The future of digital advertising’s media supply chain – by Pubmatic’s Cristian Coccia

By Cristian Coccia, regional vice president, Southern Europe at PubMatic 

 The digital advertising industry has been facing multiple challenges in the past years, including transparency and fraud. The industry has made significant progress towards addressing these and is continuing to introduce the solutions needed to solve both.

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Ultimately, it’s about trust – trust in programmatic, trust in vendors, trust in emerging channels (especially CTV), and overall trust in the industry. Without trust, there is a reluctance to share resources and insights; less openness means less transparency, making the ecosystem less efficient and more vulnerable to fraud.

The issue of transparency has given rise to supply path optimisation (SPO), as the buy side looks to address transparency across the supply chain, fee structures, and inventory. This is spurring agencies and publishers to reassess their relationships as they look to develop deeper partnerships that are built on and foster trust on all sides. Industry metamorphosis encourages all stakeholders to take new approaches, adapt and improve their strategies to ensure that the supply chain is more transparent.

Privacy regulations in the programmatic ecosystem

From regulatory oversight to increased platform privacy functionality, to the proliferation of the walled gardens, the entire ecosystem is still trying to get to grips with a rapidly changing media and marketing landscape.

Some clients choose to shift away slightly from the duopoly, although they are still spending with them. However, the walled-garden model employed by Google and Meta (and, increasingly, by media owners) poses many challenges: simple tasks like frequency capping and basic optimisation, for instance, are more difficult than they are on the open web. Yet, there are alternatives – marketers can work with an SSP or cohorts, like Ozone, who can deliver on ‘reach’, and alternative IDs and contextual solutions that are available to solve for addressability.

The open web of the future will be privacy-first – and technologies and partners that are evolving beyond ID hacking will become increasingly sought after. Publishers have a great hand to play here –they can tell advertisers a lot about their audience, and provide behavioural insights that they can’t get elsewhere, without invading users’ privacy. Plus, publishers have access to the real-time insights required to build valuable cohorts for advertisers to use for targeting.

 Publishers and media owners adapting to changes

Traditionally, targeting has been activated on the demand side, but evolving privacy regulations, continued technology consolidation, and the growth of private marketplace (PMP) executions are causing this to change.

Today, media buyers are bringing their data to the supply side and experimenting with multiple supply-side targeting approaches (for example, ID targeting, contextual targeting, and third-party data targeting) for improved efficiency and higher visibility in campaign planning.

As publishers activate their data and invest in more complete data strategies, media buyers can work more closely with supply-side partners to gain a richer view of their audience.

A key consideration for buyers looking to implement supply-side targeting is to understand how to combine information from multiple sources, including first-party data, authenticated publisher data, universal IDs, and segments from other third-party data marketplaces. When looking at different options, the primary goal of improving targeting across all screens should be always on top of the mind.

Balancing supply chain

SPO has helped make significant progress toward a more balanced and transparent supply chain, in part because it requires close work with buyers and publishers to make transactions more efficient.

When ad-tech players work with buyers to structure SPO deals, they have several levers to pull to give them what they need. While price is one important factor, an often-crucial lever is innovation such as bespoke technology development or additional access to data that brings the buyer unique value. This also allows clients to look holistically at how to buy effectively, whilst providing a competitive environment in which publishers can maximise the value of what they’re bringing to the table – their content and their audience.

Supply chain transparency formula 

Using the correct technology is integral to making the supply chain more transparent, and that’s something that the buy and sell sides are both responsible for ensuring. Everyone — supplier, intermediary, or buyer — that is a party to a specific programmatic transaction needs access to supply chain object (SCO) reporting that provides full transparency of the path, from the inventory source to the buyer (or, at least, to the relevant party in the path). Users of SCO get direct inventory, double confirmation of authorised sellers, and can more easily spot an incomplete chain.

Education and close collaboration are also vital for improving transparency. The best way to start is by becoming familiar with trusted resources, and by having meaningful conversations with clients to ensure that they are aware of where their media investment is going. It then becomes easier for the tech side to convey their value and gain access to comprehensive data insights.

There is no doubt that programmatic is here to stay and there are more people than ever who can probe under the hood from a holistic value perspective. There is a huge opportunity up for grabs as the industry heads towards true collaboration, with transparency a non-negotiable requirement to bring to the table.