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‘It is not a panacea’: Why log-level data hasn’t lived up to its promise for advertisers

Digiday 20 May 2020 04:00
May 20, 2020 by Seb Joseph

Log-level data was meant to be the key tool for advertisers seeking transparency into the programmatic ad bids they’ve won and lost. The reality is most advertisers aren’t asking for it. 

In vetting the programmatic supply chain for ad trade group ISBA, PwC expected it would be far more straightforward than it was to get log-level data from 11 ad tech vendors. But it took the auditor nine months and cost £1.2 million ($1.7 million) to get the job done. And even then it was only enough to track 31 million of the total 267 million impressions that were bought.

“Log-level data is really important, but in isolation, it is not a panacea,” said Sam Tomlinson, a marketing assurance partner at PwC.  “It’s just a vast amount of data that you have to store, analyze, and action. It’s necessary, but it’s not sufficient.  To be really useful, that data needs to be in a consistent format, with a unique identifier for each impression, all along the supply chain.”

Over the last two years, log-file data has been pushed as the ultimate insurance policy for those advertisers not sure about what happens to the auctions they’ve won and lost. With this data, advertisers can get valuable intel on each impression like its viewability and true cost and then use it all to prune ad tech vendors and tweak bidding strategies. Getting those answers, however, is no small feat. Some log files contain up to 150 different things about an impression. Extrapolate that across the hundreds of billions of impressions that are bought daily across a variety of different ad tech vendors and it’s easy to see why PwC struggled to make sense of it all.

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