To many brand marketers, the online advertising space is still a bit like the Wild West. New frontiers like ad networks, trading desks, demand-side platforms and real-time bidding only add to the confusion. As some marketers see it, they’re buying inventory on unknown sites, and they’re putting their faith in the network, exchange or agency to deliver their ads to consumers in brand safe environments. Enter the ad verifiers.
One of the major challenges with the current iteration of ad verification tools is that they determine safety on a very binary scale, where sites are either safe or not. As John Ebbert of AdExchanger pointed out earlier this year, verification still produces lots of false positives. His comical example is “This wasn’t adult content! It was Obama at the beach!” but the process is a lot more complicated. The definition of safety is not binary, and each advertiser has its own idea of what safety means based on their brand message.
Take women’s interest sites. Most have sex advice channels on their websites — take a look at some of the racy headlines on Redbook’s Sex and Love channel. Despite that language, brands like Levi’s and Zipcar serve ads on the page. Some brands may object to this, but others clearly do not, and binary ad verification doesn’t always see the difference.
Many verification companies introduced sliding scales, but these tend to over-complicate the process. It’s very difficult to decide if something is only partially pornographic or profane. Can you really assign a numerical grade to those topics and expect to make advertising safe while still achieving scale? Safety should be simple and effective, if nothing else.
I mentioned before that ad verification is often a reactionary safety feature, rather than a proactive one. Ad blocking software can prevent ads from appearing on inappropriate pages, but it’s still not 100 percent effective, especially with new ad serving strategies like real-time bidding. RTB is one area where safety is needed the most, because advertisers buy impressions unaware of the URL. If an advertiser buys an impression next to questionable content, the software blocks the ad. The problem is, the advertiser already paid for the impression.
The flip side of that is that verification without ad blocking only tells the advertiser what happened after the fact. So, when applied to RTB, ad verification tools can leave an advertiser paying for an impression where no ad is served, or paying for an ad that already ran in bad location. Additionally, verifying ads blocked by the same company is an inherent conflict of interest. That’s a lose-lose situation.
Above all else, most safety solutions are not truly-page level, which means they can’t process the detailed information you need for true ad verification. They are domain level classifications applied at the page, making for a blunt instrument in determining safety. Sometimes the same word has two meanings. It’s difficult for people who speak English, and equally confusing for non-semantic software. We just conducted a study based on the keyword Joplin. A few weeks ago, most of the Joplin content running through our system pertained to the late singer Janis Joplin, which is a good environment for entertainment advertisers.
Brand safety is a crucial part of online advertising, and that’s not up for debate. If brand advertisers see the Web as the Wild West, there’s no chance they’ll increase their share of digital spend, especially in RTB. Ad verification has its place, but there’s still a chance that brands will encounter safety issues even after employing verification and blocking software. For brands to really start shifting budget online, we need to guarantee safe environments through semantic analysis. Black and white, binary URL systems just don’t cut it anymore.
Andy Ellenthal is CEO at Peer39, a semantic ad targeting firm.
Dentsu’s latest ad report shows slowed growth, driven mostly by inflation
The good news in Dentsu's ad forecast is that there's still growth. The bad news: most of the growth is the result of inflation, while real ad pricing actually dropped a bit.
How chef influencer Tue Nguyen works with the BuzzFeed Creator Network
BuzzFeed's Creator Network has been valuable from an audience and production education standpoint, but Nguyen still drives most of her business on her own.
Dentsu’s new Web3 readiness tool shines light on the tech’s potential to complement AI
Dentsu's Innovation Initiative is launching a web3 readiness index next month — at a time when the industry is obsessed with AI. Could the two technologies actually make a good pair?
SponsoredHow agencies’ relationships with RMNs are continuing to evolve in 2023
Sponsored by Best Buy Ads As retail media networks proliferate, agencies are increasingly identifying RMNs as valuable opportunities for their brand clients as they seek quality audience data, meaningful reporting and insights, and authentic and engaging ad formats and creative. However, there are many options for them to work through as they select RMN partners. […]
Digiday+ Research deep dive: Publishers large and small put their resources into first-party data
Eighty-two percent of publishers overall say they're already using first-party data to prepare for the end of the third-party cookie, and nearly half are requiring users to register and integrating first-party data segments into DSPs – indicating that first-party data is the clear path forward for publishers heading into the post-cookie world.
Media Briefing: Why publishers hope chatbots will be the latest retention tool
Publishers hope the chatbots they are developing will be the latest retention tool to keep readers onsite and to get them to consume more content.