Truth In (Buying) Advertising

How Adobe is placing their entire ad budget on their own transparent ad platform

by Adam Morgan

posted on 02-15-2018

True to its name, the old broadcast television show “To Tell The Truth” offered the ultimate in advertising transparency. One product, one program, one time slot. It left little room for confusion regarding where the money went, who was targeted, and whether or not it was effective.

The sponsor product was advertised front and center, with its name below the panel of judges, and even got a quick pitch from the host where he extolled the virtues of any given product. (Geritol was a frequent advertiser, claiming to help those with “tired blood”). The effectiveness of the platform notwithstanding, at least advertisers knew everything they needed to know about the process and implementation.

This style of advertising doesn’t really exist anymore in today’s digital landscape, but there’s no reason that newer methods can’t offer the same amount of transparency.

Imagine that you’ve spent months planning a campaign — formulating a strategy, determining a budget, and developing the creative materials. Then you release your advertising campaign out into the wild, only to find that the results it generated were not what was expected. What went wrong?

The rise of programmatic advertising, which is largely designed to take the headache out of ad buying and strategic deployment, has caused problems itself. Programmatic advertising technology can make ad buying more efficient (and less expensive) but the problems arise when it’s difficult, if not impossible, for companies to see where that money went and what impact it had. After all, when a campaign delivers knockout results (or underperforms) there has to be a reason, and being able to dig deep into the data pays dividends outside the direct results of a campaign.

If there isn’t a clear picture of the data from your ad spend, the ability to analyze and visualize results to find the performance drivers is difficult, if not impossible. This can cause numerous issues for companies, especially if they are unsure what to do next. Without granular data to parse, there’s no definitive way to address issues and try a new approach next time. To find out what happened, you need to know where the money went, where and when ads were being run, and how effective they were in those channels.

Unlike package deals that roll fees together with the intent of lowering costs and making the process easier but offer little data in return, marketers today want more insight into the process, where they get full transparency on inventory, cost, and performance. When buying flat-rate packages and paying a set price for CPC (cost per click) you only know that someone is clicking, but not much else. And even then, that someone may not be a person at all. With bots and malware essentially hijacking ads, up to one-third of clicks garnered through industry standard advertising options aren’t made by people at all.

To fix this, advertisers need more information about their campaigns. Not just after they’ve finished running, but while they’re active. Insights around domains, placements, viewability, time of day, day of week, and a whole host of other elements that can affect a campaign’s impact should be freely available.

This is where Adobe Advertising Cloud comes in, offering unprecedented transparency into not only the costs of ads and where and when they are running, but how well they perform.

Tammy Le, head of product marketing for Advertising Cloud at Adobe says, “Adobe Advertising Cloud gives customers total visibility into where their ad budgets are going, ensuring that every dollar spent goes toward delivering a great ad experience to viewers. That’s incredibly important in an industry with well-documented concerns over transparency in media buying.”

Despite programmatic media’s focus on efficiency, advertisers are often unaware that they are paying significantly higher CPMs (cost per impression) for programmatic non-guaranteed buys than a publisher receives net of fees. By itself this pricing model is not problematic, as transactional technology has a concrete value and should be priced accordingly. However, the lack of transparency — where technology fees aren’t broken out from CPMs — results in buyers and sellers evaluating inventory value and ROI based on limited information.

Adobe Advertising Cloud is unique in that it can handle everything from a small banner ad campaign to more complex campaigns that stretch across the digital landscape in all sorts of ways — including mobile, social, apps like Spotify, as well as TV spots that are customizable by network, time of day, and more. But what matters most is that it offers transparency every step of the way. It’s a true multichannel programmatic end-to-end solution that makes it easy to buy and manage ads, and learn as much as possible from every dollar spent.

A concern that has recently become a hot topic in the industry is the possibility of ads running in questionable places that not only deliver poor results, but could even hurt a brand. This is a serious issue for companies running ads that are mainly focused on increasing brand visibility. No company wants to spend money buying ads that risk offending customers who may see them as endorsements of offensive content.

With Adobe Advertising Cloud, “Brand safety protocols are in place so that data gathered from a campaign is verified using industry brand standards to avoid issues like this,” says Steve Weeks, director of media planning and strategy at Adobe.

Weeks says he has faith that Adobe Advertising Cloud is the future of ad buying, for everyone from small companies to huge corporations, and that they’ll see a higher ROI versus other methods.

“We’re drinking our own Kool-Aid and rolling out millions of dollars of our ads via Adobe Advertising Cloud, not as a stunt, but because we know it’s the best way to spend precious ad dollars.” This marks the first time Adobe is doing a 100 percent multi-channel programmatic campaign of this size.

Le says, “The fact that we have Adobe Advertising Cloud as part of Adobe is a huge asset to our team as we move the bulk of our media planning and buying in-house, enabling us to hit our goals without compromising on brand safety, media quality, or transparency.”

Today there is more data being collected about more things more often than ever before. This makes operational transparency hard, but it’s not impossible. A typical midscale trading desk running an off-the-shelf demand-side platform will typically see 50-100 million impressions a day across ten thousand to one million domains. By using the Adobe Advertising Cloud, companies are able to sift through the data and dive as deep (or as shallow) as meets their needs.

This makes it so companies no longer have to run ads without knowing the specifics of their deployment and results, crossing their fingers, and hoping sales go up. Now they can uncover the key takeaways and find those pearls of wisdom in the wake of a successful campaign.

Transparency is no longer a story you find on an old broadcast television show. With the right ad platform, digital transparency is now something you can count on. This is welcome news to many brands — including Adobe. Who not only believes in transparency, but will walk the talk with their own ad budget by placing 100 percent of their ad spend on their own ad platform.

Topics: Digital Transformation, Advertising, Media & Entertainment