As the digital media industry continues to emphasize the importance of brand-safe environments and positive user experience overall, it’s become increasingly clear that the acceptable number of bad ads that can sneak onto the page is zero.
For the last several years, we’ve seen publishers get closer and closer to that elusive zero point. For GeoEdge, getting publishers and ad platforms to that point is at the core of our mission. GeoEdge has remained ahead of the curve in developing robust tools for detecting security threats, inappropriate ads, deceptive ads, and low-quality ads as they move through the ad ecosystem — and for blocking those bad ads in real time, before they reach the page.
Raising The Bar on Transparency and Control
Point blank, publishers need to have the control to review all ads on all of their pages. Publishers need control over the last mile of the road to a clean digital environment, and covering that last mile requires buy-in from the highest level of the business. We can’t think of the process of reviewing all ads on the site as simply a maintenance task for the ad ops team. It’s an important piece of any publisher’s business strategy, full stop.
This is why GeoEdge has launched AdWatch, which allows publishers to cover the last mile and close the loop on their own customized ad quality strategy. AdWatch gives publishers a convenient full grid view of all the ad creatives — and their landing pages — on the site. It’s a comprehensive view, shared in real time, that allows publishers to decline and block any individual ad creatives that they deem inappropriate for any individual page or environment.
Every Page and Every Ad Matters to Every User
Each individual page matters to the publisher’s business — because each individual page matters to the user, and to advertisers. The programmatic market can hold unwelcome surprises in the form of bad ads, which underlines the urgency of ad quality assurance. But we need to remember ad quality is about not just malicious code, but ad content. And ad content and page content are part of the same overall experience, as perceived by the user.
Programmatic is a major part of a premium publisher’s ad business, in large part because programmatic is what advertisers and their partners want. Currently, programmatic channels account for 84.5% of all digital display ad spend in the US. And eMarketer forecasts that figure will increase to 88.2% in 2022.
Leading publishers understand that in order for programmatic to work for their business, they need to stand up for the value of their content, their engaged audiences, and their inventory. To advertisers in today’s digital reality, brand-safe environments make advertisers feel they’re getting the best ROI. Publishers in turn can leverage that success and goodwill to raise their own CPMs, and to attract new high-quality advertiser partners. Campaign success and trust brings publishers and individual advertisers closer together, and can help publishers lead advertisers toward direct-sold or programmatic/direct hybrids.
Publishers Programmatic Responsibilities
So programmatic helps publishers maximize yield and overall revenue, while introducing them to new advertiser partners. But it cedes control over a considerable amount of the page to third-party businesses. Users will assume every ad that’s on the page is there because the publisher wants it to be. If a misleading or inappropriate ad appears on the page, the user won’t simply give the publisher the benefit of the doubt. Users won’t brush off bad ad experiences as a programmatic problem — most users don’t fully realize the programmatic market exists, much less how it works.
Publishers may hope their loyal users can contextualize any bad ad within all of the quality ad and page content on the site. But the good doesn’t simply cancel out the bad, in the user’s mind. They’re not thinking about whether they’re assessing the publisher fairly. They’re thinking about their own needs, their own experience in that moment.
In that light, every moment — every ad — counts when it comes to retaining users’ loyalty and keeping them engaged and monetizing the content. It’s very challenging for a publisher to regain a user’s trust after the user has seen an ad that contradicts the publisher’s tone or looks suspicious, or especially if the user clicks through a deceptive ad and lands on a scam website.
Why Brand Safety is For Publishers
Publishers have devoted a lot of time and resources in recent years to assuring brand-safe environments for advertisers. But publishers need to devote the same attention to brand safety for their own brand. Anyone with a brand can experience reputational harm that affects the business and its revenue.
Those effects can happen in an instant, and can last for years. And it can happen to household-name brands: Following the news that it had shared sensitive user data with Cambridge Analytica, Facebook lost $35 billion in stock value. After Uber’s IPO dramatically underperformed against expectations — raising $8.1 billion versus the $120 billion some analysts had predicted — its executives acknowledged the company’s reputation had been damaged by scandals that erupted two years prior, over what users perceived as predatory pricing and loose data privacy practices. These are examples of when a company has communicated to its users that it holds certain values, but its actions seem to betray those values.
Aligning page content and ad content requires publishers to take control of both, and to think of them holistically. And control needs to involve full visibility into all ad content on each page, as well as granular customization for those page/ad content alignments.
The heat is on for publishers to deliver consistently high-quality and trusted experiences. It’s no longer sufficient for publishers to ask, “Is this ad creative acceptable for a premium publisher?” The questions now must be, “Is this acceptable for my site, my message, my audience, the content on this page — under these particular circumstances, even down to the minute-by-minute level?”
When we drill down to these highly specific circumstances, recognizing an inappropriate or brand-unsafe ad can boil down to that old adage: “I know it when I see it.” AdWatch gives you the ability to see it.
How Efficiency and Effectiveness Can Come Together
We’ve explained before that ad revenue and user experience are not opposed to each other, but intertwined with each other. Beyond that, it’s important to point out in QA specifically, efficiency and control are not polar opposites, either — even though, at the ground level, they may feel that way. It’s obvious why: Currently, the “last mile” of ad quality is usually a time consuming reactive task for the ad ops team.
These processes feel inefficient because they are. But publishers today tend to think of this last step as being prohibitively difficult to manage proactively, and also rare or minor enough to effectively manage reactively. They’re mistaken, though, in the belief that they can effectively review ads on the page this way.
GeoEdge’s real-time ad monitoring and blocking technology looks deep into the code of every ad creative, looking for indicators of malicious activity and deceptively cloaked URLs. AdWatch goes one step further — it shows the actual ad creative itself, and the landing page the ad links to.
There, all programmatic creatives and landing pages are shown and any inappropriate or deceptive ads are shown as they are. Revealing the landing page content allows the publisher to verify once and for all that the advertiser is representing itself honestly.
View All Programmatic Creatives In One Dashboard
AdWatch’s convenient dashboard view also gives the publisher the ability to verify the right ad content is aligned with the right content, in the right context and moment. It also makes the process of reporting bad ads to any demand partner more clean and efficient — it’s no longer necessary to chase down the bad ad on the page and screenshot it.
Under certain circumstances, you may decide sensitive ad categories are actually appropriate. Assuring brand safety no longer means risking revenue — a valid concern among publishers today, when 91% of publishers feel blunt-force blocking leaves money on the table, and 88% believe they would be able to monetize more effectively if their ad quality tech were more customizable.
AdWatch augments GeoEdge’s trusted, industry-leading ad security and quality tools with a comprehensive view of all ad content across the entire site. Now, you can review ads delivered from all programmatic and direct channels, and you can gain insights into and think deeply about how you understand and strategize for your own publisher brand.
Brand safety and reputation management is more than a service publishers provide to advertisers. It’s a crucial part of retaining and building audience loyalty, growing the audience and keeping them trusting, coming back to, and monetizing your site for years to come. AdWatch allows publishers to close the loop on managing their users’ overall digital experiences and their own reputation.
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