Trust Isn't Built Overnight, But Transparency Is a Good Place to Start

August 3, 2017

By Lou Severine, CEO of NYIAX



There's an old saying about trust — it takes years to build, seconds to break, and a lifetime to repair. Trust is broken in ad tech. Repairing trust requires an industry-wide commitment to come together for the long haul to rebuild our marketplace. So where do we start?

With fake news and studies about ad fraud ricocheting through ad tech, brand safety emerged as a key theme at this year's NewFronts. Most buyers expressed a preference for direct deals as a means of transacting with minimal risk. In a direct deal, you know your counterparty, and therefore you know where to look for accountability. But direct deals aren't a market-wide solution, given issues of scale and efficiency. That means ad tech has no choice but to clean up its marketplace; or, as some have observed, have regulators do it for us.

Too often, however, serious debate about reform in the ad tech marketplace is shortened to a single word — transparency. This is a common buzzword across tech, where companies as different as Lyft, Airbnb, and Venmo promulgate the same basic idea that transparency facilitates transactions between strangers. Transparency is essential to those transactions, but what's more important is the long-term byproduct of countless deals routinely transacted in a transparent marketplace.

That byproduct is called trust. Trust is why you press a button on your phone and get into a stranger's car. The scarcity of trust is the reason why so many advertisers are increasingly reluctant to participate in the ad tech marketplace; unlike getting into a Lyft, ad tech's buyers and sellers often don't know who they're dealing with.


Technology isn't the problem, in fact, Blockchain is part of the solution
Buyers and sellers like the capabilities of programmatic, as it delivers incredible reach, unparalleled efficiency, and granular targeting. Unfortunately, an unintended byproduct of programmatic is the murkiness it creates between counterparties. What buyers and sellers need now is a way to record transactions, and hold their partners accountable.

Blockchain, a technology already used for record keeping in the financial industry, offers an attractive solution. By creating an immutable record, blockchain brings the accountability of a private deal to the public marketplace. As an advertising contract is transacted and recorded via blockchain as a core leger, it retains the terms agreed to in the original transaction between parties. An automotive advertiser, for example, might set income and age thresholds for its media buy. In today's marketplace, an advertiser may not know the publisher its ads run on or if targeting terms, such as income and age, are met. In effect, programmatic has given advertisers reach, scale, and efficiency, but they've had to sacrifice control. Blockchain technology is a way of returning that control to advertisers without shrinking the market to pre-programmatic levels.


Start with transparency
The act of making something transparent is, quite literally, the act of shining light into the darkness. At the moment, there are dark areas in the programmatic marketplace, areas where problems like fraud, fake news, and viewability issues thrive. The more transparent we can make the marketplace for buyers and sellers, the more pressure we can bring to bear on those problems, but in the process we also expose a deficit in trust.

How big is the trust deficit? We don't know. But what we do know is that we need to be prepared to face the music together. Like the old saying goes, trust won't happen overnight. But if we commit to transparent marketplaces, trust will one day return to ad tech, not because we wall ourselves off in private deals, but because we abide by common rules designed to govern a 21st century marketplace.


As CEO, Lou Severine provides the vision for and guides the corporate strategy of NYIAX. He utilizes more than 20 years of management and sales as well as marketing and customer service experience within the ad tech space.


The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Maestros are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

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