Online brand safety may actually be better than advertisers think

Online brand safety may actually be better than advertisers think.

The demonisation of online media as a place where no brand is safe is muddying the fact that the chance of either a video or display ad appearing against inappropriate content in the UK is dwindling, according to a report.

The conclusion somewhat flies in the face of the current rhetoric that ad misplacement is rife online. While the Integral Ad Science report acknowledged the current appetite for greater transparency, it found that the risk of video ads being misplaced fell from 11.2% in the first half of 2016 to 8.9% in the final six months. The drop was “on a par” with the risk associated with display ads, which decreased from 7.8% to 6.8% in the period.

Exacerbating the danger for brands is programmatic, with the chance of display ads appearing next to unsafe content 6.9%, compared to 5.8% when bought directly from publishers. Again, the balance is similar with video ads, which are likelier to appear against the wrong content (9.8%) when served via programmatic in comparison to the risk from direct deals with publishers (6.4%).

It makes for a market where the danger of ad misplacement to brands (6.8%) is less than it is in the US (8.6%) but still behind Germany (5.3%) and France (3.4%).

“With the rise in discussions around fake news, ad fraud and brand safety, marketers need to demand greater transparency,” said Nick Morley, the managing director for Integral Ad Science’s EMEA division. Now the issue is front of mind for many advertisers it is being discussed far more than it ever has done as seen by the topic’s dominance of Advertising Week Europe conference.

Despite these concerns, the report concluded that “on the whole” media quality “stabilised in the second half of the year.

“The recent headlines have increased awareness of these issues, highlighted clear areas where improvement is required, and reinforced that context is key,” continued Morley. ”Everyone in the industry has a duty of care to address brand safety issues, we’d encourage all to do their part and use third party verification technology.”

When such technology is used by advertisers the problem of ad fraud, another to come to the fore recently, is lower. For programmatic display ads the amount of ad fraud dropped from 4.9% to 0.6%, while for ads bought direct from publishers it dropped from 1% to 0.2%.

The issue with fraud, opined the Financial Times’ chief commercial officer Jon Slade at Advertising Week Europe, is it is impossible to find where the money has gone.

It is a “perfect environment for pick pocketing”, he continued. “it is a complete crowd, everyone is walking round with bags of money in their pocket, no one can see what is going on and it is coming out of the top. There is no one to point the finger at and as a publisher and buyer that is infuriating. In a sense I am pleased with what has happened in the last couple of weeks around YouTube, I don’t think anyone should pretend that we didn’t know there were suddenly bad environments for advertising to be against, we all knew.”

Part of that responsibility revolves around understanding viewability and whether those impressions being bought are actually being seen. Video viewability saw “significant improvement” found the researchers, rising from 40% to 58.2% between the first half of 2016 and the other half.

Like with ad misplacement, viewability seemed to suffer when bought programmatically rather than direct from publishers. Viewability for programmatic video clocked in at just 49.6%, whereas it was 76.6% for publisher direct. The dip was reflected in whether display ads were in view, with the likelihood at 46.8% for programmatic compared to 62.9% for inventory bought directly from a publisher.

Viewability has emerged as a hot topic from the transparency debate, with advertisers split on whether they should insist on buying ads that are 100% in-view. The rationale being that even if someone sees 50% of an ad , there’s an argument that will instantly recognise the brand without seeing the other half and so it becomes a debate on performance versus value for money.

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