Getting Detailed Insights Is Top Challenge for Programmatic Marketers

Many campaign reports aren’t providing sufficient data

Marketers are always on the hunt for data that can improve their audience-buying strategies, but many find their campaign reports to be wanting.

In a January 2018 survey of US agency and marketing professionals by Centro and Advertiser Perceptions, 73% of respondents cited getting better insights and reporting deliverables from data sources and analytics as a challenge of programmatic ad management. The thoroughness of campaign reports is likely only going to become more consequential, since programmatic advertising is on track to account for more than 80% of total US digital display ad spending this year, eMarketer estimates.

The rapidly changing programmatic advertising landscape makes campaign reporting difficult for the vendors that marketers work with. For instance, over the past year, several supply-side platforms (SSPs) began frequently using first-price auctions, in which the highest bid determines the amount of money the auction winner will pay. Previously, programmatic auctions almost always ran on a second-price setup, where the second-highest bid determines the clearing price.

The changing price structure became problematic for marketers because their demand-side platforms (DSPs) didn’t always make it clear what type of auction they were bidding into. Until DSPs started including auction-type variables in their reports, marketers struggled to anticipate how much they’d pay for impressions that they won. Thankfully for marketers, DSPs began fixing this issue.

Another issue that makes campaign report management difficult is that the data for a single campaign can be scattered across a plethora of different vendors.

"In an ideal world, we would have a solution that allows us to track all of our brand metrics with a single partner," said Carrie Dino, associate media director at ad agency Mekanism. "Some agencies invest in proprietary tools to aggregate all of this information, but it is a long and expensive process that still forces them to rely on outside data that is provided by third parties."

Campaign reporting is further complicated by the fact that each time a new trend emerges in digital ad buying, marketers demand additional data from their vendors. As ads.txt—a text file on publishers’ sites that lists all the vendors that are authorized to sell their inventory—gained popularity, marketers suddenly wanted the ability to filter inventory by whether or not it was ads.txt-compliant. Several vendors built ads.txt tools in their dashboards, but it took a few months because updates had to be scheduled, tested and integrated into their products.

Another area where marketers would like to see more detailed insights is in attribution, as more complicated multitouch attribution models give advertisers a clearer picture of what's driving sales than do last-touch models, according to Evan Fjeld, associate director of programmatic strategy at ad agency AKQA. In a survey of US senior marketing professionals by Winterberry Group and Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), respondents indicated that the demand for better reporting, measurement and attribution will be one of the most popular developments in digital advertising this year.

The call for more comprehensive reporting is also found among publishers that sell their inventory programmatically. The reports that publishers receive from their header bidding wrappers—which collect and centralize all the bid requests and responses in programmatic auctions—often do not include information regarding how much money individual DSPs and individual brands spent on the publisher’s website.

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