Programmatic: Do You Want It Cheap, Or Safe?

It would be tempting to think the brand safety furore is long behind us. In adland, things tend to blow up and become the hot issue of the day and then get replaced by a new talking point. A few months ago, every other headline was about another big-name brand or agency dropping YouTube and Google over ads appearing next to extremist content, following a well-documented investigation by The Times

The publication in Campaign of research from the CMO Council and Dow Jones must surely put the cat among the proverbial pigeons again. A quarter of big advertisers are reporting they have proof of instances of their messages being displayed against extremist content. Nearly three in four digital marketing executives who engage in programmatic buying admit to having real fears about their ads ending up next to unsavoury content. 

The same article quotes additional research which shows that one in two consumers would be put off a brand if it appeared next to unsafe content, and that nearly two in three would think more favourably of an ad if it appeared next to decent content on a trusted site. Can I ask the same question you're probably asking yourself here? How would people know an ad has appeared next to extremist or unsavoury content unless it was what they were looking at themselves? Talk about not want to be a member of any club that would have you as a member.

Needless to say, if three in four marketers are worried about appearing next to extremist content and one in four have examples of this happening, this is certainly an issue that has not gone away. 

It was all adland could talk about for a while earlier this year. Even the UK government came under pressure and had to pull ad spend from the tech giant. And then it all went pretty quiet, didn't it? Google posted another set of amazing figures, despite a massive boycott, and the world kept on spinning. 

The key word hear has to be programmatic, doesn't it? Nobody can doubt that machine buying is the way forward when millions of potential units are looking to be matched with ads to fill them every day. The trouble is, it's potentially packed with danger and cedes control to algorithms sending advertiser messages to some very dark corners of the web -- the type of places that would never be bought in a direct sale. 

The conclusion from the CMO Council report is that marketers want to see a switch to using pre-approved channels that lower their chances of unsavoury ad placements. 

I still can't quite believe this is an issue that is as big as it still appears to be. It was the first big certification programme for the IAB UK, underscoring the importance of ensuring that programmatic doesn't lead to spend that embarrasses brands. 

One can only assume there are still some networks out there that are willing to allow themselves to be fooled into mislabelled sites and content. There must also be advertisers that are not checking out their ad-supply chain to ensure there is an IAB certified brand safety piece of tech at play.

I could be wrong -- and I accept you cannot expect a perfect world -- but if one in four have experienced unsafe placements and three in four are worried by it, is this simply a case of advertisers and agencies needing to pay to have the right safeguards in place?

Forget about the lower cost of programmatic -- don't we need to ensure the budget is put in to make it safer too? You really can't have it both ways. 

1 comment about "Programmatic: Do You Want It Cheap, Or Safe?".
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  1. PJ Lehrer from NYU, September 28, 2017 at 10:37 a.m.

    Umm.  Have you heard of Sleeping Giants?  It's pretty simple.  People do not want their money to support extremist content.  More here...

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