ISBA / AOP / PwC Programmatic Study II

Publishing Excellence Awards
Best Research / Insight Project

The jury were impressed by the bravery of this research project – taking on a complex topic and challenging the industry to do better.

In 2020 ISBA/AOP/PwC delivered a pioneering study into programmatic advertising supply chains, which uncovered industry changing issues: (i) deep challenges with data access and quality; and (ii) 15% of spend disappearing into an unattributable “unknown delta”. A UK cross-industry taskforce was convened to respond.

But the study was an uncomfortable experience: it cost PwC £1m more than the fees they received; and some participants, unhappy with the findings, briefly mentioned litigation.

In 2022 the Taskforce was ready to research progress. PwC now re-faced those risks of spiralling costs, possible legal action, and potentially simply telling the same bad news story again! And 40+ advertisers, agencies, tech vendors and publishers all needed persuading to participate, many of whom were understandably wary after 2020.

Thankfully the key results and insights from the 2022 study (published January 2023), are hugely promising vs 2020:

  • Data access: study time halved to 9 months (vs 2020:18 months)
  • Data quality: more data fields supplied, all log-level
  • Impression match rate DSP-to-SSP: rose nearly fivefold to 58% (vs 2020:12%)
  • Unknown delta: reduced to 3% (vs 2020:15%)
  • Publisher revenues: up 8%

Private marketplaces (PMPs) performed particularly well in the research, with impression match rates 70%+, the delta <1%, and publisher net revenues 70%+.

This does not mean programmatic is now perfect – this “premium” study is not representative of the whole ecosystem, with plenty of work still to be done – but it does reflect very positively on industry actions and progress in response to the 2020 study.

Interest has been extensive, with 60+ briefings already conducted. These presentations include UK government, US ANA, Australia AANA and IAB, and the WFA. This worldwide interest evidences the UK’s global leadership position and the influence of this research and insight.

Done well, programmatic is an important part of any marketer’s communications armoury. The 2022 research shows advertisers who invest carefully, using strong and fairly-remunerated agency teams, spending with premium publishers via high-quality tech vendors, can increase publisher revenues by ~8-18%.

This is real insight and business impact: sustained investment of time, effort and money (ISBA and PwC funded the 2022 study 1/3 each, with the other 1/3 paid by advertisers), driving industry change to deliver more revenues to premium publishers.

Here are just a few testimonials regarding the research:

“These results are opportunity for celebration and reflection. It’s easy to forget that just under three years ago, programmatic advertising was still widely seen as mysterious and impossible to audit. Our original study made the supply chain mappable for the very first time… current progress is testament to how effectively it has put us on the right track.” (Richard Reeves, AOP)

“This 2022 study is another important step in transparency and quality control in programmatic.” (Emily Latham, C4)

“We have been very impressed with how the industry has worked together to bring about positive change.” (Alessandra Bellini, Tesco)

“The 2020 ISBA / PwC study was a shock to the system…it jolted us in adtech to improve. This 2022 study shows more media spend reaching publishers, which is fantastic, and a decrease in the challenges in matching data…a great example of cross industry collaboration that’s driving real results.” (Oliver Whitten, Adform)

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