How We’re Building a More Transparent and Less Complex Future for Programmatic Media

Transparency and efficiency have always been top-of-mind tenets at GroupM. We are dedicated to reducing waste and improving ROI at every step of the programmatic process. In order to do that, it’s essential to maintain visibility into where and how programmatic investments are being applied, and how well they are performing.

When it comes to where and how an ad is delivered, we have a simple guiding principle: an ad should be seen by a real human, in our client’s target audience, in an appropriate contextual environment. To that end, we have consistently worked to minimize the negative impact of pervasive issues like MFAs (made-for-advertising websites) and expand the availability of programs that provide greater visibility into programmatic investments.

Minimizing Waste

We recognize MFA domains as a significant concern for our industry and our clients. One of the cases of this issue is the lack of a standard industry definition, which makes this phenomenon more difficult to measure. We define MFA content as “domains and apps built specifically to deliver top-line KPIs with no regard for the long-term client KPIs or user experience.”

The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) recently released an extensive study on the transparency of the programmatic media supply chain, conducted in collaboration with PWC and TAG Trustnet.  The report expresses some valid concerns about the online programmatic advertising ecosystem, particularly in regards to MFAs. It suggests that of the $88 billion spent on open web programmatic advertising each year, there is a potential to save up to $10 billion through a re-evaluation of MFA domains.

To address the issue of MFAs, GroupM has partnered with Jounce Media to actively identify MFA domains and filter them out of our supply chain. This has allowed us to track the impact of MFAs on programmatic activity and take decisive action to minimize client exposure to them.

We also work with a variety of specialist third parties, legal bodies, and verification companies to ensure that programmatic placements align with the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) standards around brand safety. We feel this is an important part of protecting our clients from undue risks related to brand suitability, fraud, data privacy, and other areas of potential concern, while continuing to offer a wide range of supply opportunities.

For clients that prefer to limit their exposure only to premium environments, we developed the GroupM Premium Marketplace (GPM). Launched in 2022, GPM is an auditable system where clients can execute unified, scaled buys for bespoke inventory with end-to-end transparency. The platform is designed to create competitive bidding advantages with premium publishers while ensuring safe, high-quality advertising experiences for consumers in both new and established media environments. In North America, this curated programmatic marketplace has integrations with 80% of top 20 connected TV publishers. GPM hosts more than 30 active advertisers, including leaders in retail, travel, and CPG.

Maximizing Transparency

To drive greater transparency across our carefully curated supply ecosystem, we actively enforce Ads.txt adoption, work with SSP partners to provide greater transparency on supply side fees through our SSP code of conduct, and deactivate any duplicative or inadequate exchanges that don’t offer reliable or transparent access to unique inventory.

We also strive to secure access to log level data (LLD) within our global technology contracts. Many vendors do not allow LLD data access to public studies without specific approval, but we maintain ongoing efforts to negotiate LLD access rights in all of our contracts to ensure that we can share this crucial data with our clients and industry studies when instructed by clients.

Additionally, through our Global Programmatic Excellence Framework, we consistently enforce and upgrade a suite of industry-leading best practices that are designed to make programmatic buying less complex, more transparent, and more effective.

Our commitment to a safer and more transparent digital ecosystem also carries into our board-level memberships and active participation in industry groups such as GARM, 4A’s APB, TAG, IAB/IAB TechLab, MRC, and Internews.

Staying Vigilant

The ANA Programmatic Media Supply Chain Transparency report shined a light on many undeniable challenges present in today’s programmatic supply chain. We’re pleased to see these challenges getting the discussion, investigation, and insight that they are due. We see this moment as an opportunity to catalyze accelerated innovation and development around these topics.

The report states, “Over the past decade, open web programmatic advertising has become an indispensable investment opportunity for most marketers. It offers a plethora of potential advantages, including the precision to target the right audience and substantial cost efficiencies through automation. When used diligently, the open web emerges as an ideal arena for advertisers to efficiently reach and engage different audiences by leveraging big data and AI, while simultaneously supporting a wide range of ad-supported publishers to enable quality journalism, including the growing area of diverse-owned media.”

We agree on the value and importance of programmatic media reflected in that passage. We also agree with the ANA that “it is essential for marketers to maintain vigilance” in this dynamic environment. We see it as part of our role in the industry, and as part of our partnership with our clients, to consistently advance the potency and integrity of programmatic advertising. We believe that’s the best way for us to continue to have a positive impact on our audiences, our clients, and our world.