Programmatic transparency issues will be resolved within two years predicts MasterCard CMO

Transparency issues currently niggling the rise of programmatic buying can to be resolved within two years if clients and agencies can work together to address them, one of the region’s most high profile marketers said today.

Nick Waters, Kelvin Wong, Sam Ahmed and Janice Chan talk on a panel as Dentsu Aegis launches data innovation centre in Singapore

Dentsu Aegis boss Nick Waters, EDB’s Kelvin Wong, Sam Ahmed of MasterCard and Starwood’s Janice Chan on a panel at the ArtScience Museum in Singapore

Talking on a panel debate held by Dentsu Aegis Network in Singapore this morning, Sam Ahmed, APAC CMO of MasterCard, was asked if recent events in Japan, where Dentsu was caught overbilling clients for digital media last week, had affected the trust he has in his agency, and whether his company would be reviewing its digital marketing function as a result.

Ahmed acknowledged that transparency was a concern for marketers, but he said it was not an issue that would “break” the industry.

“There is an issue in programmatic buying transparency. And we as partners will solve it over the next two years. I don’t think it’s an issue that will break the industry. It’s more of a learning curve than a major issue,” said Ahmed, who works with Dentsu Aegis Network media agency Carat.

Also on the panel was Janice Chan, senior digital marketing director for Starwood Asia Pacific, who was asked the same question. Chan, whose company also uses Dentsu Aegis Network group, pointed to the emerging third party companies geared towards verifying programmatic buying as a source of hope.

“I am hopeful because there are companies out there that are verifying and reviewing media buys. I want to see more of that happen,” she said.

“The issue about third party ad serving that was happening 10-15 years ago… Those guys were all independent, and now they’re owned by huge publishers. Which makes me question how the integrity of our ad serving is being protected,” she said.

“So I’m excited to see startups coming on to the scene that can help publishers and advertisers to verify that what we’re doing in programmatic is reaching real people and we’re getting what we’re paying for.”

On the question of trust, Chan said that faith in agency partners was critical to make the relationship work. “If we are continuously questioning whether our partners are trustworthy, it makes for a very tiring relationship,” she said.

On the transparency and authenticity of data, a key issue for digital marketers currently as the industry grapples with viewability and ad fraud, Ahmed said that these are challenges “we’re all going through as an industry as we grow.”

“It doesn’t change our view on our relationships with our agencies. It doesn’t change our view on transparency,” he said.

“To be honest, we’re all testing and learning in this field, and there’s no university degree that tells you exactly what to do right now in this area.”

“Which means people are going to make mistakes. And mistakes are good for us, because it means that we can improve. And so we work with partners like Facebook and Dentsu to make sure we are testing are learning ourselves.”

Nick Waters, the CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network APAC, who was moderating the panel, came to the same conclusion.

“I think the rule book hasn’t been written yet – we’re all in this together. Therefore partnerships to try and solve these problems are essential. It’s also inevitable that mistakes will be made as we go forward. We solve these problems together. That’s very much our approach and how we see it as well.”

The panel debate was held at the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands as Dentsu Aegis Network opened a new global data innovation centre.


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