NewFronts have preoccupied many industry stakeholders this week. One key theme that's emerging in these talkfests is brand safety -- and by extension, poor quality inventory, fake news, and transparency. Furthermore, platforms like YouTube (Google) and Facebook are confronting these issues in a different way from publishers.
Zach Rosen, VP of publisher development at Index Exchange, attended several NewFront events including the New York Times, Hearst, Conde Nast, Time, and Refinery29, among others. He described the brand safety theme this way: If you put a dollar into a vending machine and you want a Snickers bar, you expect to get the bar. “Marketers are putting their dollars into the machine and they’re not really sure what they’re getting, or how what proportion of their dollars are making an impact. The publishers have an advantage in being producers of quality content, having engaged audiences. They’re not just creating technology,” he said.
Rosen cited the example of JPMorgan Chase where the brand’s digital ad spend had been going to half a million sites. When it pared that group to less than 5,000 sites, ad performance wasn’t affected. “That’s a bellwether for the industry. This isn’t just about scale and reach. The lesson is, where is the money being routed? Chase wants the right audiences and quality but it’s taking a more critical approach to its ad spend, content, and destinations,” Rosen said.
The upshot? Publishers, at least those with the audiences that are attractive to advertisers, are focused on quality: quality content, quality web experiences, and catering to real, actively engaged humans.
For marketers’ part, they want to understand in a meaningful way where each dollar is going. How much of their money is going to publishers, and how much is going to fees? How much is subsidizing fake news or other illegitimate Web sites? A more direct connection is needed between advertisers and publishers, Rosen posited.
There’s a divide that’s becoming more pronounced between publishers and platforms like YouTube, Rosen maintained. He sees spending shifting away from platforms and to publishers directly. “Marketers need to get smarter about how they’re investing in platforms. This is symptomatic of a newfound need for transparency in the marketplace,” Rosen asserted.
So where does ad tech fall? It’s in the platform category but different from Facebook and Google, etc. And when looking at programmatic specifically, in an industry built on scale, the risk is amplified. All parties in the ad-tech ecosystem are responsible for poor ad quality and the lack of transparency that’s rampant across digital advertising.
There need to be more meaningful conversations about the implications of poor ad quality in a platform-driven world that has embraced programmatic advertising. For publishers, if the supply chain isn’t cleaned up, they’ll just accelerate the pace with which they’re creating their own original video content and they’ll do their own distribution deals, create their own networks. That’s already happening at Refinery29 and other publishers that aren’t going rely on third-party digital platforms.