Commentary

At Issue: Trust, Transparency, And Brand Safety

It’s no secret that advertisers are increasingly demanding more transparency from their agencies, ad-tech vendors, publishers, and other partners. In recent weeks, we’ve seen Google and Facebook take steps to address concerns over the way measurement is handled on their platforms: Google's YouTube and Facebook are undergoing audits by the Media Rating Council (MRC).

Advertisers are also examining the health of their agency relationships. For example, Honda Motor Co.’s U.S. division decided to move its media-buying account from Mediavest Spark, a unit of advertising giant Publicis Groupe, to RPA, an independent agency, after learning about alleged irregularities in how its business was handled.

And even as YouTube undergoes its MRC audit, the company struggles with the fact that more than 250 marketers have stopped advertising with Google over brand safety issues. Marketers in the EMEA region are concerned that their ads might appear next to inappropriate, extremist videos on YouTube and elsewhere.

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In a blog post  Google Chief Business Officer Philipp Schindler said the company would take steps to simplify existing tools that advertisers can use to manage where their ads appear and work on removing offensive content. Google said it would change the default settings for ads so that they appear on content that meets higher brand safety standards and make it easier to exclude certain sites.

Ad-tech executives weighed in on the issues of trust and transparency:

“There is definitely an expectation that Google, as the market leader, is delivering advertiser campaigns in an effective and brand-safe manner. Content management, especially on a site like YouTube that generates a large amount of advertising revenues, is a given in the mind of advertisers," said Hector Pantazopoulos, co-founder and chief revenue officer, SourceKnowledge. "As an industry, this erodes confidence for all ad-tech firms. If you can't trust that your ads will be run in a brand-safe way off Google, then who can you trust?”

He added, "Technology can solve this to a degree, but a combination of human intervention coupled with automated features and user feedback is the best approach to policing site content.”

“Advertising transparency has never been more important, but many marketers don't know where to begin. Programmatic ad buying has made the process more seamless, but marketers can and should exercise more control in the process,” said Gayatri Bhalla, VP of advanced solutions & product management, Infogroup.

“First and foremost, marketers must ensure that their data providers and media buyers are in sync. Media buying is a complex and expensive process, and one of the many considerations for marketers is the context for where their messages will appear, including if appearing before a certain video or on a particular site is an issue of conflict with the brand strategy. Additionally, your data provider should be providing you with strategic, highly targeted, and segmented audiences to help your media buyer make purchasing and placement decisions that are consistent with your overall brand messaging strategy,” Bhalla said.

“Candid conversations during contract negotiations and early on in the agency relationship hopefully build on genuine trust that increases over time. This is true for all marketers, regardless of vertical, that seek media, technology or market experts to execute on their behalf,” said Alison Lohse, COO, Conversion Logic.

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