Reeve: ISBA Report Is Just The First Step 

Damon Reeve, chief executive of The Ozone Project, has said that ISBA’s report into the programmatic supply chain is an important first step to bring about positive change in the digital advertising space, and not an end in itself.  

ISBA’s study, Programmatic Supply Chain Transparency Study conducted in association with the Association of Online Publishers and carried out by PwC, found that publishers receive just half of advertiser spend in the programmatic supply chain with 15 per cent of spend disappearing into a black hole. 

In a piece for The Drum, Mr Reeve said that the findings of the study were “mind boggling” and reinforced the need for change, acknowledging that things are not currently working properly. 

Mr Reeve said: “As we look to create a blueprint for that change, it is a great step forward that it has been driven by advertisers and publishers – as the principal architects – alongside their respective trade bodies. Reversing the trend of disintermediation by programmatic tech vendors, and working together to find their voice, albeit of frustration, is one of the best outcomes of this study, and why it must be a first step and not an end in itself.”

Mr Reeve said collaboration should be at the forefront of the industry’s reponse to the problems which had been highlighted by the report.

He said: “The programmatic supply chain should genuinely work in the best interests of publishers and brands. Together they must build on this work to address one of the critical recommendations from the report; standardising terms and conditions for buyers and sellers, while creating consistent data taxonomies and data sharing rules. This first step will help close the somewhat unhelpful gap that has developed between advertisers and publishers within programmatic advertising.

“Secondly, while transparency is at the heart of this study, it isn’t something to fix, it is a way to behave. The ‘opacity by design’ approach that has challenged the sector for years represents institutionalised behaviour that will require a concerted effort to correct.

“Being open, authentic and human in terms and conditions will be deemed important qualities, rather than hiding the ‘unknown delta’ in technical terms and jargon that almost no one understands. Patience has been worn paper-thin amongst advertisers and publishers, and in this new future we will see vendors and partners selected on operating principles as much as technical capabilities.”

Moves to sort out the supply chain would also prompt action to tackle brand safety issues, he added.  Speaking about the ISBA study, Mr Reeve added: “Only 19 per cent of campaign impressions were delivered on premium publisher domains, with the vast majority appearing on other websites and the unregulated long-tail of the internet. Responsible advertisers will no doubt be asking questions about where their advertising is going, and what exactly it is funding.” 

He said the “unknown delta,” the unattributable 15 per cent lost in the supply chain, was probably only the tip of the iceberg as the black hole would be significantly bigger for smaller websites and advertisers.  

Mr Reeve added: “A final point not specifically called out in this report but to me is inferred in every insight and recommendation, is aligning incentives for each participant in the supply chain to the value they provide.

“And this extends to the agreements brands have with their media agencies. It will be very difficult to move to a trusted grown-up programmatic ecosystem if each actor is trying to game the system, whether through opportunity or necessity. Remove the incentive for opacity and we build an advertising environment that we all want. It’s on advertisers and publishers to build on this study and remove these incentives.”

  • The Ozone Project is a collaborative digital advertising offering from News UK,Reach, The Guardian, DC Thomson, and Telegraph Media Group.