Transparency in the programmatic supply chain


This handy ‘how to guide’ demystifies programmatic and how it works, taking a look at each stage in the supply chain.

We have developed a handy guide with the help of our members, looking at the key areas in the programmatic supply chain. By asking core questions of each area, we aim to provide better understanding of the inner workings of programmatic and therefore  boost transparency in this area.

Read on for a brief introduction to the guide, or download it in full here

Since its introduction in 2010, programmatic has transformed the way digital display advertising is typically bought.

However, the speed at which the technology has emerged and evolved means that few people really understand how programmatic buying actually works and what all the players within the system actually do.

This lack of understanding has led to terms such as “leaky bucket” or “tech tax”, insinuating that companies are taking a slice of the pie without adding any value.

Though programmatic does have its inefficiencies and there is still a lot of work needed to clean up the eco-system, it’s very important to understand where value is being added in order to optimise digital ad spend. This guide has been developed to create more awareness of what companies within the supply chain do and what the business effects of working with them are.

Within the supply chain there are some technologies that are essential to the buy (i.e. you cannot work programmatically without them) and others that are additional technologies that you may choose to use in order to create additional value.

This diagram of the supply chain outlines who is paying for what services, as well as which costs are essential and which are optional when trading programmatically.

Supply chain

Key areas of the supply chain include:

  • Advertiser ad servers

  • DSPs

  • SSPs/exchanges

  • Ad verification tools

  • Attribution tools

  • Publishers

We asked the same questions of each:  

  1. What does the sector do?

  2. Why would a brand choose to work with a company?

  3. What are the main functional differences between different companies in this area?

  4. Why is it important to choose the right company? And how should a brand choose the right partner?

About this guide:

This guide has been developed with the help of our members and we would like to thank our members who we have partnered with us to put together this guide: Bidstack, Flashtalking, The Guardian, IAS, Rakuten, Rubicon, Verizon Media and Xandr.

More resources:

  • ‘Introduction to Programmatic’ video here

  • For more about how specific businesses operate, check out the companies that have filled out our Transparency FAQs

Still want to learn more?

We run training throughout the year and we offer a specific course on Programmatic 101, which takes a look at the basics of programmatic and an Advanced Programmatic course that provides a more in-depth look at regulation, data and the monetisation of inventory.

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