• Advertising

What Does Transparency in Programmatic Advertising Really Mean?

Praveen Rajaretnam
Praveen Rajaretnam
Senior Product Marketing Manager
5 min read
Posted on February 27, 2019
What Does Transparency in Programmatic Advertising Really Mean?

Would a stockbroker invest in a stock if only the ticker prices were accessible and none of the firm’s financial statements?

Definitely not.

What is stopping the broker is the lack of transparency. As a consumer, we need transparency to make the right purchase decisions.

The overarching purpose of transparency is to build trust. It is for this reason we don’t order medicines from an unknown drug store or provide our credit card details to a fintech upstart. There’s the overwhelming fear of consuming counterfeit medicines or risking our life savings to potential fraudsters.

It should be no different in digital advertising, especially in programmatic buying. In fact, media buying not only requires trust and transparency, it depends on it.

The need for greater transparency and trust in the digital advertising market has become more pronounced over the last couple of years with issues such as ad fraud, brand safety, rise of ad blockers and underhand practices plaguing the industry.

What Does Transparency Entail?

Simply put, transparency means total visibility into the entire buying funnel (as made available to the demand-side platform, or DSP) required to make efficient purchase decisions for the buyer.

At the very minimum, this entails transparency into the following:

  1. Media source (traffic source and traffic type)
  2. Media (app bundle ID and app name)
  3. Pricing (bid price and clearing price)
  4. Impression path (creative, placement type and slot size)
  5. Campaign setup (dashboard access to check campaign setup and performance and/or APIs for campaign creation)
  6. Reporting capability via dashboard and/or API


  1. The above items are expected to be provided over and above the default measures and dimensions such as clicks, installs, cost (advertiser spend), date, day, hour, country, os and device type.
  2. Measures such as click-through rate, conversion ratio, etc. are derived metrics and hence have not been included.

Why is this the absolute minimum requirement?

“You can't improve what you can't measure”

Transparency is the first step towards spend optimization.

While any one data point could be considered irrelevant or immaterial, when all the pieces are examined together, the full picture could be used to better optimize ad delivery.

The bottom line is that it’s the buyer who should decide whether she doesn't want to use certain data, and not the DSP - whose primary function is that of a platform provider. The DSP is expected to make available at the very least the above mentioned measures and dimensions via their reporting dashboard and APIs.

Working with DSPs offering partial or no transparency means you cannot be sure what data is accessible or how the data is being used.

The ability to log into the DSP to examine the performance of your campaigns along with media and fee transparency is important. This helps address ad fraud, brand safety and compliance-related issues such as data privacy and data security.

Trust Goes Beyond Just Transparency

Other important aspects of trust include data privacy and data security, measurement product partnerships and audits, fraud and brand safety.

Given the depth of these topics, we will be covering each of these in separate posts.

Ecosystem Push for Transparency

It is imperative for all programmatic players to increase transparency in their products and operations in a demonstrable fashion to earn and maintain the trust of advertisers.

It is on ecosystem players to manifest this through tangible, practical steps implemented to raise the levels of transparency, trust and accountability.

Interested in seeing what a transparent and trustworthy solution looks like? Drop us a note at contact@inmobi.com to learn more.

About the Author

Praveen Rajaretnam has over a decade of experience in mobile marketing and growth marketing. He started his career as an engineer at a cyber-security firm, working on automation and performance testing. Praveen also started a social-commerce firm, running marketing and growth strategies there. He spends considerable time researching anti-fraud methodologies, attribution mechanisms and real-time bidding mechanisms.

More Posts by Praveen:

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