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The State of Transparency

The word “transparency” has many meanings both within and beyond the sphere of marketing. When we refer to the need for transparency, we as Knotch are simply calling for everyone involved in a marketing campaign to be looking at the same data set…one that is pulled and framed without anyone’s interests in mind. We want brands to have access to truly raw data, so that they can make decisions that are informed by the truth.

It seems simple enough, but the fight for transparent data when it comes to reviewing paid content campaigns has been surprisingly drawn out. In the nascent years of brands investing in content marketing, the status quo dictated that they had to rely on numbers provided by the publishers they were paying at face value (or see almost no data at all). That was just the game. Of course, as the environment has matured and the investments have grown, so has the demand for trustworthy, third-party data. That demand is why we as a company exist, but it has much larger implications for the industry - and internet - at large.

In a larger sense, this demand for transparency is also a philosophical one. It is better for everyone - brands, agencies, publishers, and consumers - to exist in an advertising ecosystem wherein the playing field is level and no one feels the need to constantly look over their shoulder. And as social media behemoths like Facebook have proven their influence over world affairs and drawn increasing ethical scrutiny from the global community, the issue of transparency has become much more than an agenda item for a brand and their publisher to argue over. As a whole, the digital community is moving towards a place of necessary clarity. Brands are demanding better for themselves and their customers, walled garden social sites are starting to turn their keys, and, perhaps most importantly, the consumer audience is galvanized and vocal about change in this industry.

Making a prediction about when the marketplace will become completely transparent in some ways feels like a fool’s errand, given the turbulent and often confusing path that has lead us to this point. However, the past has a lot to teach us about how these shifts happen - and it all comes down to the leadership of major brands and entities in the space. The slow yet tectonic openings in the major social networks - who are now our biggest media companies, make no mistake - forced by big-name global brands like Unilever and JPMorgan Chase are the most salient signals of a drive towards total transparency. When these companies transition into an open format, the rest of the industry will have no choice but to follow. Optimistically, this will fully take hold within the next several years - the progress made over the past 18 months is slow but incredibly significant. Total trust when it comes to digital media may seem like a moonshot, but the more we can work towards that goal, the better off we’ll be