Digiday Research: Marketers say campaign measurement is the biggest challenge to transparency

The lead image shows an illustration of two people measuring a TV with a ruler.

This research is based on unique data collected from our proprietary audience of publisher, agency, brand and tech insiders. It’s available to Digiday+ members. More from the series →

At the Digiday Programmatic Marketing Summit Europe last month in Portugal, we sat down with 52 client-side and agency marketers to understand how important the issues of arbitrage and transparency are for them. Check out our earlier research about the roadblocks companies face when bringing media buying in-house here. Learn more about our upcoming events here.

Quick takeaways:

  • Eighty percent of the marketers in Digiday’s survey said resolving arbitrage issues is important.
  • Lack of trustworthy campaign measurement is the most common hindrance to transparency in media buying.
  • Only 26 percent said they can reliably measure campaign attribution.

Most marketers are addressing arbitrage
Issues surrounding data arbitrage and inventory arbitrage continue to plague the digital media industry. Data leakage gives agencies easy access to publishers’ data that they can then combine with third-party data and resell to advertisers at a premium. One agency executive went so far as to say that data arbitrage can lead to such inflated prices, advertisers should avoid third-party data altogether. Resolving arbitrage issues has come to the forefront of marketers’ agendas. Eighty percent of the marketers surveyed by Digiday said resolving arbitrage issues is an extremely important or very important objective.

Like data arbitrage, inventory arbitrage also poses serious issues for marketers. Third parties’ attempts to buy and resell premium publisher inventory hurt advertisers because those ads typically deliver poor return on their investment. Many publishers promote ads.txt as a solution to arbitrage because it allows publishers to list verified sellers and resellers of their inventory, but it has limits. Similarly, marketers hope the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation will resolve data arbitrage issues since it sets strict guidelines for how consumer data can be collected and shared.

But won’t blockchain help solve arbitrage issues? Maybe, but don’t expect it to produce tangible results anytime soon.

Campaign measurement and reporting is a bigger issue than arbitrage
Despite 80 percent of marketers in Digiday’s survey saying it is important to resolve arbitrage issues, arbitrage isn’t the greatest hurdle to achieving transparency in media buying. Thirty-five percent said campaign reporting and measurement is a challenge compared to only 29 percent that said arbitrage is.

When it comes to measurement, marketers aren’t always tracking the correct key performance indicators. Even if they are, mobile apps in particular are notorious for misrepresenting campaign metrics. It doesn’t help that Facebook, a major campaign destination, has been outed for misreporting viewability rates to clients in the past year. Even if Procter & Gamble Chief Marketing Officer Marc Pritchard has acknowledged that the industry has made improvements in standardizing industry measurement, marketers still have a long way to go in improving campaign measurement.

Marketers aren’t confident in attribution measurement
Given marketers’ struggles to measure basic campaign metrics like ad viewability, it’s no surprise that they would face stiffer challenges when determining if their ads led to action. Just 26 percent of the marketers surveyed by Digiday said they are confident in their ability to reliably measure attribution.

Effectively measuring attribution involves several challenges. For instance, multitouch attribution is difficult to implement because it requires marketers to centralize data. Another problem is the lack of clarity in attribution modeling, where different parties can claim responsibility for an outcome they likely had little involvement with. Platforms are billing themselves as a solution by offering attribution measurement tools, but marketers are reluctant to rely on them because of the inherent conflicts of interest.


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