Ad Tech Insights

Fixing Ad Tech: 4 Industry Voices on the Recent Ad Tech Charter

Recently, the WFA, backed by the Top 10 Global Advertisers, issued a charter to clean up digital advertising.

Fixing Ad Tech: 4 Industry Voices on the Recent Ad Tech Charter
Recently, the WFA, backed by the Top 10 Global Advertisers, issued a charter to clean up digital advertising.
Aug 21, 2019
A full stack advertising technology company for publishers and advertisers.

To put it in context, the Charter laid down 8 principles that it expects ad tech vendors to comply with (or face loss of business from the leading advertisers). The 8 principles are:

  • Zero tolerance to ad fraud with compensation for any breach
  • Strict brand safety protection
  • Minimum viewability thresholds
  • Transparency throughout the supply-chain
  • Third-party verification and measurement as a minimum requirement
  • Removal of ‘walled garden’ issues
  • Improving standards with data transparency
  • Take steps to improve the consumer experience

A charter is good in terms of ‘drawing a line in the sand’ as WFA officials said in their press statement. But what are the industry’s practical solutions to address these issues and make the ecosytem less complex? Our experts – industry veteran Mike Kelly, programmatic adtech platform AppNexus, supply-side platform Adtelligent and programmatic blockchain not-for-profit AdLedger share their views.

MTA Top 5 Takeaways:

Adtech didn’t get to where it is by itself. Advertisers, agencies and all members of the ecosystem need to all be accountable for improving the state of digital advertising

We need to take the focus back to advertising that builds brands, not merely advertising that enables performance marketing

User Experience is going to be crucial to digital advertising success going forward

Will bringing premium advertisers and premium publishers closer help address the larger problems?

Blockchain has the potential to address the transparency challenges in adtech


Mike Kelly, CEO of Kelly Newman Ventures, Media veteran and Ad tech Category Specialist for MarTech Advisor reminds us that everyone in the ecosystem needs to be accountable for the current situation

“It seems that we are at a low when it comes to trust and viability of digital advertising channels and everyone deserves a share of the blame. The recent dictums by WFA and other trade groups on the advertising world’s problems are important and done in earnest. But the big brands behind these manifestos are ignoring the root problem. Instead of a list of demands, how about considering how to permanently change the situation?

Now, I’m a big believer in the power of harnessing technology and using automation to advance the targeting power and effectiveness of advertising. But agencies and brands are expecting digital to deliver for brands by using performance techniques, opening the system to go after the easy money flowing into the system. They need to reward technology that helps build brands, and not continue to favor the kind of tech that hunts for cheap cookies and clicks.

Google and Facebook have 5 million advertisers each, they have built huge ‘lower funnel marketing machines’, and ‘set’ their systems to optimize for clicks and attribution. Far from getting them to change, they are turning the big brands into performance advertisers with lowest common denominator metrics.

For performance advertisers, the digital stack is flawed but effective, but for brands, they need to take a whole lot more into consideration. Context and audience quality, transparency and viewabilty can be solved for by data and digital automation. But because it costs more, it’s not a priority. Essentially, brand building and high-quality digital advertising and distribution—the kind that builds enduring and valuable brands— is getting sidelined. And brands are suffering the consequences .

I am sure that this pressure from the marketers will cause some positive change.For permanent change in adtech, brand leaders need to change the way agencies are motivated and incentivized . The big brand spenders must reframe what success looks like to consider long-term quality. Turn off the easy money in the system and you’ll get rid of fraud. Quality companies who step up will see their brands grow. Keep grinding for the lowest price and, you will get what you pay for.”


Tom Shields, Chief Strategy Officer, AppNexus, says that AppNexus already has checks in place that comply with most of the demands in the charter.

“The charter proposed by WFA is well aligned with AppNexus’ mission to create a better internet and the investments we’re making to promote trust and transparency in the advertising ecosystem.

In addition to the WFA, major advertisers like Procter & Gamble have recently criticized the complexity of the digital advertising supply chain. Simply put, we need to restore trust and transparency to programmatic advertising . Digital publishers rely on their technology partners to help them fund important and compelling content. Marketers need a trusted and brand-safe marketplace where they can engage consumers and achieve a return on their advertising investment.

I think we will see brands do more business with publishers and platforms that make a commitment to quality. Overall, there will be more accountability.”


Diego Sanchez, CEO Adtelligent Inc., in response to the charter, asks for more definite and tangible action points. He says “We were hoping to see more about simplification of the programmatic ecosystem. Don’t we want to bring premium marketers and premium publishers closer together? This release (charter) moves in the opposite direction. The focus on viewability, fraud prevention, and brand safety means more vendors and more ad tech tax removing dollars from the pockets of premium publishers. Also, the initiative doesn’t offer a clear description of the actions that must be taken to improve transparency and the consumer experience. It’s more of an appeal to the morality of industry actors. Today, we no longer need calls for reforms, we need real reforms.”

While advocating for a simplification of programmatic connections between premium advertisers and premium publishers, Diego highlights the need for advertisers to rethink their success criteria. Specifically about the call for a “minimum viewability threshold ”, Diego says that “advertisers should be concerned about ROAS, not viewability. When a marketer buys TV or print, there is no way they can mandate a certain viewability, as people can walk out of the room for commercials, they can skip the commercials, or they can skim past the ads in printed media. Yet, marketers still spend significant budgets on these mediums, because historically these mediums have driven ROAS.”


Christiana Cacciapuoti, Executive Director of AdLedger feels that the proposed charter is understandable, reasonable and completely doable, leveraging technologies like blockchain. “When you look at the principles, it’s alarming that these standards are not already in place and enforced within the digital advertising industry.

When you move past the hype of blockchain and look at the actual technology, it’s obvious that the potential is there. A shared, transparent ledger can provide an indisputable record for every step in the supply chain, holding all parties accountable for their actions. Once we are able to so easily illuminate the bad actors in the supply chain, we can remove them. That alone can bring billions back to the edges and away from fraudsters. From there we can start to be more creative in our implementation of blockchain. When combined with other emerging technologies like complex cryptography, we can solve even bigger issues like deduplicated reach and the marriage of consumer privacy and advertiser profitability.

As published on MarTechAdvisor


#ad server#ad tech#ssp#video ads

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