Isba & PwC Study: ⅓ of Adtech Supply Chain Costs Unattributed

Jason Wolfson adtech

We keep looking for silver linings while in quarantine, and one of those should be using the time to push for transparency in adtech. An in-depth study into the gaps of the adtech supply chain, by The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (Isba) and PwC, reinforces why this is so important to address now. 

The Isba Programmatic Supply Chain Transparency Study, attempted to map the programmatic advertising supply chains and understand where the value is being extracted. The study encompassed 15 advertisers, eight agencies, five DSPs, six SSPs and 12 publishers, accounting for approximately £0.1 billion of all UK programmatic spend.


Here’s the skinny:

  • Publishers only receive 51% of advertiser spend 
  • One-third of supply chain costs were unattributed
  • 10% of advertiser money is spent on the demand side technology
  • Demand side and supply side platforms each represent an 8% cut
  • Agency fees represent 7% of spend

What does this mean?

All of these findings come when publishers need to squeeze every last cent from the chain as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Transparency and accountability are more important than ever, so a universal approach to monitoring is crucial. Isba wants to immediately investigate the “unknown delta” and make the adtech supply chain auditable, and PWC said the lack of understanding and consistency among the entire chain, particularly between SSPs and DSPs, will need to be rectified.

Graeme Adams, head of media at BT Group, participated in the investigation and called the lost money “a big hole in the value chain”. While he acknowledged that “digital display is an effective sales driver for us,” he pointed out that every cent needs to be accounted for, which requires more collaboration and transparency. “If not, we will cut back and reshape our trading approaches.”

What’s most terrifying about this study? This data represents the premium programmatic market – including the highest profile advertisers, publishers, agencies and tech vendors. So imagine what the “unknown delta” looks like for the rest of the industry!

Full transparency of data and money in adtech is overdue and has resisted the efforts of advertisers for long enough. The supply-chain players must address this issue, and advertisers should pull their budgets in display inventory unless they get true visibility into this process. Transparency in the adtech supply chain is essential for digital advertising’s sustainable future.


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