A lack of digital sophistication is the most significant contributing factor to ongoing issues around transparency in digital advertising, not corruption, said Matt Sutton, APAC CEO of AdParlor.
Speaking to Campaign Asia-Pacific at Cannes Lions 2017, Sutton said while transparency is a global issue, it’s more pronounced in certain Asian markets but primarily because the digital ecosystem in those markets is still developing.
“It’s not about corruption," he said. "People automatically think ‘someone’s corrupt’. In my mind it’s just about sophistication, and really understanding how to setup a transparent ecosystem that delivers value. The more that this takes place, the less pronounced [the lack of transparency] will be. The more sophisticated the [digital] buyers and sellers are, the less black box marketing takes place. Some markets in Asia are a few years behind on this.”
Sutton said as the next generation of CMOs develop a better understanding of the digital or programmatic advertising industry, the more transparency will become the norm.
“If you look at the last five to 10 years, the procurement practices around traditional media have delivered a lot of waste to advertisers and have caused there to be a lot of fat in the ecosystem,” he explained. “I think as money moves from offline to online, and partners like us move into the ecosystem, a lot of that fat will get cut away.”
Sutton said the existing level of transparency in digital advertising compared to offline media means it is “always under the spotlight”, leading to flare ups such as the ongoing brand safety controversy, which he said was “a very good thing for the industry”.
“It’s just another step to force the industry to act, although I do think the industry was doing a lot of work anyway,” he added.
Given the continuous growth of programmatic across the marketing and advertising industries, Sutton said AdParlor is repositioning itself as a digital consultancy, rather than adtech firm, in response to what it is hearing from clients.
“What we find in Asia is that CMOs and advertisers are looking for technology solutions to enable their marketing, but they don’t necessarily always get that from the partners they work with,” he said.
"They need a consultancy that figures out their business goals, the marketing budget they have to achieve those goals, and then how to use technology to get there. By delivering consultancy and technology, we can go deeper with advertisers and provide better insights.”