The rise of programmatic advertising
The growth of programmatic advertising over the last three years has provided a much-needed boost to performance marketers, where search activity for mature advertisers is naturally starting to plateau. Although understanding of where your ad is being served has significantly developed since the blind ad network days, there are continuous question marks around brand safety.
The industry challenge
Over recent weeks, an ongoing investigation by The Times has raised many challenges about government and brand adverts being served against inappropriate extreme content. The latest publications on 17th March have caused a reaction from advertising boards including the ISBA, which has urged that Google ‘immediately review its policies and controls’. As a result, Google has released its initial position.
What has Google said so far?
Google representatives released a statement on Friday, following the latest media coverage, stating that they ‘don’t always get it right’, and as a result of the challenges to the advertising platform they have ‘begun a thorough review of our ads policies and brand controls, and we will be making changes in the coming weeks to give brands more control over where their ads appear across YouTube and the Google Display Network’.
How has the industry reacted?
There is a mixed view within the industry on these challenges, and agencies including Havas and many brands including Tesco, Marks and Spencer and L’oreal have decided to pull all programmatic display advertising from Google. The big question is whether this is due to concerns around brand safety or whether brands are taking an ethical stance because advertising is funding extremist groups. This is not a stance that all advertisers have taken, as controls are still in place to ensure adverts are served against relevant and appropriate content.
Although this problem has been exacerbated by the volume of openly published content to YouTube – a platform owned and monetised by Google – this challenge is industry wide and not just Google specific. The controls over where brands’ ads are served should be questioned across any media partner and agency managing display and video activity. Because of this, brands and advertisers should be challenging the levels of controls and visibility available.
At Summit, we take brand safety for our clients extremely seriously. We only use partners who are accredited and have the necessary protection available to influence where and how ads are served. We ensure that all the correct exclusion filters, placement and content filters are put in place, which is part of the team’s weekly business-as-usual checks. This includes updating the Infringing Website List from the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU).
In response to the latest updates, and while Google is actively reviewing its approach to brand safety, Summit will be advising our clients to:
- Move to a placement only approach, specifically selecting sites to advertise on
- Ensure YouTube activity is actively purchased where placements are guaranteed (preferred buys)
- Understand the commercial impact of the above and distribute excess budget across other media, where brand safety is guaranteed
Although the above approach might impact performance and return on investment, brand safety should be the primary consideration for advertisers.