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Trust and transparency: The foundation for SEA’s digital advtg future

Unilever’s marketing supremo Keith Weed is never far from the headlines when it comes to the importance of building trust in digital advertising, and quite rightly so.

Brands such as Unilever are increasingly demanding more openness and accountability, with concerns around fraud, viewability and brand safety driving the need for greater transparency, all of which were reiterated at the recent IAB Annual Leadership Meeting.

This is a global issue, and one that needs to be front and centre of mind for the entire digital media industry.
However, there is an argument that it is doubly important in South East Asia, where the opportunities for growth across digital advertising in the region’s emerging markets is huge.

The UK was the first nation, in 2015, where more than half of all advertising spend was directed to digital. Globally, the overall tipping point is due to come in 2020.

However, not a single South East Asian country will have crossed the 50 per cent threshold by the turn of the next decade. In Singapore, the number will be 38 per cent, in Malaysia 25 per cent, in Philippines 24 per cent, in Thailand 23 per cent, and Indonesia 21 per cent.

This means building trust and transparency around digital advertising in this region is of paramount importance.

After all, it is one thing to work with existing digital advertisers to explain that these issues are being taken seriously, but how can we ever convince new advertisers from this region to join us if we can’t provide concrete evidence of success?

That’s why I am so pleased to see the industry coming together and to see the shoots of progress starting to flourish, with transparency and trust increasing, and business-centric metrics increasingly being employed to assess the effectiveness of campaigns.

There is still a long way to go, and collectively we all have to communicate these gains effectively across South East Asia to fulfil the region’s digital advertising potential.

Nevertheless, here are three reasons why I think brands in South East Asia can embrace digital advertising with confidence.

Third-party verification, first rule of thumb
In today’s ultra-competitive digital landscape, brands are increasingly eager to review their media deals in the hope of driving more transparency and data from agency, vendor and publisher relationships.

That’s why we’ve seen the industry embrace third-party verification, so much so that it’s becoming the global standard.

We know that a staggering 97 percent of advertisers want independent measurement of their media buys from companies like comScore and Moat — and they’re only going with partners who allow this, which is why companies that have been reticent to offer this are now finally opening up, which can only be a good thing

However, while third-party audits are now mainstream, there is still ample room for improvement

It remains the case that third-party providers still need to be challenged to deliver more standardized reporting and metrics to cut down on discrepancies, while platforms must continue investing in their own technology to eliminate fraud and other inconsistencies.

ads.txt adoption will soar
ads.txt was a new tool launched by the IAB last year in a bid to bring more transparency to the programmatic supply chain.

Essentially, it is pre-formatted index of authorized sellers that publishers can post to their domains.

Programmatic buyers are able then to use these ads.txt files to help screen for inventory that are faked or misrepresented. This will help prevent the sale of counterfeit and unauthorized impressions in programmatic transactions.

I firmly believe this will increase confidence in programmatic buying and selling for all stakeholders involved because it is a more secure way for publishers to identify publicly which platforms are authorised to sell their inventory. This helps limit bad actors.
As more publishers adopt ads.txt and post it on their domains, advertisers would be able to avoid counterfeit inventory and gain greater confidence in what they buy.

This year, ads.txt adoption is going to explode among publishers. This was echoed at the recent IAB meeting by several of the biggest media companies.

Admittedly, adoption right now is relatively low, but with advertisers demanding more and more transparency, ads.txt will become an invaluable tool to help provide an accurate representation of media impressions, detail exactly who is selling them and safeguard against counterfeit inventory.

At Oath, we were an early supporter of ads.txt, because we knew it would be a game changer. We have implemented it across our properties and are now collaborating with publishers and approved resellers to enforce it across all platforms, to filter inventory on domains where DSPs buy. We have also built an ads.txt generator tool within our ONE by AOL: Publishers platform to help our publisher partners simplify the process of adoption, and are sharing learnings with them as a publisher ourselves on the benefits and challenges that can come with it.

And this is just the beginning. 2018 will herald a whole new raft of ads.txt advancements to protect advertisers’ media spend.

Vendors will be held to higher standards
Advertisers want more than technology from their vendors; they also want trust.

No longer is it sufficient to simply activate data or offer distribution at scale. Demand-side platforms have to be more than just the pipelines,

Today, access to brand-safe, premium content is what really matters. As a partner, it’s critical to be able to touch all aspects of a campaign’s content, data and distribution. It simplifies the digital supply chain, boosting transparency and is an unbeatable combination.

Brand builders know that they need all three to be successful and the platforms that deliver against these needs will win in 2018.

This is a consistent thread in what we hear at the recent IAB meeting.

Of course, the rapidly evolving digital ecosystem will continue to bring challenges, some old, some new.

But I firmly believe that third-party verification, initiatives like ads.txt and the evolution of vendors relationships reveal three ways our category is meeting advertiser needs.

By continuing on this path, not only will we build trust and transparency with existing advertisers, but also give confidence to markets in South East Asia’s emerging markets to come and join us on this journey.

Erin Chao

Erin Chao is the Head of Platforms - APAC for Oath.