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Adobe says it will help advertisers and publishers find out if they are getting ripped off by at tech companies
Business Insider10/12/2017 11:53:26 AM

Stephane Mahe/Reuters

  • Adobe says that ad tech companies have been charging advertisers hidden fees.
  • The company has inked deals with 15 ad tech companies to disclose all of their fees in its software.
  • The move comes as more marketers are scrutinizing their digital advertising budgets.

Apparently buying ads using ad tech software is a lot like paying for your wireless bill. There are lots of hidden fees.

So Adobe is requiring that every ad tech partner it works with discloses each and every fee it charges both marketers and publishers. If ad tech companies decline, Adobe won't work with them, the company said.

Specifically, Adobe has signed contracts with 15 ad tech firms - including companies that help publishers sell digital ad space as well as firms that enable advertisers to buy ads on lots of websites in one interface – requiring them to disclose all their transaction fees.

These fees will be displayed for all customers using the company's Adobe Advertising Cloud software.  Here's what it will look like (in this case, 'SSP's refer to ad tech companies used by publishers):

Adobe

Adobe's announcement comes as more and more big marketers are heavily scrutinizing their digital advertising buys. That's been driven in part by several high profile incidents where ads ended up alongside some rough content (like hate videos on YouTube).

In addition, there has been an increased spotlight on the opaque ad tech ecosystem, where each dollar a marketer spends on advertising can often be carved up by a slew of intermediaries before any of it ever gets to a publisher.

Leading marketing executives like Procter and Gamble's Marc Pritchard have been highly vocal about this issue of late, and have even been pulling back on some digital ad spending.

Brett Wilson, vice president and general manager of Advertising at Adobe said that his company has long been striving to be transparent about its own fees. But even when advertisers user Adobe's tools to buy ads, they have often been paying small transactional fees to ad tech middlemen.

For example, an advertiser might be using Adobe's software to buy web ads from numerous ad tech companies. Adobe would charge that advertiser a fee for that service. Those ad tech companies involved would get paid for media space – and were also charging this advertiser additional fees, which were not necessarily disclosed.

Recently, a large advertiser that Adobe works with pushed for more disclosure of these fees, and what they found surprised the enterprise software giant. "Some of the vendors we bought from were getting paid twice, and we didn’t know it," said Wilson, who estimated that a third of the ad tech partners the company was working with had hidden fees. "This industry needs more economic transparency. People have no idea how much money is spent with middlemen.

Among the digital ad tech companies that have signed contracts with Adobe to disclose all fees includes Oath, Pubmatic, The Rubicon Project, Triple Lift and SpotX.

Wilson predicts that other companies in the space will soon follow suit, and marketers will refuse to work with ad tech companies that don't disclose all fees.

"I think the impact will be quite profound," he said. "This will lead to fewer players in the supply chain and drive more consolidation." 

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