Our Voices


Senior Writer and Editor
Patricia Murphy joined Havas Group in October 2019 as a Senior Editor and Writer. She has a background in digital journalism and content creation.
Havas Media Group’s Ben Downing tells Dare! about Meaningful Marketplaces, a global initiative to improve the supply chain within automated media and deliver a better Media Experience for people and brands.   

Built from a consumer-first perspective, Meaningful Marketplaces aims to provide a direct connection to trusted, influential, and engaging media curated by humans and not machines. 

Here, Ben, Global Head of Programmatic, talks about the initiative and how it links in with our overarching ambition to make a meaningful difference.

Tell us about the Meaningful Marketplaces ecosystem and why it was launched. 

Early on in our journey to understand Meaningful Media, we identified that a “Martech Miosis” had overtaken much of the thinking and practise in media buying, and there was too much focus placed on technology and not enough on the media itself. This insight gave us an entirely new way of thinking about programmatic and automated ads. When it came to connecting with the most Meaningful Media, we wanted to understand how much value the technology involved in delivering ads was adding. We wanted to establish if some of the technology was hindering this connection, rather than helping. 

To do this, we needed to fully understand the supply chain. Think of the t-shirt you’re wearing. To map out its supply chain, you must establish each step, from the cotton grower right at the beginning of the value chain, to the display stand you plucked it from at the store. Once you have this mapped out, you can begin to understand how your t-shirt found its way into your closet, but you don’t always know if it was ethically produced, or if the cotton growers, seamsters and labourers at the start of the chain are getting a fair share of the profit. To have a better understanding, you need to verify the credentials of each part of the supply chain, which is a big task! This is the task we undertook for Meaningful Marketplaces, in terms of the supply chains of digital display and video.  

“Meaningful Marketplaces is the first of its kind initiative in our wider industry that offers media partners, as well as advertisers, 100% transparency of the supply chain and makes them equal stakeholders in the value chain”

We found that, just like in the physical world, digital supply chains have become extremely complex. This has led to fragility, opacity, and exploitability. Our findings included:  

  • Some media partners and creators were being charged up to 20% by supply side platforms and ad exchanges, just to be able to sell to advertisers and agencies.
  • Some technology solutions which charge advertiser’s fees for “brand safety” were blocking news and LGBTQ+ content; with news sites reporting USD$3.2 billion of lost revenue. 
  • Misinformation and disinformation sites were being monetised by big AdTech companies, including Google. 

Our aim with Meaningful Marketplaces is to create an alternative that offers solutions to these problems in the supply chain and focuses on connecting better with Meaningful Media. Our unique position is that we’re part of Vivendi and this puts us close to content and helps us understand the opportunities and pressures for media partners who create brilliant media experiences. So, we’re making the sort of move that only Havas can. Meaningful Marketplaces is the first of its kind initiative in our wider industry that offers media partners, as well as advertisers, 100% transparency of the supply chain and makes them equal stakeholders in the value chain.  

The ecosystem was launched with the belief that Meaningful Media has never been more important. Why is that? 

Back in 2018, we began to recognise the wider societal role that media plays in people’s lives and we aimed to create partnerships with publishers who could support us in representing under-served audiences. We had also begun to investigate the phenomenon of ‘fake news’ and misinformation.

“Our unique position is that we’re part of Vivendi and this puts us close to content and helps us understand the opportunities and pressures for media partners who create brilliant media experiences.”

In 2020, the pandemic meant that we consumed more media than ever before, but we also saw the power media has to harm society with misinformation and under-representation. Issues of consent and privacy were also truly brought to the fore. What we had already seen was now obvious to all, that as advertisers and as agencies, we have a responsibility to the planet and society. Those “brands, businesses and people” we aim to make a meaningful difference to demand we do more.  

Meaningful Marketplaces is our way of making a meaningful difference within programmatic and we are fixing systemic issues of transparency and the high fee monetisation of harmful content by AdTech. It delivers: 

  • An immediate reduction in sell-side fees for media partners, giving them a more equitable share of investment and a greater opportunity to invest in content and creators.  
  • Guaranteed brand safe content, offering the opportunity for advertisers to support the media that matters, including news and minority-owned and operated media. 
  • Transparent costs from the buy to the sell side, available to advertisers and media partners.   

What are some of the tools and methodology behind the ecosystem? 

The ground work that helped us understand the need for a new way of doing things used industry initiatives like Ads.txt and Sellers.Json to understand and map the supply chain for digital ads. Havas’ North American and French teams pioneered the work in this area. Havas North America established the first “transparency framework” to try to guarantee the availability of this data for all digital ads.  

Meaningful Marketplaces uses new integrations or “pipes” developed with our DSP (demand side platform) and SSP (supply side platform) partners. What’s new about these is that they’re designed to be subtractive rather than additive of technology. This is designed to make the supply chain shorter, cleaner, and more accountable for both the advertiser and the media partner.  

The new integrations pioneered by Havas, which power Meaningful Marketplaces, have allowed our teams to run an extensive process (amounting to some 1,700 hours of work) to better connect with the media that matters. This process is driven by our Mx (Media Experience) system and tools within it. 

How does this tie into our Social Equity Marketplaces launched in 2020? 

We launched the Social Equity Marketplace last year to give advertisers a way to invest in positive change and we were proud to set the pace in doing so. Building out the Social Equity Marketplace brought into focus issues around scale and equitable access within the supply chain, for which we were already searching for solutions.  

The Social Equity Marketplace will continue to scale and will use the underlying ‘pipes’ of Meaningful Media to offer media partners lower fees and easier access to the digital ecosystem. Our ambition for the Social Equity Marketplace is bigger than programmatic and digital though. We’ll share more in the coming months on how Havas is delivering lasting and systemic change here. 

Meaningful Marketplaces is launching first with MediaMathPubmatic, and Magnite. What are the goals for the remainder of 2020 and beyond? 

There are three big goals for the next twelve months of development. We want to expand Meaningful Marketplaces into other channels including connected TV and audio, and encourage more industry partners to commit to making the supply chain transparent for media partners as well as advertisers. Long-term, our aim is to have 100% of our clients’ digital display and video to be delivered through Meaningful Marketplaces. The strength of our network and the agility of our Village model has enabled Havas to be a leader in this space. Our North American team is creating industry leading work, expanding Meaningful Marketplaces into connected TV. This approach is already paying dividends; Havas clients were entirely protected from the recently uncovered ‘StreamScam’ fraud, which uncovered between USD$50 and USD$70 million in fraudulent ads. 

“The strength of our network and the agility of our Village model has enabled Havas to be a leader in this space.”

Our French team has brought our Mx frameworks to Youtube, expanding Meaningful Marketplaces within a more closed ecosystem. They’re also piloting the first audio marketplace.  Welcoming new partners is a huge part of delivering our goals. We’re already working with two SSPs and one DSP and are asking for the network’s help to spread the message beyond global platforms and get local partners involved. Our long-term goal with Meaningful Marketplaces is to make a meaningful difference to brands, businesses, and people by having other agencies, advertisers and platforms join us. It’s time the industry focused on building and supporting a fair, democratic, and transparent supply chain that puts Meaningful Media, and the people who find it meaningful, first. At Havas we’re leading this change.  

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