Brand Protection and the misuse of display marketing

– 2 Decemeber 2019

How the SA market has misused display marketing and programmatic

The topic of the incorrect use of programmatic buying in the SA market crops up from time to time and I have learnt that clients and, more frighteningly, agencies do not know exactly how programmatic nor how real time bidding works (it is very complex.) In fact, in many cases a lot of client money has been wasted on so called ‘private networks’ and in the worse case the networks or agencies have benefitted at the expense of the client.

It comes up in the news as well occasionally sometimes highlighting a variety of large, and medium corporations that have found their online display advertising appearing on sites that are not right for the brand. This includes ‘fake news’ sites, but also includes sites with content that brands don’t want to be associated with such as politics, violence and adult content.

Essentially, one of the questions asked should be, “how did my advertising partner allow my adverts to appear on these sites? What brand protection was in place for advertising? And, what measures and filters should or have been added to avoid this in future?” 

Looking at the issue in context as an example 

Let’s also look at where the fault may lie by looking at another example to put it in perspective. After shopping around for a while I go to the dealership with what I think is the best offer, and buy myself a nice new car. The dealership gives me all the assurances that the car is safe, performs as intended and it’s going to get me to point B. I glide out of the showroom, and all the electronics fail at the first red light. Was it me? Am I responsible? 

I don’t think I deserve the blame for breaking the car. I’m just a consumer, the end-user. Now, a lot of people would suggest that the dealership is directly to blame for not testing the vehicle, or for not having the means to test it. But, if this sort of failure happens with that particular car all the time, then perhaps the manufacturer bears more responsibility. You’ve probably guessed that in this example, I’m the brand, the dealership is the marketing agency and the manufacturer is the wider online ad network (of which Google is a large player).

For the sake of simplicity, the dealership should have test driven the car themselves (programmatic management) to ensure that the customer was positioned to reach their destination in it (better quality brand safe sites).

Basic Steps for display Brand Safety

I will highlight a few simple brand safety measure that should be followed, and one of them is NOT just relying on the ad networks inbuilt filters to block inappropriate content, as these may not be adequate especially if the ad network used is a ‘private agency network’,  a smaller network or even a white label of a poorer quality network! 

Again the use of a mature known engine like Double Click ensure that the filters they employ (while still fallible) are constantly being evolved, improved regularly due to the size and learnings that network has. Here are just a few quick wins when it comes to brand protection.

1) Actively use the brand safety filters and customise them!

In my business we start off by ensuring the brand safety features are active and we get into them manually. Using pre-set features within DoubleClick (which has by far the most robust and advancing  filters) is a start, not the end of it. Google includes validation steps. In this way if your client is selling cars, you build protections against themes like “crash” and “accident”. Simply negative targeting a word is insufficient, you have to build out themes around that content as site may refer to automobile accidents or traffic fatalities…. 

2) Add another layer of protection

We also look at verification software, programs like Moat, comScore and DoubleVerify which doesn’t only enhance brand safety but increases ad effectiveness and allows clients to also see where inventory is being served, whether it is being seen by a human, a bot, or even served behind site content!

3) Actual impressions payed for

Billable impressions are the number of impressions that reached the intended or guaranteed audience. In a campaign with an audience guarantee, impressions that don’t reach the agreed upon audience (as defined by Nielsen, comScore, vCE, or other 3rd party) will not be charged for. This paves the way for Exchanges and Networks to ensure the correct labelling of audiences and delivery thereof of the correct ads.

The agency should be managing all of this, not simply buying up inventory wherever it’s available but what often happens is that, despite having access to one of the most accurate tools in digital display, there ends up being a spray-and-pray approach. Programmatic buy and referred deals are also a good strategy to mix into your campaign to ensure that your placements are on quality sites. And while manually blacklisting sites is a good idea, it’s also great to whitelist sites you would prefer to work through. 


Programmatic done right should be relevant and add value

Programmatic has many emerging benefits such as omnichannel targeting and measurement, increased relevance and efficiency as well as reducing media costs (wastage). However it is not perfect, and does require skilled knowledgeable management in order to limit ad fraud and the risk of ads appearing alongside undesirable site content.

Despite a few lingering technical and philosophical challenges, a lot more is going right than wrong. The digital marketing space is tightening and enhancing customer targeting everyday to make ads more relevant, more useful to the consumer, and therefore less costly to the client. Today we can serve ads to any specific demographic, area, at any specific time. We can instantly adjust live campaigns to take into account special events new messaging without missing a beat, or remind you the day after you abandoned your shopping cart that you meant to buy that new pair of adidas, and there’s still a set left in your size. 

However, all of this takes active and skilled management by the agencies and clients running the campaigns. To get this sort of granular marketing right takes a lot of work, system understanding and training. By no means should programmatic display have a “get it live and let it just run” mentality.

Simply put programmatic display is NOT only the placing of display banners on selected websites, this is display marketing circa 2004! Programmatic display marketing requires audience management, real time bidding, relevant content and expert management to succeed effectively.



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