Last week’s ISBA study on the supply chain of the UK’s online advertising market created a stir among publishers, advertisers and the adtech industry but observers have noted that media agencies have yet to respond.

The study reported that half a brand’s adspend never reaches the publisher; researchers were also unable to trace 15% of the money spent by advertisers, an area the report called the “unknown delta”.

Advertising industry veteran Nick Manning told the Mediatel Future of Media Trading digital event yesterday he was “surprised at the lack of reaction” from media agencies.

And “that’s a bit of a problem,” he added. “I think the industry would like to hear from the agency leaders who could take a stand on this. Because in the end, the agencies act as significant gatekeepers to the entire value chain.

“We know that ISBA is galvanising the advertiser end of this, we know that the AOP is doing work with the publishers to participate in this,” he continued. “It would be good to understand how the agencies and their trade bodies also plan to get involved in the solution to this.”

While the industry as a whole has to address the issues involved, the ultimate responsibility lies with the advertisers themselves, he suggested; “they need to track the money and the data through themselves on their own account, because it is different in every instance.”

That point was echoed by Cadi Jones of Beeswax who, speaking in a separate session at the same event, pointed out that most brands don’t bother to use the audit rights that are built into contracts.

She also argued that moving from a percentage-based payment system to fixed fees would eliminate many of the problems. “There’s no chance of discrepancies creeping in, or it becomes a lot easier to isolate them: are they down to general ad-serving discrepancies, are they down to ad blocking issues or to any number of legitimate reasons.”

The use of the word ‘legitimate’ underscores how sensitive supply chain actors are to any suggestion of fraud in that 15% “unknown delta”. But wherever the money goes, it's widely accepted that the programmatic industry needs to get better in many ways, and the current COVID-19 crisis may present an opportunity to do so.

“Out of adversity sometimes good things do arise,” said Manning, “and this is the perfect time for advertisers to be asking themselves how they’re going to spend their money going forward because money is going to be too tight to mention, there is going to be a decrease in the amount of money available, budgets will be squeezed.

“The loss of 50% of a budget through cost is something that advertisers absolutely should be looking at. I hope this is a time that they will actually look at it much more closely and use the ISBA report as a basis for working that through.”

Sourced from WARC