Making programmatic marketing a safe bid for brands
Advertisers must be sure they've put their trust - and their marketing investments - in the right place, writes DataXu's Chris Le May.
No matter what the latest technology might be, a marketer's goal is always the same: to ensure they're getting the greatest return on their marketing investments, in the right way - meaning no gimmicks, fraudulent results, or unsafe ad environments.
The problem is that most marketing technology providers will claim a lot of things in order to close the deal with advertisers, even if they can't always deliver. Every vendor out there seems to have a fully transparent approach, extensive brand safety measures in place, a solution to minimise ad fraud, as well as the option to only buy viewable impressions - but how do you determine who will actually live up to their promises?
In some cases, I fear that advertisers are being put off by the sheer number of factors to check and double-check when choosing a tech partner. And that means all of us on the vendor-side need to do a better job of educating the market to help brands feel more confident with their digital media investments, rather than more uncertain or intimidated.
That's why it's vital to do anything and everything possible to build trust amongst everyone in the industry, starting with one of the most basic tenets of advertising - brand safety.
Making sure ads appear alongside content that fits a brand's values and messaging is vital for advertisers, and achieving this needs to be just as important for agencies and tech partners - especially with ad fraud becoming an even more pressing and complex issue.
As automated trading is increasingly taking a larger portion of advertising budgets, there's more of a risk than ever before that an advertiser's message might appear in places that are deemed inappropriate for that brand.
A recent story in the press mentioning that ads from 14 big brands like M&S, O2 and Mini Boden ran on explicit websites further highlights the need for having the right brand safety measures in place.
To tackle this important issue the UK industry has banded together and put a clear accreditation scheme in place that proves tech vendors take brand safety and fraud just as seriously as their advertiser partners.
Including representation from all the large UK industry bodies like the IAB, ISBA, IPA and others, the Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards (JICWEBS) and the Digital Trading Standards Group (DTSG), have just established the UK Good Practice Principles.
These principles not only determine what brand safety measures tech vendors need to have in place, they also reward those who do with a badge of approval.
The DTSG-accreditation is more than just a formality - it's a clear sign to advertisers that technology vendors have the right measures in place to protect their brand. The audit of processes spans from content verification tools that filter out inappropriate or illegal content to the internal processes and training in place that add an extra layer of safety.
Of course, online content that is appropriate for one brand might not be for another, so advertisers should work with a partner that gives them the flexibility to choose what brand safety settings suit their own specific brand guidelines.
Opening ourselves up to an external audit by an independent, JICWEBS-approved third party is the best way we can show we're providing the right brand safety measures for our partners - and I'm sure no one would disagree that the more transparency we have in this industry, the better.
Adherence to these UK Good Practice Principles means greater accountability for vendors, which gives advertisers the confidence to increase their investments in programmatic marketing - ultimately giving the whole industry a boost.
UK Industry bodies have been making great strides in setting out guidelines lately, including the first-ever guidelines for native advertising. But as the landscape keeps changing, they have their work cut out for them to keep up with a whole host of other challenges, from viewability to the all-important question of fraud - and I for one am looking forward to seeing how the market develops to meet these challenges.
While in most sectors, more guidelines and rules might lead to collective groans, I agree with Steve Chester of the IAB (who was instrumental in developing the UK Good Practice Principles): these guidelines are a positive sign that the digital advertising industry is maturing fast, and that programmatic is here to stay.
"Ultimately, clear guidelines and accreditation schemes such as the DTSG will build more trust and confidence that advertisers have in programmatic marketing - which is good news for everyone in the industry," says Chester.
"This accreditation is just one more step in the process of making digital as safe and effective as it possibly can be for advertisers."
Digital advertising is sometimes accused of being a faceless industry, with huge spends depending more on algorithms and data than personal relationships - but that doesn't mean there aren't carefully thought-out brand safety measures in place.
While the days of closing advertising deals with a handshake might be fading away, advertisers can still know they've put their trust - and their marketing investments - in the right place with guidelines like these.
Chris Le May is country manager, UK & Nordics, at DataXu