Programmatic Called Out On Brand Safety -- Agencies Or Vendors To Face The Chop?

So the whole programmatic disaster just became very real for Jaguar Land Rover. Its latest models were being flung around the Internet, eager to catch the eye of a potential buyer, right up until the weekend when the carmaker decided it was just too dangerous. No advertising is better than spots next to terror, and hate videos seems to be the logical conclusion to last week's events.

The car brand told The Sunday Times yesterday that it is halting programmatic for the time being and is no doubt holding some detailed conversations in Mindshare's offices about a safer way forward right about now.

To be honest, as unsavoury as it has been for brands like JLR, Mercedes-Benz and Waitrose, among others, to find out they have been inadvertently funding terror, it's a crisis long overdue. Nobody has wanted to lift the stone on programmatic just in case they ended up seeing cockroaches scuttling away from the light. Now an investigation at The Times has done this for the industry, the evidence is damning.

In fact, that's probably the main point, it wasn't publishers, agencies or the tech companies they should be employing to keep an eye on this, it was a bunch of journalists who took it upon themselves to log on to some dodgy sites and see who was advertising on them. The industry didn't bring this to the advertisers' attention, journalists did.

So who's going to clear up the mess? A lot of emphasis has to be placed on publishers in the first place. Someone like Google does indeed take hate videos off its YouTube servers, eventually, but how soon is quick enough. Ad exchanges should surely have a decent white list or blacklist of sites they use to stop brands from tarnishing their image. As for the ad agencies, I rather suspect that in the murky waters, as they have recently been labelled by P&G and others, there is no doubt a fee for the ad-tech guys who are supposed to verify that ads have appeared where they are viewable to a human being on a site that will not damage the budget-holder's brand image?

I mentioned on Friday that JICWEBS has certified 34 brand safety companies that are there to ensure ads don't appear in embarrassing places, so there really is no excuse for media agencies to not be using protection.

In fact, it's hard to imagine that the handful of household names outed by The Times did not have, between them, a single brand safety vendor hired by their media agency.

So, whose head should roll? Media agencies not using JICWEBS approved brand safety tech or brand safety outfits who don't live up to their billing?

Investigations will be conducted this week at London media agencies as understandably furious advertisers wonder how their name could be dragged into the mire. Either a media agency or two has to be fired, for not doing the right thing, or some of the 34 JICWEBS-approved vendors have to be fired for simply pretending to do the right thing. 

If we see a review being called by any of the affected brands anytime soon, we'll all know which way the sword fell.

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