When will log file information become orderly?

I seriously doubt that. However, Trustworthy Accountability Group’s TAG TrustNet program is making an effort in this direction since its launch two years ago. This program prioritizes advertiser supply chain transparency.

Log-level data is highly sought after by advertisers because of its utility in detecting supply chain inefficiencies and fraud. For instance, Adalytics examined log-level data to learn how YouTube marketers were actually allocating their budgets. However, ad tech firms are generally hesitant to disclose where exactly advertisers are spending their programmatic budgets.

TAG TrustNet has released its first database of advertising technology firms that either share or don’t share log data.

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Companies are given a green, red, or yellow rating on the register depending on whether they meet the TAG group’s requirements for log-level openness, if they do not disclose log files at all, whether they are working on log-file data products, or whether they have not responded to TAG at all. (Simple ratings lack nuance: green means go, red implies stop.)

Even among suppliers with a high Green rating, there may be significant discrepancies in the quality of the log files. In particular, the vendor may supply some data, be developing products that will enable transparency, or provide all the data but not yet linked with TrustNet if it gets a yellow rating.

Even though the TrustNet program has had 18 months to establish the log-file registry, gathering information from DSPs and SSPs is still akin to herding cats. This further demonstrates the challenges faced by advertisers when attempting to collect and reconcile log information.

For example, according to Tim Brown, CEO of Fiducia, a ledger technology company that works with TAG on the program, just 21 brand advertisers ultimately participated in TrustNet despite an early interest from 67.

Brown argued that advertisers’ media spending doesn’t necessarily grant them legal access to the resulting log-file data. The agencies may be bound by confidentiality agreements that prevent them from sharing the data, or the ad tech company may not offer a log-file data offering.

He further said that the TBC (“To Be Confirmed”) notation means that TrustNet has not yet reviewed the vendor’s log files to establish whether or not they contain all the necessary data fields for its grade.

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The transparency register for log files, albeit still in development, is easy to understand. Walled gardens, such as YouTube, Google AdX, Amazon Publisher Services, and Amazon Advertising, do not give log-level transparency, hence these services all receive a red grade. (Only Google DV360, which purchases content from companies other than Google, offers access to log files.)

The objective is to establish a “minimum threshold” to meet transparency requirements that advertisers are clamoring for, Brown said.

From the viewpoint of an advertiser

Kenvue, a consumer brand spinoff from Johnson & Johnson, is one advertiser that has worked with TrustNet on the log-file register.

Ander Lopez Ochoa, Kenvue’s EMEA head of digital, content, media, and ecommerce marketing, said that the company has been concentrating on bringing more ad agency and ad tech operations in-house and on streamlining its ad supply chain.

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Yet, he claimed that Kenvue has cut its SSP contracts in the EMEA region from forty in 2022 to only four now, all because it began the program eighteen months ago and has been focusing on dealing with vendors that would be designated green.

Many supply-side platforms (SSPs) that one would assume to be green (SpotX, InMobi, and TripleLift, for example) have received yellow ratings from Kenvue. Although log-file data is the primary distinction between third-party ad tech and walled-garden ad tech, not all vendors are thrilled by this development.

Not just SSPs are affected by this.

According to Ochoa Lopez, while SSPs were first the most hesitant to generate log files, DSPs are now the more common culprit. Unlike in the United States, where The Trade Desk does not contribute any log data, the European Union does. But not because of concerns over personal data, as in the case of GDPR. According to him, other DSPs don’t generate US log-file data.

It may be related to their participation in the ad study, he speculated, given the attention the study has received. This [refers to the ANA’s first-ever Transparency Report, which was released in June of this year] year.

By streamlining its ad spending on vendors and domains, Kenvue was able to reduce its CPM by as much as 30 percent. It eliminated potential suppliers by looking at factors like their acceptance rates and whether or not they supply the required log files.

Together, Kenvue and TAG TrustNet have been working to improve the company’s supply chain. The next phase, he said, will be to develop measurement and optimization tools with significantly more advertiser control once the foundational layer of data transparency is in place.

“Then again, we need to build those capabilities,” Ochoa Lopez says. But that’s an entirely different tale.


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