Ad Buyer’s Guide to Seller Myths

Media buying is far too complicated, something you’ll often hear. Buyers are bombarded by buzzwords and sales pitches day in, day out. New services for buying, targeting, and analytics pop up every day with the intention of making digital video easier and more effective for the buyer.

Unfortunately, those pitching their services often shade the truth. The media buyer is left trying to figure out which networks and publishers to trust. Here are three common things buyers will hear that deserve some further questioning.

“We offer a brand-safe environment.”
We have all heard companies claim to provide unparalleled brand safety for your media buys. Let’s take a minute to define what brand safety means. Brand safety should mean near certainty that your brand will not be associated with content that will negatively impact it. And why should the advertiser be forced to foot the bill for something that should be included with their buy?

While most networks offer some sort of brand-safety solution, it tends to be based on the publisher and page text instead of the video content itself. Significant technology investment is required to address this challenge, but it is difficult for most to justify the expense. If hearing, “We only work with high-quality publishers, here is a site list” is sufficient, then by all means you should trust your partner and accept the risk. If, however, your brand can’t afford to be seen sponsoring adult or otherwise unsafe content, then you should demand a solution that provides preventative brand safety based on the unit of inventory being sponsored: the video stream.

“Our network is 100 percent transparent.”
Enough of this word. The ever-elusive quest for transparency fuels many a video sales pitch. Everyone claims to be fully transparent, yet few are. Think about it: when you are buying video, real transparency needs to exist at the video stream level. Youtube has a lot of content, not all of it is appropriate for my brand. A site list, while helpful and reassuring, is not the same as knowing which specific videos my ad ran in front of, and if a partner can’t tell you that, then it’s not transparency. It’s just a site list.

“All our impressions are viewable.”
Viewability is the new verification. Great! My ad isn’t running in front of school yard fist fight video, but can anyone see it? What’s the point of even buying an ad if no one is watching? Such is the dread of the wasted auto-play or below-the-fold placement that has spurred an industry outcry for more viewability standards in online video. Many companies tout viewability metrics and will promise premium page placement, but often the company will not know until after the ad was already served. Which, as we discovered with brand safety, doesn’t do a whole lot of good after the fact. If viewability is not considered at runtime, it does not prevent wasted impressions.

Separating marketing from fact is crucial to any buying experience. All boats rise in the tide when we hold our partners accountable. Don’t stop there though. Call out your coworkers, your sups, your mailman, your barista, anyone who isn’t being completely honest with you because, let’s be real, we’re all in this crazy mess together, and if you can’t trust the people you work with, who can you trust?

Canice Murphy is director of network operations at, a video ad buying platform, and was formerly an associate director of marketplace development at Cadreon, an agency trading desk.

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