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Where is the Transparency in Adtech?

October 27, 2020

In the 1997 hit movie Liar Liar, the protagonist Fletcher Reede (played ably by Jim Carrey) is unable to lie for a period of 24 hours. With this he is forced against his own internal moral compass to be truthful and honest with every question asked of him. There are many moments in the movie where he is aware that due to previous bad behaviour of his, being honest now isn’t going to help him, but he has no choice in the matter. If you’ve not seen the movie by now, it ends with redemption and happiness as truthfulness and integrity are shown to win out over deception and selfishness.

Adtech take note.

As 2020 starts drawing to a close, we still see opacity across an industry that for what seems like years now has been “demanding” transparency across the supply chain. So where is it, and why isn’t it a standard by now?

The problem has been that over the past two and a half decades a lot of companies have made a lot of money through non-disclosure of margins and tactics. A business making profit is not only right, but it’s a positive thing, and I don’t believe any of us would begrudge companies that really add value of extracting financial value for it. However, when business isn’t quite peer-to-peer, and there can be a total lack of insight into one’s own supply chain, then that opacity serves no one.

The disinfecting sunlight of transparency will show up the true value of any supply chain and can help both the supply and demand side improve for a mutual benefit. The problem is that if a company is aware of their own skeletons in the closet, that keenness for transparency just won’t be there unless they are able to transform their own business and still operate with the light shone on their business practices.

So why do black box solutions still exist? Put simply, transparency is viewed as a trade-off. Black box offerings sell themselves based on the results they can provide you, as long as that criteria is one that suits them. They say that as long as they can get clients the results they desire then really the client has no right to know precisely how that’s achieved or the profit margin that the black box is making. Honestly, I get the appeal that has for many. But my question is, why would hiding the money trail really impact results? Surely, more eyes on the ball should be able to help. But in a world of scarcity where companies and staff fear losing clients, they don’t want to be put into a place where too many deep-diving questions from their clients can come up.

Transparency in the advertising supply chain is an inevitability. It’s the juggernaut driving down the tracks and if more companies don’t get on board, they will find themselves struggling in the future.

The reason I joined EMX was in no small part down to the transparent offering that we deliver. We don’t need to hide margins or inflate costs as we operate in a fair and respectful way with our clients and partners.

Like Jim Carrey’s character by the end of the film, I believe that the honesty and integrity will win through and make life better, and if more businesses in our sector start making demands for transparency with their dollars and not just their panel appearances, we will see that really materialize in the coming years.

Written by Jon Walsh, SVP Strategy Europe at EMX