But the Kroll report does point out that many marketers have little visibility into contract terms or who gets paid how much for what beyond their initial trading partner in a complex chain, be that an agency or a demand-side platform (DSP). The report, which is based on interviews with 25 confidential sources across all parts of the industry, does include a list of questions marketers can ask regularly of partners in the supply chain to improve transparency and performance.
Complete transparency comes at a cost that many marketers either can’t afford or don’t want to pay for, according to the report. For example, visibility into volume discounts that agencies receive from DSPs may be impossible because they’re spread across multiple clients, Plansky said. Often, agencies are acting as principals in those transactions and then reselling media to clients, a practice that’s common and legal, but which marketers may not always be aware of, Plansky said.
Transparency costs extra
One thing many marketers have demanded—full access to log files detailing exactly where and when their ads run on digital platforms—is harder to achieve than it sounds, according to the report. Just one campaign can generate millions of lines of code, and each link in a supply chain that includes agencies, DSPs, data management platforms, SSPs and publishers often formats data differently. So the marketer needs a system that can reconcile disparate data sets, then have someone qualified to analyze it, which they often don’t have, according to the report.
“There’s generally consensus among our sources that, theoretically, it is possible to get all the data you need to achieve full transparency for your programmatic media spend,” Plansky said. “But in practice, there are human problems that prevent that from happening.”