The Digital Vendor Network: Accomplishments on Year One

Authored by Alex Calic, Strategic Technology Partnerships Officer at The Media Trust

In September of 2017, The Media Trust launched the Digital Vendor Network (DVN), a unique group of advertising and marketing technology vendors committed to fixing the internet. To do their part, DVN members agree to operationalize their clients’ various policies, comply with a growing number of data privacy regulations, and resolve violations with digital partners.

Since then, the DVN has grown to more than 1,000, including the industry’s Who’s Who around the world, and members have begun to reap the benefits of collaborative work. Recently, we gathered feedback from members on which issues they’ve tackled and benefits achieved as a result of being part of this network. Below is a summary of what they had to say:

Issue #1: My code should be active only where it’s authorized

Why it happens

There are many factors that help rogue or unauthorized code make the rounds. The two most frequent are the complexity of digital environments. First, during the ad buy process, today’s dynamic, complex, and opaque programmatic ad ecosystem enables this code to flow from one supply chain player to the next often without their knowledge. Second, when website owners decide to change providers, they often fail to check under the hood to ensure that a “discontinued” provider’s code has left the ecosystem. In many cases, such code remains and continues to collect data without authorization. 

Why it’s bad

Unauthorized code can downgrade the user experience. The collection of personally identifiable information without explicit consent from the data subject can run a publisher or any website owner afoul of a growing number of regulations sweeping across the world like GDPR, the newly amended PIPEDA, and California’s Consumer Privacy Act. US legislators are also discussing a proposed federal consumer data privacy Law that threatens to jail CEOs who misrepresent data practices in reports to regulators. Second, unneeded code can bring down site performance and affect viewability. Collectively, these problems can hamper a tech vendor’s efforts to build closer relationships with publishers and digital partners.

How DVN can help

As part of DVN, digital vendors find out where their code is operating and whether that code aligns with a client’s digital policies. Moreover, they can help publishers stay compliant with regulations, improve site performance. Just important, they can build better, direct relationships with publishers.

Issue #2: My code is being blamed for the violations of another vendor’s code

Why it happens

This year’s most notable data scandals—Cambridge Analytica, British Airways, Quora, Air Canada, Sotheby’s—have all involved third-party code that roamed across targeted websites without authorization. These incidents boil down to the fact that most website operators, including publishers, know only a small fraction of their digital assets’ third parties. And since they know only some, how would they know who among their third parties shouldn’t be there in the first place, much less which ones are breaking digital policy?

Why it’s bad

Without knowing who’s doing what, publishers easily mistake the wrong third party for another and block their code.

How DVN can help

By using the Digital Vendor Risk Management platform and working with The Media Trust team, the vendor can identify the true source of the violation and terminate the unwanted code. 

Issue #3: Hard to tell if my code is violating a publisher’s policies

Why it happens

The digital ecosystem’s opacity and dynamism pose risks not only for publishers but also vendors. Few vendors know where their code operates or whether their code operates according to the publishers’ or partners’ digital policy. If it doesn’t, they risk losing business and eroding revenue.

Why this is a problem

The vendor is unable to preempt problems or make any improvements on how they serve their clients.

How DVN helps

As soon as a they connect with a client, vendors can view and comply with the latter’s policies. Moreover, the client receives notification when the vendor reads and acknowledges the policies.