Programmatic: it’s efficient and delivers massive amounts of insight into audiences. However, the lack of control and human oversight can cause reputational issues for advertisers when their products are advertised alongside content with which they would not wish to be associated. A couple of recent examples of brands suffering embarrassing issues have really increased the spotlight on the always hot-topic of brand safety.
Balancing value and performance against reputational risk
A study by Integral Ad Science in the later part of 2014 found that brand safety was one of the top concerns among digital media buyers, second only to ad fraud. Meanwhile an Undertone study showed that 71% of the agencies polled and 65% of marketers rank brand safe environments as their first and second priority when buying programmatically.
However, despite this clearly being a priority to advertisers and agencies alike, the press is rife with examples of advertising placement going wrong for brands. Oxfam suffered last year when its ads appeared against extremist ISIS videos on YouTube. In April this year, a number of top-tier brands including M&S, O2, ASDA and B&Q discovered that their adverts were appearing on explicit websites. These are not small brands nor low-value campaigns; brand safety equally impacts the largest advertisers.
Transparent about transparency?
From an advertising platform perspective, new initiatives such as the premium marketplace created by the newly formed Pangaea Alliance offer a seal of high-quality, brand-safe inventory. However, security comes at a cost and inventory purchased from Pangaea attracts a justifiable premium over standard, low-cost digital stock.
For agencies, transparency is key to reassuring brands. However, as Chris le May of DataXu highlights, the problem is that
“most marketing technology providers will claim a lot of things in order to close the deal with advertisers, even if they can’t always deliver. Every vendor out there seems to have a fully transparent approach, extensive brand safety measures in place, a solution to minimise ad fraud, as well as the option to only buy viewable impressions – but how do you determine who will actually live up to their promises?”
There are products on the market from players such as Integral Ad Science and DoubleVerify, both of whom operate a blacklist of publishers and operate at the pre-bid stage, and real-time filtering solutions such as Grapeshot. However, although all of these solutions offer brands a much-increased level of security and comfort, the industry approach to solving these challenges remains fragmented and it can be very difficult for advertisers to see through the marketing-speak of the technology providers involved and establish which are actually taking this problem seriously and proactively looking to resolve the issues involved.
An industry solution
The importance of this issue and the challenges of resolution have lead to the key players in the UK advertising industry including the IAB, ISBA, IPA and others, the Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards (JICWEBS) and the Digital Trading Standards Group (DTSG), establishing the UK Good Practice Principles. The intention of these principles is to significantly reduce the risk of misplacement of display advertising on digital media, uphold brand safety and protect the integrity of digital advertising. They not only detail the types of technical steps that must be taken throughout the advertising supply chain to reduce the likelihood of any brand-safety issues occurring, they also establish a certification scheme whereby operators in this market can be certified as being compliant with the principles.
Signatories to these principles will have their ad misplacement minimisation polices independently verified by JICWEBS approved provider within 6 months and then once every year. Such accreditation will, it is hoped, give brands a clear sign that the ad tech vendors are on the same page and are working to resolve these issues.
Steve Chester of the IAB said:
“Ultimately, clear guidelines and accreditation schemes such as the DTSG will build more trust and confidence that advertisers have in programmatic marketing – which is good news for everyone in the industry”
Key industry players such as AMNET, AppNexus, Captify and Unruly have already gained independent verification and hence are certified to use the Good Practice Principles Seal. Going forward JICWEBS hopes that further publishers will begin to adopt the principles to ensure brand safety on inventory that is not directly under their control; this is particularly important as platforms increasingly apply audience extension techniques to deliver advertising beyond their sites and throughout the wider internet. It remains to be seen as to how widely the principles will be adopted but this industry initiative is clearly a very important step to finding a permanent solution to brand safety concerns.