Do Brands Really Know Where Ads Appear?

The advertising industry needs to step up and create more transparency around where ads will be placed on Web sites by providing exact URLs and other identifying data. That's according to Xuhui Shao, CTO at Turn, who estimates up to 40% of publisher Web sites do not reveal the exact URL to brands.

Evidently, some publishers selling low-quality spaces choose to bundle in ads with other sites, so advertisers can't distinguish the difference.

Turn will release research Monday that reveals insight into emerging ideas around optimizing online campaigns. As the industry matures, ad executives have begun to use numerous philosophies to target campaigns for best performance. The company implemented an internal rating system to review domains and site sections of Web sites that fall into four-tier standards for quality, user-generated, and moderated or un-moderated created and other content created by the Internet Advertising Bureau.

Along with an assurance that brands want to display ads on quality sites that don't contain violent or adult content, many also debate the decision to integrate audience segmentation, targeting or trade quality with quantity. Some advertisers are attracted to the idea that you should only block out large quantities of lower-cost ad impressions.

Sites selling less expensive ad space that might generate high ad impressions seem attractive to some advertisers, but larger advertisers with a good brand might want to stick with the higher-quality sites to retain a more respective image and higher performance, according to Shao. "It costs more to put ads on higher-quality sites, but most impressions are driven by real demand," he says.

Along with an unnamed consumer electronics company, Turn ran a month-long test between September and October. Before pulling the switch on an inventory quality-control filtering tool, the two gathered ad impressions across all four IAB brand safety inventory tiers: mid, moderate, secure, and mature.

Higher-quality sites tend to have ads more closely associated with the Web site page. Findings from the month-long test suggest visitors demonstrate more trust in the site.

The campaign data from the test shows ads on Tier 1 sites delivered an eCPA at 43% lower than the average, as well as an eCPA of 62% lower than the Tier 4 eCPA. Click-through rates in Tier 1 inventory nearly doubled that of Tier 2. Data proves that for an extra 20 cents in inventory costs between Tier 1 and Tier 2, advertisers receive a $5 lower eCPA. The data also shows that the publisher receives a higher eCPM.

The IAB defines Tier 1 as Safe, content appropriate for audiences of all ages like or Tier 2, defined as Mild, supports content appropriate for audiences over age 12 such as or Tier 3 is Moderate, which may contain community-moderated user-generated content such as forums and some social networks found on or And Tier 4 is for Mature content geared toward audiences 18 and older.

The test done with an electronics company heading into a holiday season didn't have much to do with results, but more to do with the company being a "big household brand," Shao says.

While the IAB calls this type of ad management "content level transparency," Turn relies on a stricter standard by also considering the maturity level of the content.

"With inventory transparency, advertisers can bid for the appropriate quality tiers," Shao says. "The study demonstrates that with the correct targeting technology, higher-quality inventory also gives advertisers better performance. Overall, it aims to encourage higher-quality contents and more relevant ads across the Web."

2 comments about "Do Brands Really Know Where Ads Appear? ".
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  1. Nancy Padberg from Navigate Boomer Media, November 23, 2010 at 11:04 p.m.

    Hi Laurie, Thank you for this article, we are hearing the same thing from our online marketers. (Travel, Health, Pharma, Banking, Automotive) Ad Networks got by for a long time selling "group impressions" this resulted in low sales results and no branding impact. They were the only choice. Now there are firms like Navigate Boomer Media, largest online boomer media source represents 120 sites delivering 112 million uniques month targeting consumers 45 + , offering complete campaign transparency and real time metrics/reporting. Clients can log in and receive real time campaign results.
    Best, Nancy

  2. Jennifer Hyman from DoubleVerify, December 1, 2010 at 12:11 p.m.

    Laurie, thanks for the article. Third-party verification allows more transparency in the ecosystem without compromising publisher sales channels. With DoubleVerify, networks, DSPs and exchanges keep their publisher IDs blind to advertisers and agencies, but share the exact URLs with DoubleVerify. In less than a millisecond, the content and placement of ads are categorized, scored and verified for the advertiser without sharing the publisher’s identification. As noted in the article, higher conversion rates and performance on trusted, transparent inventory will garner higher CPMs for publishers and more customers for brands – everyone wins.

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