LAS VEGAS: The imbalance in the relationship between advertisers and digital “walled gardens” has yielded a range of profound challenges for brands, according to Ron Amram, ‎VP/Media at Heineken USA.

Amram discussed this subject during a session at CES 2018, an event held by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). More specifically he reported that the current power structure is heavily skewed in one direction.

“Right now, there's not a balance,” Amram said. (For more details, read WARC’s in-depth report: How Heineken USA is tackling “walled gardens”.)

“It starts with the fact that you have a handful of companies that are so powerful now that they don't have to necessarily play ball with advertisers in a way that most other sellers or media properties across the world do.”

And the consequences of this imbalance have included concerns over brand safety, metrics and verification, as marketers often lack an independent perspective on the campaign tracking delivered by some major digital platforms.

One result is that brands must rely on an ever-expanding slate of key performance indicators (KPIs) in the absence of a single measurement currency. “I think the reality is that it has been, for a long time, a one-sided conversation,” said Amram.

“We have all these KPIs because everyone has their own little fiefdom and they’re not allowing us to have a holistic industry standard that allows us to vet, and control, for the best.”

Amram praised the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) for having “pushed hard” when it comes to encouraging third-part validation.

Brand custodians are beginning to move in this direction, too, but can always take their efforts up a notch. “We could be doing more. But, at this point, I think every month it continues to increase,” said Amram.

“We could be pushing harder. I think it has to do with: Are more marketers aware of what's going on and is everyone pushing at the same time and asking for the same thing?”

Of the various sub-optimal outcomes that have recently characterised the digital ecosystem, the most damaging may be the loss of trust for several big online players. “The reality is that trust is earned, at the end of the day,” Amram said.

“And many of these companies have lost the trust of marketers at some point in time. And it's just a crescendo now: This is a topic that’s been discussed for years, but I think every year it keeps getting louder.”

Sourced from WARC