My 2017 media resolution: AOL's Tim Mahlman

The president of AOL Platforms wants to lead the charge on the industry's demand for transparency.

The ad ecosystem has always been built on a sense of ‘cautious trust.’ During that time, ad tech platforms have largely operated in silos. This created a system where the information shared with advertisers—whether it be campaign, inventory or audience data—was guarded. But, this year, that finally changed. Advertisers, rightfully so, are demanding more transparency to improve decision-making.

This is happening for several reasons. Ad fraud and viewability, for example, have eroded that sense of cautious trust. Bots alone will cost the industry more than $7 billion this year. And less than half all online ads are viewable, according to some reports. 

Meanwhile, Facebook’s recent struggles with measurement have only fueled concerns, giving buyers pause.

In addition to that, there is a greater appetite, in general, among advertisers for more sophisticated data. Brands are investing in data collection and analytics and are eager to have access to more pipes and sources. These trends, together, have amplified advertiser calls for greater transparency.

To be clear—this is a good thing. For too long, vendors have been ‘walled gardens,’ stifling innovation and insight. It makes it difficult for brands to use even their own data. Meanwhile, publishers can’t fully understand the value of their content or inventory. Next year, ad tech will need to work towards a more ‘open’ ecosystem. Advertisers want flexibility, control and transparency. Vendors that disregard that will lose. The paradigm will have to change. 

In the year ahead, AOL will continue to lead the charge here and set an example for the industry. We are committed to providing open ecosystems that unite advertisers, publishers, and technology partners to create more transparency, but also deliver more value. Beyond transparency, though, open means flexibility, control, access, scale, and fluidity.

By committing to an open ecosystem and all that it means, we believe that we can cultivate this philosophy and commitment category-wide, driving forward a more transparent landscape that empowers everyone in it. Openness will shape the future of this business and we will be at the forefront. 

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