Is it the publisher’s responsibility for the appropriate placement of programmatic ads? Guardian’s Nick Hewat believes so

By Jennifer Faull | Deputy Editor

Channel 4

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Programmatic article

March 12, 2014 | 4 min read

Who is responsible for the appropriate placement of programmatic ads? The Guardian’s commercial director Nick Hewat said that in being “the last mile” on the programmatic ad route, the onus is ultimately on the publisher to make sure that an ad doesn’t adversely conflict with the content it sits with.

The topic arose on a panel, at ISBA's annual conference, looking at the future of media buying in a data-driven world. Mindshare CEO Mark Creighton explained that when it comes to programmatic he finds “a lot of the clients are very interested, as long as you’re clear about the context in which the ad is going to be delivered.”

Tess Alps, chair at Thinkbox and the morning’s session, offered the panel a hypothetical.

“Will British Gas find itself having a banner ad on a Guardian page that is about the Holocaust,” she asked. “It’s clearly contextually wrong, whose job is it to stop that?”

Hewat was quick to reply that ultimately, the responsibility is on the end publisher to make sure that doesn’t happen because if they get it wrong it will be them, not the agency, facing criticism.

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Creighton interrupted to suggest it might actually be everyone in the chain’s responsibility, with Mindshare employing a series of content verification tests which look at the page to decide if it is contextually relevant for an ad.

While he agreed, Hewat said: “Ultimately we’ll be the ones getting a kicking and getting asked to give money back if it doesn’t go out in the right place. We would assume as the last mile that we have the responsibility.”

Creighton also added that no publisher can ever guarantee that the ad will appear in a space the advertiser is 100 per cent comfortable with because of the speed at which content changes on a webpage now.

“There might be a social box in the left hand corner and yes they are moderating but the speed at which you can do it makes it really difficult to guarantee there won’t be a conversation they are not comfortable with,” he explained. “You can’t say, ‘I promise you that won’t happen’ because it will, that’s the real-time nature of the way consumers are using these pages.”

Also on the panel was Jonathan Allan, sales director at Channel 4, who said that the company approaches it in the same way as TV.

“We spend a lot of time arguing every day with agencies about where [broadcast] adverts go out,” he said. “And from a 4oD perspective it’s exactly the same. We’re able to completely deliver the right ads to the right person in the right context.”

Helping Channel 4 do that is the Viewer Engagement Strategy, which Allan revealed has 10.5 million people registered, half of which are in the 16 to 24 year old bracket and about a third are between 16 and 34 years old. He said that this offers greater targeting capabilities and that, although for the near future the vast majority of TV advertising will be “pretty mass” – it does want to start offering a choice to advertisers who want to target more efficiently.

“We want to take some of the really interesting things that have happened in the display and search markets and apply it to TV,” he said. “All TV will eventually be IP delivered and as that happens the TV and internet will absolutely converge and the database that we’ve built is to absolutely future proof us for that.”

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Channel 4 is a British public-service television broadcaster that began transmission on 2 November 1982. 

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Mindshare is a global media and marketing services company created in 1997. As one of the world’s largest media agencies, Mindshare is responsible for a large majority of GroupM/WPP's global marketing billings and campaigns.  

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Thinkbox is the marketing body for commercial TV in the UK, in all its forms. It works with the marketing community with a single ambition: to help advertisers get the best out of today’s TV.

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