Commentary

Publishers Warn Advertisers On Dangers Of 'Blind Programmatic'

Publishers worldwide are capitalizing on the woes of tech platforms, like Google and YouTube, which have recently come under fire for allowing ads to appear next to offensive content.

In the UK this week, regional news publishers are hammering home the message that advertisers can’t trust “blind programmatic” ad programs to provide brand-safe environments – while touting their own abilities in this area, naturally.

A group of 24 publishers of regional British newspapers and news broadcasters that belong to the 1XL partnership, an alliance of local news brands, have signed an open letter to advertisers. It warns advertisers that placing ads programmatically without sufficient safeguards run the risk of appearing next to content from terrorist sympathizers, fake news publishers or other objectionable sources.

By contrast, the 1XL partners write: “Our content is produced by thousands of trained and highly skilled local journalists who spend their days engaging with communities up and down the country through their coverage of the stories and events affecting their lives.

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"Our content is regulated by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), the independent regulator that holds us to account for our actions and upholds our high standards of journalism.”

As a result, “The context in which this puts your advertising increases engagement, trust and therefore consumer response, giving you better value for money alongside the peace of mind of a safe advertising placement.”

Taking another swipe at blind programmatic, 1XL managing director Scott Gill stated: "We believe that publishers need to come together to put pressure on other less transparent trading platforms/SSPs to introduce a recognized and endorsed system of inventory quality.”

Among other things, the 1XL advertising charter states: “We do not buy, sell or arbitrage third party media unless an audience extension product is explicitly requested and bought.”

Overall, the 1XL cooperative represents more than 800 local news brands and claims to reach a total audience of over 22.7 million people through these channels.

The 1XL critique echoes warnings from some other big publishers in recent weeks.

On March 17, News Corp. CEO Robert Thomson stated: “Advertisers need to go back to basics to protect their brands from serious damage and to protect themselves from being involved in potentially criminal activity, whether it be supporting extremist groups or funding hardcore pornography.”

Last month, the UK’s News Media Association warned the government needs to intervene to stop the spread of fake news, as well as cast light on the programmatic advertising techniques that have placed ads next to fake news.
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