Transparency: A Mirage in Today’s Digital World

Going to the movies with a child is always a tough call! As young parents, you either wait for the child to grow up or look for a babysitter. But one day we decided to take our 5-year-old for a movie that promised to be entertaining.

Ten minutes into the movie, my son pointed to the screen (where the protagonist was doing his antics) and asked, “Is he a good man or a bad man?” I was at a loss. The hero of the movie was, in fact, a thief! His next question was, “Well, how can he be a hero then?!”

I struggled to explain to him the difference between a protagonist–about whom the story is, and a hero–as in a superhero. But he looked unconvinced (well, to be fair, it is hard to tell the difference as in most of our movies the protagonist IS a superhero with powers far beyond the ordinary mortal!).

To the child’s guileless mind, everything has to be transparent and crystal clear. Any turbulence is disturbing and has no place in the child’s ideal world. I realized that somewhere along the way we had stopped seeking the “truth” versus “reality” conundrum. Our adult minds, clouded with layers of complexity, had accepted the deception of the real world as a given.

Transparency in the digital world is the good hero seeking a place under the sun today.

In an article in AdWeek, Anda Gansca wrote that the content landscape in digital advertising, a result of paid collaboration between brands that pay (and therefore control), agencies that own the strategy and creatives as well as publishers/platforms that sell exposure to audiences, are facing increased tension due to non-transparent and dishonest dealings.

A staggering figure of $120 billion of media spending is under review due to lack of trust, accountability, and transparency. She argues that the way out of this “toxic ecosystem” may be possible through a dialogue between buyer and seller. Both need to be open and accountable.

While there is no denying that dialogue, openness, and transparency would bring positive results, it is the picture of an ideal world.

In reality, the information asymmetry between the buyer and the seller makes it the market for lemons. Does the buyer know for sure that the data being shared is real, for instance?

A recent study at the Pew Research Centre discovered that 66% of the tweets that shared links to popular websites were from automated, not human, accounts. However, awareness of the problem and the will to make a change is a positive step in the right direction.

Several voices have come out in support of transparency that remains strangely elusive! The digital space was discovered as a clean, open space and a boon to marketers, who soon captured what they could. In the rush for gaining more power and more clout, data became the currency that opened doors.

While some companies worked harder to grow their databases by infusing them with more nuanced distinctions, others resorted to false/falsified data to create an abnormal bulge in numbers.

Now with consumers’ demand for transparency and clean data, the bubble has burst.

With more and more companies, large and small seeking clarity and fair practices, it is no longer acceptable to pass off false data masquerading as the genuine thing.

What started as a whisper of doubt is now a unified clamor from buyers (and honest sellers, who get shortchanged) for clarity about what is being offered and honesty in keeping out the ‘false’ padding, and a renewed call for transparency.

About the author

Jaba holds a PhD and a Masters in English. She heads Stirista’s India operations bringing experience to the young team at Bangalore. She took over as Director at Stirista Solutions Private Limited, Bangalore in 2016. Prior to this, she was a Professor of Management Communication at a premier Business School in India. A life lived in three continents across the world has helped Jaba feel at ease with most cultures. Having traveled through the US, parts of Africa, Europe and...

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