Monday, August 23, 2010

The Compliance Dilemma

Most days at AdXpose we have positive, empowering conversations with prospects and clients. I feel good that no matter who we're talking to, we have the best interests of advertisers and the industry at whole in mind, and that we're powering positive media valuation and efficiency, not just playing the audit and collections game. Ad networks and publishers, to date, have largely embraced the platform because it actually helps them with yield and margin optimization by analyzing placements and performance.

But some days we get the knee jerk reaction from an ad network exec, usually when an agency client "requires" AdXpose on a buy. He is wary of us. He's worried about data usage, margin erosion, and make-goods on false positives. In his eyes all verification companies are a nuisance or worse. If he's already working with a competitor of ours, he feels like he already paid off the cops, and now here comes another cop asking for the envelope full of cash.

I have empathy. Anytime a conversation begins with the power dynamic skewed thusly, it's hard to get our pitch out from under the weight of the reaction - because we aren't initially perceived as adding value, we're perceived as extracting it, at a cost to the prospect. If that were the whole story, of course, we wouldn't have any clients nor a long term business prospect.

The unfortunate reality is that, while most ad networks see our service as a proactive tool for closing new business, increasing margin and client retention, adjusting the profile of their downstream traffic, or at least for managing their brand client placements, some are ardently against any move towards transparency.

In my experience, this is usually caused by one of the following situations: 1) The network is buying audience extension on indirect distribution, does not have adequate controls around the practice, and does not wish it to be known; 2) the network believes it is legally or strategically at risk because the third party verification provider may disclose or leverage the data it collect inappropriately; or 3) the network has its own technology solutions and practices for safety and quality control, and finds the business value proposition of a third party verification technology unworthy of investment.

In cases two and three, if we feel we've had a chance to show our stuff and it's still not a fit, I am happy to bow out. While we call ourselves "the Omniture of online ads" and feel we offer a robust analytics platform from which any network would benefit, we also realize that even Omniture does not have 100% market penetration. We can't help everyone.

But the first case is unnerving, because it affirms that our industry is still a long way from being transparent. I wouldn't argue all impressions should be transparent to the publisher level, this obviously runs afoul of some ad net contracts. But to actively omit the fact your traffic is a blend of direct and indirect? Well, that's why the IAB released guidelines. And it's why we offer a service to assist networks and exchanges in complying with those guidelines. The question remains, however, as to whether guidelines are enough - the list of nets who have committed to the IAB program is still very short.

No comments:

Post a Comment