P&G Just Raised the Stakes on Transparency

Written by Tim Edmundson

This past Monday, the world’s largest consumer goods brand Procter & Gamble told their agencies they won’t pay for any work unless they adhere to strict industry-standard viewability metrics, fraud protection, and third-party verification. If you’re looking for a mic-drop moment in the demand for more transparency, look no further.

Up until now, calls for more transparency in advertising have not had much weight behind them. With this move, P&G has taken the unprecedented step of putting their money where their mouth is and are holding their vendors accountable by hitting them where it hurts — in the pocketbook.

P&G Chief Brand Officer, Marc Pritchard, summed it up best when he said, “the days of giving digital a pass are over.” Vendors need to shape up, or say goodbye to some very large ad budgets. So what will a more transparent ad industry look like? We’re no strangers to the debate for more transparency, and we see it as the only way forward for the ad industry. Here are the top 3 things we believe can be done to help further the effort to bring more visibility into what can be a nebulous and opaque industry:


SteelHouse Chief Product Officer, Marwan Soghaier, recently shared his predictions for 2017 and transparency was front and center. He envisioned an industry with more transparency across the board, from media buying to performance. “Advertisers are going to expect full transparency into things like performance, attribution, and pricing — it will become the industry norm,” he said. It would seem his prediction may be coming true, a bit quicker than even he anticipated.

P&G’s Pritchard’s remarks are in the same vein — although his language is more blunt — saying P&G doesn’t “want to waste time and money on a crappy media supply chain.” A major element that Pritchard called out are anti-fraud measures, i.e. processes and tech that can prevent less-than-reputable vendors taking advantage of advertisers’ lack of visibility into how data and performance are measured.

SteelHouse has been active in this area for some time now, most recently with the introduction of Verified Visits and the soon-to-be-launched Anti-Bot Ads. Here’s a quick primer on what those are:

> Verified Visits gives advertisers complete control over how they score attribution — whether it’s with clicks or a combination of both views and clicks. By controlling how they measure performance, advertisers have complete visibility into how their performance is measured because they’re the ones setting the standards.

> Anti-Bot Ads, as the name suggests, are aimed at stopping bots from clicking ads, cutting out the chance of fraud in reporting metrics.

Both of these measures are designed to cast a light onto how ads are truly performing, and armed with this insight, marketers can sleep better at night knowing their reporting is true to reality.


Pritchard also called for the industry to adhere to industry-standard viewability metrics. For those that don’t know, viewability is a standard that dictates whether an ad had a chance to be seen by a real human or not, and is supported by the MRC and IAB. P&G’s insistence on adherence to these standards is good business for advertisers — after all, what good will an ad do if it is never seen?

Viewability is important, and the industry adhering to the same viewability standard will help ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to what makes an ad viewable. We recently announced free viewability, providing advertisers MRC- and IAB-standard viewability metrics for every ad served at no additional charge. Until now, advertisers needed to pay extra to know whether their ad was seen by a real human or not, and thankfully those days are over.

In an April 2016 survey of digital advertising professionals conducted by Mixpo, 97% of them listed viewability as a concern. Of that 97%, 29% said it was an extreme concern. With P&G shining a spotlight on viewability, more and more marketers will take notice and that 97% will be turned up to 100%. With that much demand, free viewability should be the norm — the industry must either follow suit, or be left behind.


“[We don’t] want to waste time and money on a crappy media supply chain.” It bears repeating — spending money on an inefficient, opaque supply chain of media-buying vendors is a waste of time, and hurts efficiency.

Digital marketing companies make money by marking up media anywhere between 40% and 60%. For example, when you bid a $3.50 CPM, as little as $1.18 could actually be going toward the media. The rest goes to miscellaneous costs throughout the chain, adding up to a percentage of the spend that is far higher than it should be. This keeps advertisers’ budgets from doing what they are intended to do.

To help turn the tide on this practice, we introduced our transparent pricing model to help marketers spend their budgets solely on their media buy. Instead of a hidden margin, advertisers pay a separate, upfront platform CPM. That means in our example scenario above, the entire $3.50 goes directly toward the media buy. By knowing what they’re truly spending, advertisers can better control their budgets, and know their true ROI. With transparent media buys, agencies and advertisers can avoid the uncomfortable “what are you really spending my money on?” conversation, and focus solely on getting the most out of their budgets.


The digital ad industry has been heading toward a transparency tipping point, and with P&G’s announcement we may have finally hit it. The chances are high that other advertisers will follow suit in their demand for more transparency across the media reporting landscape, especially if P&G sees positive results. Thankfully, there is already a push for more transparency in adtech — one that SteelHouse is leading. This year may very well determine who can keep up in a transparent world, and who can’t — and the industry can only benefit.