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Make 2018 the Year You Take Back Control of Your Programmatic Monetization Campaigns

Feb 5, 2018

Thanks to a combination of problems like ad spoofing, a lack of checks on the kind of content ads are attached to, and in some cases, less-than-user-friendly ad placement policies on the publisher side, it’s harder than ever for advertisers to get peace of mind that the ads they’re paying to place with you present their brand in the best possible light.

To ensure that you don’t damage your relationships with advertisers, or risk damaging your reputation as an ad partner, you have to be able to reassure them! Let’s take a look at some of the most crucial steps you should take in that direction aligned with the advertising trends 2018.

Dodgy Displays

Ever been put off a product or brand for life through the sheer unpleasantness of just one salesperson?

As we all know, you only get one shot at a first impression, and adopting an overly aggressive advertising strategy can do untold damage to the reputation of your publication.

… And while it’s easy to fire that one cocky guy from sales before he wreaks too much havoc, it’s much harder to repair the harm done from an ad campaign that millions of people have already seen on your site, and associated with you as a result.

It’s no wonder than many brands are starting to get the jitters about sending their ads out into the world – and publishers are starting to rethink the way they select, manage and place ads on their sites.

Take Forbes, for example.

The 100-year-old business publication has long been a highly respected source of thought leadership and news analysis. Speak to many in the digital ad industry, though, and until recently you may have got a very different story.

True to their business-savvy nature, the company enthusiastically embraced the revenue-generating potential of digital ads, aggressively deploying interstitial and autoplay ads and paginating articles. The trouble was that their aggressiveness was to the detriment of their user experience – all those intrusive pop-ups and annoying extra steps were putting readers off.

As Digiday explains:

“That put Forbes at a disadvantage when browsers declared war on advertising, making it harder for publishers to make money off invasive ads. In September, Apple’s Safari browser began preventing third parties from tracking users for more than 24 hours after a user visited a website. And next year, Google is set to release an “ad-filtering” version of Chrome. When Google released a tool in June that let publishers see if the forthcoming version of Chrome would block their own sites’ ads, Forbes was on the list for having “failing” ads.”

In other words, not only was the ad placement on Forbes running the risk of irritating their intended audience, but Google was now threatening to block them completely! It’s hard to think of a more disastrous outcome for brands placing ads on the site in good faith… or a worse hit to Forbes’ reputation with those advertisers.

To their credit, the Forbes team has stepped up to address the situation, taking concrete steps to bring the advertising approach in line with the quality of their content.

For example, they’ve removed homepage takeover ads from the mobile site, replaced many paginated articles with infinite scroll, and improved load times. The site has now shaken off its Google “F” grade and is working hard to rebuild trust with advertisers.

Other publishers should take note. Getting the balance right between profit and user experience is delicate – and if you push the revenue end too hard at the expense of your readers’ ability to enjoy your content, you could end up scaring off them, and your advertisers, altogether.

Scam Alert!

But while you as a publisher can step in to address problems from your end, what do you do about ads that are being misdirected to the wrong place in the first place?

Yep, ad spoofing – where ad buyers are tricked into paying for space they don’t actually get – remains rife.

This is obviously a massive worry for advertisers, but it’s also enormously bad news for publishers. Not only is your reputation dragged through the dirt through association, but you obviously lose out on the revenue you should have been getting from customers whose advertising dollars have gone to the wrong place.

Luckily, there are industry-wide efforts in place to address this.

The most promising among these as IAB’s Ads.txt initiative, which strives to improve transparency in programmatic advertising sales by giving verified publishers a clear, public way to declare who is authorised to sell their digital inventory.

The ultimate goal is to give buyers confidence that they’re getting the real deal, while helping publishers ensure their sales aren’t being usurped by scammers.

The project has been a success, with around 44% of publishers on board already, but it hasn’t been totally hiccup-free.

Initial resistance came from publishers who lacked the technical know-how to implement it.

What’s more, this is a new system and not (yet) infallible: spelling mistakes and other minor, manual areas have caused some exchanges to have their inventory blocked, and because ads.txt files don’t include the type of inventory a vendor can sell, there is still some scope to repackage and mis-sell this as the wrong type.

Again, though, the industry is rising to the challenge – and stepping up with solutions. IAB has already released an upgrade to ads.txt called ads.cert, which also validates data moving between buyers and sellers at each step of the process. This acts as a digital signature, verifying each site’s inventory, and makes sure information is not being altered or spoofed at any point in the digital ad supply chain.

For now, ads.cert isn’t available to everyone; you need to upgrade your tech infrastructure to IAB’s OpenRTB Version 3.0, which isn’t compatible with legacy systems and represents a pretty big investment for exchanges, as well as both Supply-Side and Demand-Side Platforms.

In the long term, though, solutions like these will only become more and more vital in helping advertisers and publishers protect their brands online.

Taking Back Control

So – what can you do? After all, the programmatic ad world is complicated stuff, and trying to deal with these issues quickly and efficiently enough to keep monetizing your site enough to survive is no small ask.

What’s needed here is unification, transparency – and automation you can trust.

Initiatives like ads.txt are clearly a step in the right direction, but to make the most of them, you also need to partner up with a technology provider that gets their importance and builds them into their offering.

… Someone that can help you to organize your advertising process seamlessly, dealing with the kind of exchanges and other middlemen you can rely on, and get the right ads from brand to your site as painlessly as possible.

Digital businesses need to know they’re getting a fair deal, and you need to have a system in place that means you can always promise them that.

It’s a big task, but one you can’t afford to shirk. And with the right tech in place, it might just be easier than you think.

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