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Why Transparency Isn’t About Knowing Everything, It’s About Knowing What Matters…

You are approached by 2 vendors on the street, who try to sell you their wares.

The first offers you a beautifully carved wooden bird for $30, you smile and appreciating the value you tell them that you will think about it. The second vendor approaches you with a piece of wood and tells you that they will carve you a custom wooden bird, to your exacting specifications, for the same cost of $30. You smile and take up the second vendors offer. Within an hour you have a beautiful crafted wooden bird in your hand. You understand the value as you have been actively involved in the creation process. Equally, in knowing how it was created, you have valuable tools to help others. You could in fact, with these new skills, set up your own wooden bird whittling business. In any case, you will always recommend the second vendor over the first, as the second has added more value. Additionally, you may also pay a premium to go to the second vendor again, should they raise their rate, as you appreciate the openness and customization.

The second vendor, in this humble narrative, is transparent in the way that he/she operates and this negates any extra work that may have been done, behind the scenes, by the first vendor. Whether in fact the first vendor spent a week delicately carving the bird doesn’t matter. We perceive more value within the second, therefore we attribute it more value.

I work with a lot of marketers, from SME’s (Small to Medium Enterprises) to major global businesses, building programmatic solutions and I see the same concerns over transparency raised over and over again. Within programmatic, the definition of transparency is also somewhat mired in debate. Many marketers consider transparency to be purely numerical. In this sense, the conversation remains about margin and other relevant, but perhaps narrowed focuses.

Arguably, what should be held more valuable, assuming performance is strong, is transparency on exactly how strategies are assembled, why they perform and what can be done moving forwards to increase efficiencies. The real transparency that marketers should be clamoring to uncover is centric to lasting business growth-as opposed to historical analysis of spend that has already slipped through the net; or will do in the preceding months. Equally, within partnerships and strategic relationships, margins can be fixed and the conversation can be shifted away from this to more pertinent areas needing transparency.

It is also important to note that transparency is not about knowing everything, it’s about knowing what matters. Transparency is about education into the processes that facilitate online marketing, with particular focus on how these very processes are used to achieve a client’s end goal. Real transparency opens up significantly enriched conversation lines between all parties involved and produces far better–and more meaningful-results.

As with the second street vendor, who showed us how they whittled the wooden bird, the value is found in equal parts in the final product and the journey taken to achieve this end. In some ways, a beautiful analogy for life.