Programmatic boosters admit the industry is facing a trust issue

The mood among marketers, agencies and vendors at AdExchanger’s Industry Preview event Jan. 17-18 in New York was a candid admission that automated ad buying is undeniably the future but has many problems that cannot be put off.

Even the most fervent believers in programmatic advertising believe it needs to undergo a cleanup, as marketers lose faith in ad tech due to issues like hidden fees, ad fraud and murky auction models.

“There’s an element of trust missing right now,” said Belinda Smith, global director of media activation for video game company Electronic Arts, at the event on Jan. 18. “Frankly speaking, it’s not in my interest to understand every detail of the buy-side fee because as a marketer, my biggest focus is getting in front of my audience. But [building trust] means that my partners should be able to answer everything that I ask.”

Smith said on stage that her team has run programmatic on its own for a while, and it started owning vendor contracts last year to keep track of tech providers’ fee structure. Contract ownership will continue to be a big focus for Electronic Arts this year, she added. “As we pick up things, we learn tricks and tips [in programmatic],” Smith said. “We put how fees are charged in detail in our contracts, we look at [campaign] win rates, and we constantly talk to our publishers — if what we see and what they see don’t match and we can’t reconcile what’s going on, we will take money out of the system.”

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