Brand safety has always been an issue, and it came firmly under the spotlight earlier this year as a result of the Google / YouTube issue.
There’s been a lot of talk since then, but where are we now?
Transparency demands – and challenges
Brands are - quite rightly - demanding transparency. Third party tracking companies can easily see exactly where ads are being run so shouldn't the platforms also disclose the same information?
With agencies and brands now increasingly turning towards these same tracking companies to provide transparency and measure how ‘brand safe’ sites are, an obvious question arises. With so many different methodologies but no industry standard, whose solution is the most accurate? How can we be confident that the data provided is reliable? In other words, who referees the referee?
While one answer is to run multiple tags from multiple vendors and only accept inventory that gets a pass from every vendor, this is expensive and potentially limits scale.
So… what we’re now seeing is mistrust in inventory bought via open exchanges.
Programmatic growing pains
When programmatic platforms first began to appear, agencies saw an opportunity to push down prices and buy a broader selection of sites at a lower rate. The result was the appearance of ads on more and more ‘long tail’ sites that could now participate and take advantage of this new, easy way to monetise traffic.
It sounds an ideal solution but, on closer inspection, there was a problem. Using too many sites led to a drop in their quality. However, everybody chose to ignore the importance of where an ad is placed in favour of high numbers for how often it appeared. Blind buys and poor transparency became the norm.
Unsurprisingly we’ve now seen a vast rise in ad fraud, a huge decrease in levels of viewability and an increase in the numbers of ads per page.
Brands want answers. It’s easy to blame the DSPs and the exchanges, but the truth is that every side is culpable. Transparency needs to be consistent across the many layers of advertising and ad tech. Each party needs to be open about how the ad is being run and where it is being placed.
As a result, we’re seeing a shift in how programmatic is perceived and actioned. Brands and agencies are now shifting toward private marketplaces to run campaigns – there’s a reduction in open auction. It feels like RTB is in decline, open exchanges are losing out and we’re returning to the days of network buying as brands are starting to take back control to ensure they get the transparency they deserve.
There is a move to pre-defined, fixed CPM and programmatic direct across agencies and ad-tech partners. And in some cases brands are making moves to bring everything in-house so that they have full visibility.
Whitelists are also becoming essential; many brands and agencies will only work with providers that agree to provide whitelists upfront and full transparency in reporting.
The programmatic future
The programmatic element has moved away from being about price and is focused on its targeting capabilities and the ability to buy across multiple placements via one platform.
As brands take control, programmatic is able to showcase its true credentials.
Chris Childs, Managing Director, TabMo UK.