Staff Writer
Apr 5, 2017

Programmatic pipelines—the neutral foundation

Transparency is the goal in China, but with misreporting and hidden fees lurking, picking the right model is key

Watching the watchers—anti-fraud measures are crucial for advertisers using programmatic solutions
Watching the watchers—anti-fraud measures are crucial for advertisers using programmatic solutions
 
Programmatic has been a force in China’s advertising industry for the last decade. However, interest on the part of advertisers is just now starting to mature. In response to these market demands, developers are putting their nose to the grindstone, and iterating their platforms to new heights.
 
This increased visibility on the part of programmatic has also, unsurprisingly, led to fiercer competition. From publishers to agencies, big brands to up-and-comers, everyone is vying for consumer attention through the industry’s new favourite content distribution method.
 
Whatever your place is in the advertising scene, programmatic is now the framework, and big data is the new currency. Giant, multi-armed tech players like Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent are essential partners for those who want access to massive consumer data sets.
 
That’s the current landscape of digital advertising in China, and while it might seem clear-cut on paper, what’s difficult is deducing who is offering not just useful, but transparent services to reach consumers. Data accuracy is the new layer of complexity when it comes to online advertising. And there is understandable cause for concern.
 
Many ad tech companies in China rely on more traditional means of doing business, bundling products together into a single offering. However, using these products comes with a major risk, as advertisers lose both control over their inventory’s pricing and transparency.
 
Just five years ago, basic third-party tracking was not even the norm. Impression tracking and click tracking, for example, were non-existent, and anti-fraud measures were nowhere to be found. Hidden fees were astronomically more common in China than they were elsewhere.
 
There’s still progress to be made, but the market is fast evolving. Advertisers are becoming more and more keen to avoid the pitfalls of such misguided commodities and transaction gaps, and will start to view full pricing transparency as a requirement, not just a service benefit.
 
What’s needed in the mix is an independent, third-party data storage platform that isn’t a data owner, doesn’t take part in media buying, and encourages any and all anti-fraud efforts geared towards themselves, trackers, advertisers and data management platforms (DMP) alike.
 
An even-handed solution
 
ReachMax—an independent programmatic provider—has cooperated with Tencent, Baidu, TalkingData, Miaozhen and Admaster to produce reliable solutions. It has additionally partnered with several DMP providers. What’s notable about the company is its transparency, refusing to buy into the flawed ‘one stop shop’ ethos.
 
It doesn’t provide DMP services and doesn’t own what it analyses (one of the company’s cornerstone principles). The company’s contributions include audience targeting based on DMP identification, individual or cross media frequency targeting and an intelligent frequency forecast.
 
In essence, ReachMax is like the programmatic pipes connecting publishers and data providers. However, the media inventory that flows between these pipes is neither purchased nor owned by the company. This gives advertisers a neutral foundation on which to build, without worrying about potential bias.
 
Its current transaction model takes shape in four steps. First, the company determines the perspective and reach of a campaign, after which an advertiser and publisher negotiate push and impression quantities. Next, the advertiser appoints multiple DMP platforms to collect relevant results. The last step is appointing an independent tracker to serve as a neutral party. Throughout the process anti-fraud efforts and location-based services are encouraged to enhance external data.
 
 
This four-step system is essentially the programmatic equivalent of The Four Estates, an ideological concept in sociopolitical structure. It’s thorough, takes into account any inconsistencies in reporting, and leaves no room for inflated results. With new content mediums like OTT and live streaming dominating digital, it’s more important than ever to get a grasp on transparent programmatic approaches.
 
As the relationship between ad and tech evolves, transparency and efficiency will continue to be targets for any advertisers in China—but it all starts with choosing the right partner, and the right process.

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