Recently, big brands woke up to the news that they could unwittingly be funding terrorism through their digital advertising.
An investigation by The Times newspaper found that advertisements for many large organisations appeared on hate sites and youtube videos created by supporters of terrorist groups – activity that was likely to generate huge revenues for extremists.
Coming hard on the heels of P&G’s demands for transparency in the digital ad supply chain, and in a sector already littered with negative associations including ad blocking, fraud, viewability, click-bait, fake news and post-truth, the backlash has been swift. Within hours of the article appearing, reports surfaced about brands reviewing their digital advertising activities.
There is no denying that these latest revelations are worrying, and brands are right to protect themselves. But commentators have been quick to blame technology, and this doesn’t tell the whole story or resolve the issue. Rather than point fingers, we see it as a much-needed wake-up call to look at what is working (extremely well) and make quality a key focus for every element of buying and selling media online.
Rise of digital advertising space
To put the current situation in context, the rise of automation in the digital advertising space has brought an ever-increasing number of web sites into the media space and many brands have lost control over where their ads will appear. Media agencies and their trading desks have targets to hit and trying to meet these with quality publications is a lot more difficult than opening up a campaign to sites that sell inventory at ultra low costs that by default will meet their targets.
Smartology has always distanced itself from these ‘pile it high, sell it cheap’ tactics. Aside from the current crisis, very simply, they don’t work. Effective advertising puts the right message in front of the right person, at the right time and in the right context. Our sophisticated technology has been developed specifically to do this, letting us retain the fundamental principles of marketing.
We promise digital advertising clients that they have total control in how their budget is spent; their content will only ever appear on the quality publications that they have selected. This isn’t just about brand safety – it’s because it’s good advertising. Brands see high returns on their investment, media owners can maintain premium inventory rates and consumers see content in which they are interested. Everybody wins.
But in recognition that a whole digital advertising campaign can be wasted if one ad appears in the wrong place, we have additional, unique, brand safety mechanisms (discussed in ‘The Value of Brand Protection’ on our blog). Firstly brands can create exclusion lists; specific keywords that, if they appear on a page, exclude that page from inventory available. Secondly, because our technology profiles content to extract the true meaning of an article, concepts can also be avoided. Including ‘natural disasters’ on the exclusion list, for example, means that all related terms (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis etc), will also be excluded.
There are many challenges consuming digital marketing currently and new approaches are urgently needed to move forward in the interests of clients protecting their brands and reputations so they can continue to advertise online with confidence.
By Mark Bembridge – CEO