at Ad Fraud, Brand Safety and Viewability.

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