Digital advertising is a lucrative business, and where there’s big profit potential there’s sometimes sideliners looking to cash in in a less than honest fashion. Such is the case with digital rebates, sometimes referred to as kickbacks. Media companies in the U.S. deny their existence, but recent developments are shedding light on the shady practice. So, what exactly are digital rebates, and why have they got everyone’s skin crawling?
The simplest way to think of the issues is as hidden revenue. The subterfuge disguises itself in several forms, but the end result is brands paying for hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of services or inventory that only exist on the bill. The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) published a full list of examples of pocketing kickbacks, suggesting the problem is worse than anyone wants to admit.
Many agencies take the stance that hidden revenue is giving digital advertising a bad rep. Ignoring the elephant in the room, however, isn’t going to prevent anyone from wondering where all their peanuts have mysteriously gone.
Industry leaders are pooling their efforts to regulate media buys and increase transparency. But for now, the only way brands can be certain their ad dollars are being spent as promised is to avoid bulk buys and demand transparency from their agency. One hundred percent transparency should be expected at every stage of a digital advertising campaign, from strategy all the way through to reporting. Without transparency, there’s no true way to know if you’re really getting a good return on your digital efforts.
Want to learn more about the state of transparency in digital advertising? Contact us to get a clearer picture.