Are your display ads in good company?

By Julia Casale-Amorim

The topic of brand safety online has been one of much lively discussion in recent months. A lot of this chatter is being spawned by the influx of brand advertisers dipping their toes into network waters as they endeavour to further optimize the media dollars that get invested into online campaigns.

Much of the dialogue surrounding “brand safe” has centered on networks’ publisher rosters, their quality screening procedures, their ability to provide complete transparency, the sources of their inventory, yada yada yada. And some discussions are now going so far as to investigate the ways in which networks are targeting ads. Targeting tactics that are currently under review by bodies like the FTC are stirring valid concern from advertisers who are fearful of potential consumer backlash.

One topic that seems to have been missed all together is the nature and quality of the advertising that shows up alongside yours when you run a display campaign online. Sure, your campaign might be running on a trusted, brand name website known for publishing high quality content that reaches your audience and complements your brand; and the ads might be served using privacy friendly methods.

But, what about the other ads being displayed on that site?

Shouldn’t the notion of “brand safe” extend outside content and to the ads a site places as well? Aren’t they technically part of the site’s content? Some publishers…scratch that…some very well regarded, brand name publishers are allowing distasteful advertising to appear on their properties in attempts to boost earnings in an uncertain economy. Unfortunately, in doing so, they are not only degrading the quality of inventory on their sites, but in the long term, their reputations as prominent online brands.

The unfortunate corollary to this activity is that many brand conscious advertisers are placing campaigns on these “reputable, high-quality” sites, doing their due diligence to safeguard their brands, only to find their ads showing up alongside tacky “reduce belly fat” and “teeth whitening” messaging, to name a few recent examples.

So, my advice to brands advertising on networks, look a little deeper into the methods these vendors use to screen publishers and don’t be blinded by a site list of top notch brands. Are the ads publishers allow to run on their sites part of the screening procedure? Is this something that can be controlled in the targeting process?

To networks, consider adding this important screen to your QA methods, as a means to further validate the quality of your offering. Don’t just accept any advertiser into your network. Vet the product, vet the company, vet the creative. It’s your reputation that’s on the line.

And to publishers, think twice about what ads you approve to run on your property. In this wonderfully rich digital universe where there exist so many options among which to choose, you really need to do everything that you can to preserve the quality of your site, the integrity of your brand, and the value of your inventory.

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