Transparency and fraud are issues that display advertisers have always sought to control. Banner ads appearing next to horrific stories have been well documented for years, and programmatic trading, ad fraud and online brand safety all remained in top 10 biggest concerns for the ISBA’s advertiser membership in its annual survey.
With these topics making headlines once again amidst a storm of false news, extremism and shocking, divisive content, display advertisers need to act quickly and decisively in order to allay brand’s concerns.
Today, the Guardian and the Government have joined Mercedes-Benz and other brands in assertive action to, quite rightly, challenge Google’s media supply chain after The Times exposed brands were unwittingly funding terror organisations when their ads were placed next to extremist content by ad exchanges. The industry is eagerly waiting Google’s response after it was summoned to the Cabinet Office and received heavy criticism from brands for negligent ad placements.
But while our industry’s behemoth figures out if there is a way to give brands the guarantees they are demanding, there are some sensible steps any worried brands and agencies can take to fight damaging ad placements and mitigate risk:
- An obvious first step is to ensure that frank conversations have been had to so that brand positioning is fully understood, and agencies recognise how this influences the parameters they need to work within to meet their objectives. It’s worth remembering that brand positioning can change, as a brand matures or a new CMO joins for example, so return to this topic as part of your strategic planning.
- Agencies should review where impressions have appeared over the last 30 days to identify the majority of sites that ads have appeared on. Any concerns should be flagged and this information should also be used to build custom blacklists.
- Agencies and brands should explore whether or not to strip “not yet labelled” sites from target site lists. These are sites that haven’t yet been categorised by Google, and so there is some risk that including this category in sites to target could led to badly placed ads. A word to the risk averse though, it is just as likely that high-quality, revenue generating sites could be included here. Discuss the pros and cons together and make a call.
- Ensure sensitive categories that brands do or don’t want to target are set correctly in your ad management interface. Errors can be made in customisation.
- Brands can choose to invest in more sophisticated, third-party verification services, such as Integral Ad Science, to introduce an extra layer of site checks before ads go live.
- Review your ad management set up on a regular basis. Any well-run display activity will include consistent placement reviews and although campaign settings are unlikely to alter after initial set up, checking them on a quarterly basis is a sound precaution.