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Ad Tech Companies Are Getting Graded On Log-File Transparency

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 6TH, 2023


Will log-file data ever not be a mess?


Doubt it. But the TAG TrustNet program, which was launched two years ago by Trustworthy Accountability Group to focus on advertisers’ supply-chain transparency, is having a go at it.


Advertisers want log-level data because it allows them to sniff out inefficiency or fraud in the supply chain. Adalytics, for example, used log-level data to discover where advertisers were really spending with YouTube. But ad tech companies are often reluctant to shed light on exactly where advertisers are spending their programmatic dollars.


TAG TrustNet is publishing its first register of ad tech companies that share log-file data, don’t share log files and kinda sorta share log-level data.


The register rates companies as either green, red or yellow, meaning they provide the TAG group’s required data for log-level transparency, flat out don’t provide log files, are developing log-file data products or just haven’t gotten back to TAG. (There isn’t much nuance with simple ratings: Green means go! Red means stop!)


Green-rated vendors still might have huge differences in their log-file data quality. The yellow rating, in particular, could mean different things, like the vendor provides some data, is working on products that will provide transparency or perhaps provides all the data and hasn’t integrated yet with TrustNet.


Log by log


The log-file register has been developed over 18 months, but the TrustNet program is still herding cats when it comes to collecting data from DSPs and SSPs. Which underscores the difficulty for advertisers in collecting and reconciling log files in general.


For instance, of the 67 brand advertisers initially interested in working with TrustNet (aka those that would provide log-file campaign data), only 21 eventually participated, according to Tim Brown, CEO of Fiducia, a ledger technology company that works with TAG on the program.


Advertisers don’t always have contractual rights to access the log-file data, even when it’s produced by their media spend, Brown said. Sometimes the agencies won’t share the data for contractual reasons, or an ad tech vendor simply doesn’t have a log-file data product.

There’s also a TBC (“To Be Confirmed”) placeholder, which he said signifies that TrustNet hasn’t been able to examine the vendor’s log files to determine if they provide all the required data fields for its rating.


Even as a work in progress, the log-file transparency register is pretty straightforward. YouTube, the Google AdX SSP and the Amazon Publisher Services SSP and Amazon Advertising DSP all have a red rating, since walled gardens don’t provide log-level transparency. (Google DV360 is the only walled-garden-owned product that provides log files – but only when it buys non-Google media.)


The idea is to establish a “minimum threshold” to meet transparency requirements that advertisers are pressing for, Brown said.


The advertiser perspective


One advertiser that’s participated with TrustNet on the log-file register is Kenvue, the consumer brand spinout from Johnson & Johnson.


Kenvue has been generally focusing on in-housing more of the ad agency and ad tech operations and in simplifying its ad supply chain, said Ander Lopez Ochoa, the brand’s EMEA head of digital, content, media and ecommerce marketing.


Still, he said, since initiating the program 18 months ago and focusing on working with vendors that would be rated green, Kenvue has reduced its SSP contracts in the EMEA region from 40 in 2022 to only four today.


Kenvue’s SSP cull might partly explain the abundance of yellow ratings among supply siders one might expect to be green (SpotX, InMobi and TripleLift, for example). Not every vendor is enthusiastic about this trend, although log-file data is the key differentiator between third-party ad tech and walled-garden ad tech.


It isn’t just SSPs, either


The Trade Desk contributes log files in Europe, for instance, but not in the US. Not for privacy-related reasons, mind you, like GDPR compliance. Other DSPs don’t produce US log-file data, he said.


The Trade Desk does produce log files for US advertisers, which is how it has its green rating on the TrustNet register, according to Brown. However, TTD didn’t participate in the ANA’s broader Transparency Report, the first part of which was published in June this year.


Kenvue has seen CPM reductions of up to 30% by simplifying the vendors and domains it spends ad dollars on. It culled the field based on which vendors provide the necessary log-file data and which have the lowest take rates.


So far, Kenvue’s work with TAG TrustNet is part of its overall supply-path optimization program. Once the underlying layer of data transparency exists, he said, the next step would be to create measurement and optimization products with much higher advertiser controls.


“Then again, we need to build those capabilities,” according to Ochoa Lopez. “But that’s a different story.”



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