Ideas + Opinions

Trust in marketing: transparent operation drives a better industry

29 May 2020

Trust in marketing: transparent operation drives a better industry

Of all the issues in marketing and advertising right now, trust is probably the highest agenda item. At Hybrid Theory, it is a core ingredient of how we do business with our partners.


Trusted relationships and experiences are what we all seek – with employees, customers, investors, audiences – where trust gives us the very best opportunity to understand and help each other, now and for the longer term. In more direct, rational and commercial terms, trust is where we create a more sustainable and profitable business – for ourselves and for our clients.

We have taken action to build trust as a highly visible component of our operating model – and for good reason. We’re standing up for trust at a time when it counts most.

We have seen an evidenced, accelerated decline in trust with advertising, predominantly linked to digital and online communication – reactions to and rejections of poor advertising experiences, such as ad bombardment, annoying formats and more. In tandem, the levels of trust in marketing as a function have suffered too, where according to the IPSOS MORI Veracity Index, advertising executives now rank below politicians as Britain’s least-trusted profession.

Hybrid Theory is a data-driven advertising business at its core, and the data value exchange between audiences and brands is key to successful operation in our industry. On balance, consumers do want a personalised, customised experience online, but not at any cost. They will share information about themselves in return for better advertising, but they will only do that if they can control and understand what’s happening with their data.

This is a great illustration of transparency leading to trust, with what we would all recognise as a clear expectation of implicit and explicit consent being delivered within this transaction. We are now firmly operating in a world where data is probably our most valuable asset, and this positions trust as the ultimate currency in the digital age.

How our industry can support transparency

You can’t build trust – you have to earn it. There is no “silver bullet” solution or guarantee here – we know this too. Transparency is just one measure that can be taken, but for our industry, perhaps it is more central to the issues we have described above.

Some of the biggest issues that have plagued the ad tech and programmatic value chain have centred squarely on transparency, and have been embodied in fundamental issues such as scaled ad fraud or the complexity and confusion that exists through the way that the ecosystem has been developed with opacity by design.

The industry has responded to the transparency challenge, with wide-ranging initiatives such as SPO (Supply Path Optimisation) to determine the points of data and media that drive the most effective outcomes for brands, alongside more specific tech-enabled solutions that include the introduction of ads.txt, app-ads.txt and most recently Sellers.Json and Supply Chain Object. In addition, industry bodies such as WFA (World Federation of Advertisers) have stepped up to confront the issue of bad practice in advertising, with the Coalition for Better Ads.

These concerted steps demonstrate the value that visible accountability – what we would call transparency of operation – can help take steps towards building back trust in marketing. Ultimately, it’s up to everyone in the industry to support the continued push for transparency with these intentions, and those that do will be recognised for their partnership.

What does trust and transparency mean at Hybrid Theory?

Transparency should be seen as an enabler of trust, and not trust in itself.

We believe it should be a hygiene factor for responsible business practice going forward and we will look to embody transparency in our trusted partnerships and way of working. We will stay true to doing the right thing – for our teams, customers and interests of the industry – ensuring we remain independent and agnostic, removing any bias in recommendation or conflict of interest in our work.

Our default position will be to offer transparency of inventory and data provenance, and in operational practice. We are proudly transparent about who our enabling technology partners – who in combination we deliver brilliant business outcomes. As a founding member of the JICWEBS Anti Fraud Initiative in 2017 – and with our partnership with Adloox – our processes are held to the highest standards, ensuring we serve ads to humans, in safe environments, where they actually see them.

Hybrid Theory is a new breed of digital services partner for brands and agencies, offering flexible solutions, hands-on support and independent managed execution.

We harness the best combinations of technology and talent to power smarter, data-driven advertising across the full customer journey, making the complex simple.