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Trust Transparency Outside the Traditional Supply Chain

Business faith and trust these days is so fragile. A couple weeks ago, a PR Week article reported on marketers surveyed by the Chief Marketing Officer Council which underscores just how fragile trust can be. The latest instance is in the category of digital marketing, after it was revealed that 62% of marketers surveyed have pulled back on ad spend due to reports about false and faulty metrics. Specifically, the websites Facebook and Google have appeared in multiple negative headlines, and according to the article, this has had a domino effect on broader marketing investments, leading 70% of all marketers to question all their marketing initiatives.

The article quotes Liz Miller, SVP of marketing for the CMO Council:

“The frustration across the marketing ecosystem is palpable, and new headlines that breach trust and showcase systemic carelessness have inflamed the issue. The industry as a whole must align on transparency and reliability. If we don’t live up to these expectations, we will see more accounts up for review and more orders being pulled.”

While this concern delves into long-standing questions regarding digital media, traffic counting and the viewability of ads, the impact and implications of this type of trust breach are broader, as this can really be considered a ‘service chain’ transparency issue. (Note: As defined by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Media Rating Council (MRC) – 2017, ad viewability is a measure influenced by the ad’s position on the page, by which 50% of the ad is in view for a minimum of one second and two seconds for video). Because these types of things can be measured, marketers look to them to calculate ROI. And when this trust is breached, the numbers don’t add up, and bosses start scratching their heads. With an ever-increasing focus on service standards along the entire supply chain, and the ability to use data to calculate performance metrics, the relationship between companies and service providers is changing. While most applaud the more transparent environment, ‘recklessness’ or false promise is truly a risk and can have significant fallout.

When we focus on changes to supply chain relationships, and make no mistake, they are changing, we often only consider the traditional upstream and downstream suppliers and receivers of products or services. As we’ve written in our weekly Tuesday Trust Talk before, the new relationships and expectations include outsourced vendors such as contract manufacturers, but when you start to examine the entire landscape and include laboratory selection and performance expectations, transportation and third-party logistics management, many more relationships come under scrutiny.

From the cited article above, even advertising and media companies are now part of an ecosystem that displays not only risks (the traditional focus), but also agreed and acceptable benefit expectations that go far deeper in organizations. While this should ultimately hold all parties accountable, it’s certainly a new playing field.

Focusing intently on the digital media environment for a moment, we can expect to see advertisers ask bolder questions as they rationalize spend and ROI. We’ve had questions about banner advertising ROI for a long time; these new observations are truly another broader manifestation of Trust Transparency.

One potential solution: everyone’s hot topic and platform, Blockchain, could be leveraged to save the day. A current Harvard Business Review paper describes the potential implications for blockchain for marketing, “Digital advertising is complex, because ensuring that the media that was purchased was actually delivered as it was intended, is non-trivial today. Ad fraud is pervasive, and costs marketers and publishers a significant amount of money…Blockchain can make data-driven marketing more transparent by validating and analyzing every consumer’s journey through verified ad delivery, confirming that a real person saw the ad as per the specifics of a media contract.”

We’ll continue to watch this space.