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Putting the value back in our industry’s opaque VAT

December 9, 2020 | By Bruce Brandfon, Chief Media Officer – Duration Media @DurationMedia

As 2020, without a doubt the most challenging 12 months in our lifetimes, stumbles to the finish line, one undeniable lesson learned for all publishers is the need to focus on the sustainability of revenue streams. The turbulence of the market, the unexpected upheaval from factors that are unanticipated and entirely out of our control may well have become the new normal. So now, more than ever, publishers need to choose AdTech partners wisely and select those who can demonstrate the ability to deliver a tangible contribution to the bottom line.

Value chain drain

Earlier this year the UK’s ISBA (the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers) released their Programmatic Supply Chain Transparency Study in association with the Association of Online Publishers and conducted by PwC. This groundbreaking examination of the digital industry’s programmatic advertising supply chain shines a bright light on the lack of transparency shrouding AdTech costs levied against publishers and advertisers. Estimates of these fees range anywhere from 15% to 51% of revenue lost by publishers and of non-media expenses paid by advertisers. Graeme Adams, head of media at BT Group, took part in the investigation and branded the lost cash “a big hole in the value chain.”

These unattributable “taxes” are slow leaks in the plumbing of our ecosystem. They expose both the opaqueness inherent in the marketplace and the lack of trust in advertising technology third-parties. Certainly, we all agree there needs to be a greater level of transparency and accountability throughout what has now become the world’s largest advertising segment. And studies such as these are necessary to facilitate adoption of broadly applied standards and practices. However, painting all AdTech providers with the same negative broad brush runs the real risk of our “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”

ROI vs. ROWe

Clearly there are technology vendors out there whose contributions to the efficacy of your programmatic advertising investment or a publisher’s bottom line are rightly suspect. Indeed, there are companies whose primary goal is self-serving. While they may promise to do no harm, they often fall short of guaranteeing measurable results and fully transparent visibility into their operations.

Their compensation is not directly tied to your ability to generate incremental income. Their tools are available for you to activate without the guarantee of a return on your investment. On the other hand, there are a select group of AdTech software providers who receive compensation only when their solution delivers measurable incremental revenue and income. That’s the ultimate measure of accountability.

Vendor or partner

Therefore, working with the right AdTech third-parties can make the difference, not only on your ability to “make your numbers,” but actually become the deciding factor between the survival of your business or its demise. We would modestly suggest that one way to decide who your best options are is to understand the nuanced differences between a vendor and partner:

Vendor: A party in the supply chain that sells goods and services to companies or consumers.

      A vendor is a general term used to describe any seller of goods or services.

Partner: A person or organization you are closely aligned with in some way.

                To partner is to join with another organization in a shared activity.

In summary we recommend a very careful evaluation among the myriad of third-party solution providers. Seek partnerships based upon full transparency, a shared commitment to mutually beneficial results, incremental revenue and income contribution to your bottom-line, and a guaranteed return on your investment.

About the author

Bruce Brandfon is Chief Media Officer of Duration Media. Prior to that he was Executive Vice President of Webspectator . He was Vice President and Managing Director at Publicitas. Prior to joining Publicitas, Bruce was Vice President of Sales for the Philadelphia Media Network. He has also held leadership positions at Scientific American, Newsweek, and Time Inc. Brandfon is Director of the Board of Advisors at Planet Forward. And he’s an Adjunct Professor of Media Studies at Westchester Community College. He contributes frequently to industry publications.

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