Second Programmatic Supply Chain Transparency Study

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The second programmatic supply chain transparency study conducted by ISBA and PwC has revealed positive and welcome improvements.

  • Improvements in data access successfully halved the time required to conduct the study to nine months (vs 18 months for the 2020 study).
  • Greater standardisation of data quality improved the ad impression match rate to 58% (vs 12% in 2020) and the unattributable ad spend (AKA the unknown delta) was reduced to 3% (vs 15% in 2020).
  • The proportion of advertiser spend reaching publishers has risen by 8%.
  • The Programmatic Financial Audit Toolkit (the Toolkit) launched in February 2022 has been proven to be of significant benefit to the audit process.
  • However, the improvements are not consistent, and the industry needs to continue its collaboration to make financial audits a routine feature of the market.

The results of the 2022 study are significant and highlight the improvements in data quality, access and products implemented by many adtech vendors in response to the original study.

However, it is important to note that, like 2020, this 2022 study focused on premium advertisers, agencies, tech vendors, and publishers. These promising results should not be taken as representative of the broader programmatic ecosystem. 



Clare O’Brien, ISBA Head of Media, said 

“Overall, we very much welcome these findings. The match rate improvements alone, reflect the reforms which have already been implemented throughout the programmatic supply chain by some vendors and agencies in the last two years. That the unattributable delta in this specific Study was reduced to 3% provides the industry with the proof point that confirms that transparent practice works for all stakeholders. The first study and the work of the Taskforce has encouraged more tech vendors to provide log level data for audit, especially at this premium end of the market which both studies represent. The Toolkit has also had a very clear role in supporting the acceptance of the right to audit by a growing number of vendors. However, there is clearly much more the industry can do together, including standards and good practice development to ensure that financial audits and the kind of results this Study has demonstrated are a normal feature of the market, as with other media channels.” 

Sam Tomlinson, PwC Marketing & Media leader, said: 

“We found major improvements compared to 2020: the study time was halved, there was a nearly fivefold increase in the percentage of matched impressions, and the delta is down to 3%. This reflects positively on the hard work of the Taskforce and all its members. And, crucially, we believe it’s now clear what steps need to be taken next by individual advertisers, agencies, adtech vendors and publishers, and the industry as a whole.” 

Richard Reeves, Managing Director, AOP, said: 

“The latest results provide an opportunity for both celebration and reflection. It’s easy to forget that just under three years ago, the mechanics of programmatic advertising were still widely seen as mysterious and impossible to audit. Our original study made the supply chain mappable for the very first time, providing much-needed transparency and offering greater insight into previously undiscovered black holes, especially the unknown ad spend delta.  

“While critics have pointed to the unanswered questions these findings raised, my expectation was always that initial analysis would be a scope of work — and current progress is testament to how effectively it has put us on the right track. Increases in data quality and the shrinking delta are direct results of collaborative innovation driven by expanded knowledge. They also show why it’s so critical to keep communicating across the industry and ensure ongoing adaptation is based on shared, ever-refreshed understanding from multiple perspectives.” 

Tim Elkington, Chief Digital Officer, IAB UK, said 

“The results announced today demonstrate the real-world impact of the Toolkit, and the fact that the delta and match rate have improved so dramatically is testament to the work of the cross-industry taskforce. All parts of the digital advertising supply chain have been involved in improving transparency and we are pleased to see what has been achieved as a result.” 

Nigel Gwilliam, Director of Media Affairs, IPA said: 

 “The original ISBA/PwC Programmatic Supply Chain study was pioneering in every sense of the word. Time and hard work were required to follow data down complex paths through ad tech platforms. The industry has made significant progress since this pioneering work, and it is reassuring to see the much improved levels of data access and match rate reported in this second study.” 

ISBA Programmatic supply chain transparency study II summary