From the outside, performance marketing can appear to be a complex beast, however, this doesn't have to be the case. In recent years, the lack of transparency has negatively affected the image of performance marketing, but transparency in performance marketing can mean many things.

In short, the industry needs to work to ensure that it is providing a clear view at every step of the process. This can be achieved by adequate communication between teams and by using the right tools for the job.

Attribution tracking, or lack of it, can affect all aspects of trading, especially when it comes to programmatic trading. The increase in programmatic trading has had a positive effect on the ability to re-target and follow the user through the entire conversion path. However, this is not without its challenges. Advertisers should be aware of how to overcome the hurdles and deliver a holistic view of how to monitor the true path of their advertising spend, reassessing their own methods for tracking and measurement.

It's possible for marketers to view and monitor the entire conversion path but there are challenges: viewability, fraud and lack of transparency in re-targeting, are all skewing the results and, in turn, the attribution model itself. Advertisers certainly cannot turn a blind eye to the problem of fraud affecting the attribution models. Equally, the industry needs to be mindful that we should not lose trust in attribution modelling in the wake of reports indicating high instances of fraudulent inventory affecting results.

One issue surrounding this problem is the question of whose responsibility is it to reduce fraud and increase transparency – the buyer or the seller? The answer is simple. Everyone involved in digital ad trading needs to have processes and tools in place to be able to deliver fraud-free advertising which is both viewable, and can be fully transparent to then be optimised against.

Technological developments like programmatic may have driven huge efficiencies for the industry, but not every marketer necessarily understands the inner workings. Those in the know need to be transparent as to how technology impacts the process of ad placement.  Those who aren't, need to educate themselves on how trading using technology dramatically effects marketing performance and results.

Although agency buying teams should be focusing their attention on higher value activity like revenue analysis and optimisation, this should not be at the detriment of transparency to their advertisers.

The players involved in performance marketing can be complex and the increased layers of those involved can have a negative impact on transparency. We know that the dominance of ad agencies and networks has waned which has helped to simplify things for brands. There has been a shift caused by this change of dominance, and advertisers are now taking back control and putting brands first - it's important that this continues.

Impact Radius' client, Adidas, is a key example of a brand taking control – managing to reduce affiliates from 2000+ to less than 50. One reasons for doing this was to have more sight on what was performing and to focus on optimization on those affiliates that generate the most. Secondly, data loses its potency when passed between different parties, so brands like Adidas and other advertisers are looking at premium, directly attributable data. The industry needs to ensure that when this doesn't happen, its clear on where the data is from.

Reporting seems to be one of the challenges affecting attribution and the ability to make re-targeting decisions. Most people think tools like Google Analytics are flawed because it can be hard to drill down on data and they provide limited data modelling. As expected, if you have difficulties with the tools you're using then this is going to limit the depth of the results.  The data provided needs to be relied on constantly to provide useful and transparent results to enable attribution.

Eliminating wasteful spend is most likely to be a key goal of every marketer, and transparent data and reporting tools should be at the heart of every marketer's priorities.  Once you have the transparent data, it is a far simpler and more effective starting point from which to optimise and ensure that precious marketing spend is being confidently spent in the right places and on the right potential customers.

About the authors

Blog authorJulia Smith is head of communications EMEA at Impact Radius.

Blog authorMark Wrighton is VP EMEA at Impact Radius.