TRUSTX Takes Aim at Opaque Programmatic Trading Practices

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A crisis of trust. That’s what going on in the programmatic buying space, as brands have continued to lose trust in the marketplaces and publishers with which they work. Relationships among agencies, brands, publishers, and the ad tech players that bring these groups together have diminished as brand safety crises and measurement concerns multiplied.

The lack of transparency in the programmatic space has finally reached a tipping point. According to a survey on the state of programmatic media buying, conducted by Digiday, 27% of media buyers say the greatest concern they have with programmatic advertising is the lack of transparency. While many players in the space are claiming that their hands are tied, and agencies continue to push back against audits, upstart technology firms are carving out niches as leaders in the push to bring trust into programmatic advertising.

One organization making a major push in this arena is TRUSTX. Uniquely positioned as a public benefit corporation that’s wholly owned by the non-profit premium publisher trade association Digital Content Net, TRUSTX is working to “change the way ads are bought” and bring light back into a space that’s grown murky over the past few years.

Achieving those lofty ambitions means growing the TRUSTX marketplace, which provides a collaborative platform for marketers and publishers to create the types of innovative advertising solutions that actually drive measurable value. The TRUSTX marketplace is designed to be a place where buyers and sellers can trade with confidence and safety at scale.

“As a B-Corp, owned by premium publishers including professional news, sports, and entertainment companies, we are the only purpose-driven technology company in programmatic media,” explains TRUSTX President and CEO David Kohl. “From day one, TRUSTX promised advertisers a 100% premium brand-safe publishing environment. We guarantee humanity and viewability for every transaction, and all TRUSTX marketplace participants get 100% clarity on fees.”

In an ideal world, every programmatic platform would share those ambitions. But as Kohl sees it, the industry has been overrun by opaque trading practices, high fraud rates, and low viewability, leading to an overall lack of accountability in the space. Those flaws are giving programmatic advertising a bad name.

“Programmatic technology has leveled the playing field between professionally produced content and other sources, and as a result, both publishers and brands are suffering,” Kohl says. “Within this automated landscape, programmatic media has become rife with brand safety concerns, fraud and non-transparent pricing practices.”

TRUSTX made headlines in March with the announcement that it was eliminating its 12.5% supply-side fee from within its platform in favor of a month-end 12.5% technology fee, following a trial with Meredith, NBCUniversal, CBS Interactive, and Magna Global.

With so many middlemen, TRUSTX has found that for every digital ad dollar spent, only 40% typically goes toward working media. As such, Kohl says the need for trust and trustworthy sources has never been greater.

In the TRUSTX marketplace, an impression must be certified as a human and viewable in accordance with MRC standards before any advertiser is charged. This ensures that there is no waste. Kohl says it also ensures that buyers experience complete transparency down the publisher URL, along with financial transparency from bid to delivery, reporting, and billing.

“We are delivering digital experiences that everyone can confidently explore, enjoy, and invest in,” he says.

Beyond the push toward greater transparency, the industry is also seeing a move toward increased efficiency, as brand marketers whittle down the number of supply-side platforms with which they work to get more bang for their buck.

“Media buyers have programmatic buying strategies for Google, Facebook, and everything else. Our goal is to create a distinction for premium and transparent inventory that gives buyers an alternative option,” Kohl says. “In the next five years, we anticipate the media supply chain transforming dramatically, with more control in the hands of buyers and sellers. TRUSTX intends to be how buyers engage with premium publishers in the evolving programmatic ecosystem.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.Rainbow over Montclair

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.