Telaria’s Latest Initiative Brings Much-Needed Transparency to Programmatic Buys

'It's all about having nothing to hide,' said COO Katie Evans

Telaria is only the latest programmatic player to try bringing clarity to the supply chain. Telaria

Telaria is the latest ad-tech player to try bringing some much-needed transparency to the programmatic landscape. The company announced today that it would be rolling out two new initiatives across its advertising platform so that teams on the buy-side could better see how their money trickles down to publishers.

“The theme [in ad tech] over the last 12 months seems to be, how does the industry help programmatic become more transparent?” said Katie Evans, Telaria’s COO. “And we’re seeing a lot of measurements and metrics rolled out—not only for preventing fraud—but simply to allow buyers and brands to know what’s going on.”

The call for transparency is one that’s been echoed from all sides of the ad-tech ecosystem; Big brands like Unilever and P&G, for example, have issued calls for a more efficient, less convoluted path to the publishers they work with.

This past October saw ad-tech providers like OpenX and PubMatic echo the same sentiments, signing an open letter calling for more transparency across the digital chain of command. Earlier this month, the IAB Tech Lab—of which Telaria is a member—released its own initiative to bring “more trust and transparency” to publishers posting video ads on their site.

Right now, that path is full of demand-side-platforms (DSPs), supply-side-platforms (SSPs), ad exchanges and data management platforms (DMPs), all taking their own chunk of change that media buyers spend on a publisher’s inventory. Estimates about how much this “ad tech tax” actually cuts out varies, but the most recent review, courtesy of ad-tech consultancy Warc, estimated that up to 55% of worldwide programmatic spend ended up in middlemen’s pockets.

Despite the endless torrent of brand safety scandals and the lack of transparency tied to programmatic buys, the media world has been racing to spend their dollars in that space. A recent eMarketer report predicted that buyers would rack up $59.45 billion of programmatic spend by the end of this year; nearly 85% of the digital display ad market in the U.S. That spend is expected to reach more than $70 billion in 2020, and more than $80 billion in 2021.

“As we know in digital, it’s not as easy as just cutting a check to a content provider,” explained Evans, who added that these initiatives were created not only to push Telaria as a “leader” in the programmatic world, but to bring some much-needed clarity to its partners.

The first initiative the company announced—called “log level auction mechanics”—is meant to provide brands and agencies a window into the auctions they’re bidding on, to eliminate the possibilities of hidden fees that Telaria (or its partners) might be pocketing on the sly during the bidding process. Meanwhile, the company’s second initiative,”aggregated take rates” gives those on the buy-side the chance to see how their ad spend is spent in all steps of the supply chain, regardless of whether they have a direct relationship with any of those particular players.

“Today, buyers and agencies understand the fees that they pay in relationship to contracts that they hold directly; they know that they pay their DSP or verification company a certain fee, for example,” said Evans. But as that money travels down the chain of command, that gets less transparent.

“We don’t want that to be the case,” she added. All of these steps we’re taking; it’s all about having nothing to hide. We want you to see this data, and we hope that you’re asking everyone to do the same.”

@swodinsky Shoshana Wodinsky is Adweek's platforms reporter, where she covers the financial and societal impacts of major social networks. She was previously a tech reporter for The Verge and NBC News.