Media agency group Havas announced the launch of what it describes as “the first fully transparent client facing programmatic solution”. In a news release, this week on its website, the media agency group says that its new Client Trading Solution (CTS) “gives brands full visibility on costs, investments, outcomes and ROI, across trading desks, DSPs, inventory, providers, marketplaces”. The news has been widely reported, including in the Wall Street Journal and Campaign.

This is a welcomed announcement by Havas as it’s encouraging to see more companies acknowledge the need to provide clients with full transparency, and anything that genuinely delivers this around programmatic media trading is to be welcomed. The initiative builds on last year’s investigative study and report of recommendations published by the U.S. Association of National Advertisers (ANA), as well as the best practice contracts developed by both the ANA is the U.S. and ISBA in the U.K. These are designed to ensure transparency and accountability into advertiser-agency contracts.

One of the key areas which advertisers should be considering when reviewing this announcement by Havas is what level of transparency will actually be delivered by the CTS. Some of the points that should be considered are:

  1. At what level does the CTS reporting go down to? The level of insight provided should be down to the URL level, for all media supplier partners, and include full disclosure of price, quality metrics (viewability, brand safety, etc).
  2. Does the transparency promised also apply to Havas’ programmatic trading desk, Affiperf? As Affiperf is owned and controlled by Havas, there could be potential conflicts of interests if this inventory is being sold in a non-transparent way.
  3. Will the new system provide transparency into rebates, and any other commercial incentives, such as technology rebates?
  4. Will advertisers be charged an additional cost for getting transparent reporting?
  5. Will it provide transparency of price down to the adserver level, not just down to SSP, or exchanges?

This announcement follows the groundbreaking research report published by the ANA, AD/FIN, and Ebiquity last week, which provided the first, truly independent analysis of pricing structures in programmatic media buying. The questions detailed above are designed to help to inform advertisers on the level of transparency provided by Havas’ new solution, in light of what we saw in our analysis of the U.S. marketplace.

What Havas has said today sounds genuinely positive, but there’s not enough detail yet to evaluate how transparent the system truly is, and it is probable that there may be areas of transparency which fall outside of these tech capabilities. So, we remain optimistically cautious and see these as encouraging steps for the industry.