Amid a backlash of fake news claims online, the advertising and marketing industries are keeping a mindful eye on audience response. To maintain credibility and bolster relationships, integrity and honesty have become elevated priorities for publishers of all types. That's why transparency in advertising is the latest guiding principle for marketing pros everywhere.
In 2016, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) named "transparency" the Marketing Word of the Year and even created a Production Transparency Task Force to police nontransparent advertising agency practices and develop ways to improve. Nearly a year and a half later, it remains as important as ever.
What is Transparency Anyway?
When it comes to digital marketing and advertising, transparency relates to how business is conducted and executed. A greater focus is being placed on how and why advertisers work with agencies, what happens in the media buying industry, the disclosure of paid partnerships and what ethical parameters advertisers and marketers follow.
So why should you care? When advertisers make questionable transactions, that shines a bad light on their associated brands. People talk. When your agency gets pegged as one of the "bad guys," your client base, brand reputation and profit margin are all at risk.
If you want to be transparent with your audience, dig into a few key performance indicators (KPIs) and share the findings publicly. This includes collaborating with publishers, marketing partnerships and the loyal followers of the companies you're representing.
Which KPIs Should You Focus On?
Spreadsheets, charts and metrics can tell you who, what, when, where, how and why your tactics are working — or not working. Once you narrow down this information overload, it's easier to understand which data sets are most important when it comes to transparency in advertising.
In 2017, Integral Ad Science (IAS) collected feedback from 816 digital media professionals ranging from publishers and creative agencies to tech companies and brands. Earlier this year they released a report indicating that transparency would shape the year ahead.
Some of the biggest struggles currently affecting the industry include data breaches, privacy concerns, ad blockers and online fraud, so it's no wonder the public is cautious and asking for more visibility behind the curtain. Pay close attention to these metrics to best serve your audience.
1. Return on Investment (ROI)
Sharing engagement and sales numbers is intriguing, but now brands want to know exactly where their dollars are going. ROI in 2018 should focus on fraud-risk assessment, diversion and mitigation tactics.
Be ready to calculate and explain fraudulent impressions, nonviewable impressions, the number of ads placed next to content that conflicts with the brand's morals and overall actual campaign exposure and ad placement.
2. User Generated Content (UGC) Performance
As with ROI, moving beyond engagement and sales performance is key to being more transparent. New concerns about brand safety, fraud and actual impact are being questioned — think Instagram bot accounts or purchased Twitter followers. When it comes to UGC, authenticity is a must.
The IAS report finds the weakest area of transparency is the ability to show a direct correlation between online exposure and a direct impact for the brand. Be prepared to show your clients tangible case studies, complete with screenshots documenting moments of online interactions that turned into sales.
3. Types of Content Produced
As our digital outreach grows, so do the formats — pay close attention to brand concerns over video, ads, direct user posts (both social media and blogs) and articles featuring risky content and fake news.
Be ready to provide a breakdown of content formats and samples of each type of published item for your client to review. More than ever you will need to prove your diligence toward publishing appropriate content and policing UGC content that mentions your brand partnerships.
Brand Reputation Management
Tom Popomaronis, senior director of product innovation and business development at the Hawkins Group, explained in a Forbes article that successfully building a brand reputation hinges on brand transparency, social good, integrity, inspirational branding and staff treatment. When it comes to brand transparency, share both the good and bad news with customers and vendors.
Any additional data you can produce that reassures your client that you've taken steps to minimize data breaches and online fraud should become a priority in the year ahead. So, dig in. Share news and data openly. Approaching public concerns head-on is the essence of transparency for both your agency and the brands you serve. With transparency comes loyalty, and ultimately reassurance of brand values.