There are two different types of discrepancies in the digital advertising space: those between vendors, and those between buy-side and sell-side ad servers. These conflicts are seemingly an unavoidable cost of doing business. With the sheer amount of ad tech players, these challenges likely will continue. But the reality is, we wish they would go away.
Discrepancies between vendors occur because of innate differences in their technology. These will not disappear as long as there is more than one vendor.
However, discrepancies between buy- and sell-side ad servers occur because each side typically measures different things. Thus, even if the same vendor measures on both the buy and sell sides, their numbers could differ — whether buying from a publisher directly or through a programmatic platform.
If, for instance, a reader lands on a page but quickly clicks away, the publisher may count the impression because its ad server recorded the loading of the ad container, while the advertiser only counts impressions — and viewability — if the actual creative loads within the container.
These solvable discrepancies have an impact on the bottom line in three important ways.
Trust. When numbers don’t match, it creates a level of mistrust between advertisers and publishers. One of the parties must serve as the bill of record, and if there is a 10% discrepancy, the opposite party stands to lose a fair amount of value.
These discrepancies lead to a power struggle between the buyer and seller. Our industry runs best when both sides trust that advertising campaigns are accurately executed and publishers are fairly compensated.
Time. Discrepancies lead to long and difficult make-good conversations. We’ve heard from countless publishers that these talks are a monumental waste of time. A publisher and advertiser may agree upfront to an 80% viewability rate, which feels fair to both sides, but if the advertiser measures a 75% viewability rate because it counts a slightly different event than the publisher, a tiresome conversation on refunds will ensue.
Money. Discrepancies waste money for everybody. Let’s say that a publisher knows to expect a 10% discrepancy rate for viewable impressions based on historical data. If a buyer wants to purchase 100,000 impressions from that publisher, the ad ops team will schedule 110,000 impressions to compensate for the anticipated discrepancy rate.
But that means the publisher, simply going into the deal, loses the opportunity to monetize 10,000 impressions — a sizable chunk of inventory — as the cost of doing business. And if publishers must buffer every campaign, they may find it difficult to fulfill other downstream campaigns.
Meanwhile, advertisers are far from getting a free ride. If they believe that their fulfillment goals aren’t met, then they will fall short of overall campaign goals. And if the campaign is deadline-driven — for example, an advertisement for a storewide Labor Day sale — make-goods that occur after the holiday won’t promote the goal of the campaign.
A world in which discrepancies do not exist between buy and sell-side might seem like a pipe dream, but the industry needs to prioritize making it happen, whether through technology or industry standards. If so, we’ll achieve a much higher level of trust and efficiency, laying the groundwork for better partnerships — and, ultimately, a better ecosystem.
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