The issue of brand safety is in the spotlight within several last years. The rise of extreme content, fake news, and advertising appearing alongside unsavory content have brought brand safety into publicity, uncovering that brands are hardly ever in control over their ads placements.

Another pain point related to the advertising process is transparency across the industry. Advertisers aren’t often aware of the fair fees set by each ad serving side, not to mention these fees are hardly ever aligned.

As ad tech solutions provider, Admixer Technologies is a vocal supporter of increased transparency and brand safety in the programmatic landscape. Therefore we were glad to sit down with other media buying process participants at ad:tech New Delhi  to give a talk on these cornerstone topics.

Here are key insights on the current state of the brand safety and transparency and the possible ways out we’ve discussed with our ad tech peers.

Advertisers: Fair pay for brand safety environment

In the era of programmatic, the way of reaching out the right audience has not just changed, but rather has become more difficult – and expensive. Digital allows brands to get more insights about their audience compared to how it worked with linear TV, Radio, and Print media. But, there’s always another side of the coin. For instance, privacy regulations protecting user data, or ad blockers to let users “defend” from irrelevant ads.

The path to reaching audiences with ads within the right context is stony. More control over ads placement, clearing up the supply list, filtering out unsavory platforms – all these steps increase the price.

A good sign – more and more advertisers are ready to pay higher, or rather – a more fair price for their ad impressions. What they need for that price is a guarantee of getting a brand safe environment for their ads.

Agency perspective: Digital detox as the way to transparency

Knowing that advertisers are ready to reconsider their paying, agencies should also take their step forward. Specifically, agencies have to educate their advertisers and help them adopt safety and transparency standards.

Ideally, agencies, suppliers, and advertisers have to work closely together to justify all markups. Not all agencies and suppliers are equal. Still, the profits should be fully transparent. Ideally, if they would be equal across each channel to avoid any favoritism to one supplier.

A case of Procter & Gamble back in 2016 is a remarkable illustration of bringing transparency and equality to the media ecosystem. As a large advertiser P&G challenged its suppliers and partners to conform with four key demands:

  • embracing the unified standards for ad viewability
  • accepting the use of accredited third-party measurement
  • keeping full transparency of all transactions
  • committing to tackling ad fraud

Results were impressive. This kind of digital detox allowed P&G to cut its annual ad spend by $125m, which has become the lowest investment in 11 years.

What does it mean for the whole industry? Setting up a culture of high ad delivery standards and building transparent and valuable relations across all sides.

Ad tech providers: Embracing the right technology

When everyone in media buying chain is ready to collaborate, all they need is the right technology. Or, better to say, adopting the right technology.

It’s nearly impossible to address all the brand safety and transparency issues since the industry is continually changing. However, ad tech providers should provide technical solutions to eliminate the most crucial of them.

Fees transparency across supply chain

As has been said, open information about fees is one of the pillars for building a transparent environment in the ad ecosystem.

To make this happen, advertisers need the technology to know how each dollar they spend for ads is shared across the supply chain. However, even having the tool in place still doesn’t solve the transparency issue. Unless each agency and supply partner won’t share their fees information, of course.

Ads.txt for authorizing publishers and resellers

Next step is adopting ads.txt, a solution for increasing transparency across ad serving process. To share personal experience, 90% of publishers within our ad network have implemented ads.txt on their sites. However, across the entire industry, there’s still a lot of work to do. Even after getting the opportunity to buy ad inventory only from authorized publishers and resellers, advertisers and most agencies don’t hurry up to do so.

This challenge is global. According to Digiday’s survey, just 23% of media buying manages in the USA leveraged authorized inventory in 2018. Even though 86% american publishers have already implemented ads.txt technology to filter out “bad traffic.

The main reason is higher price advertisers need to pay per ad impression while purchasing authorized inventory only. But on closer look, using authorized inventory actually decreases ad spend.

According to Pixalate, anti-fraud and traffic validation provider, ads.txt is one of the measures helping brands to decrease ad fraud. Here are statistics on that from Pixalate’s Q4 2018 report:

Eliminating ad spending on fraudulent traffic

In 2016 WFA predicted that ad fraud could be worth well in excess of $50bn by 2025. A lot of work ahead to fight it. Sure thing, industry is evolving, so alongside ads.txt’s impact on ad fraud, there are specific solutions to help marketers and agencies filter out various forms of ad fraud.

Specifically, it’s ads.cert, a solution that authenticates inventory. Simply put ads.cert ensures that inventory is real and unaltered. Also, it’s essential to use reliable software with an extensive toolkit for identifying and filtering out invalid traffic.

Clearing up supply “waters” from fraudulent traffic lets advertisers and agencies create effective anti-fraud programs, which results in saving their budgets and increasing ROI.

OpenRTB 3.0 for security and transparency

Much discussed OpenRTB 3.0 protocol is one more way to bring healthy growth into the whole digital ad programmatic ecosystem. It’s the next step forward greater transparency and security to digital ad buying.

The programmatic ecosystem has become much more sophisticated within recent years, alongside supply chain has expanded significantly. So has the mechanism of tracing and validating ad impressions. Where is the lack of clarity in media takes, there are attractive opportunities for error or fraud.

Following ads.txt that copes with domain fraud, OpenRTB 3.0 is the newest iteration created to boost clarity and safety.  According to IAB it will allow programmatic to adapt to modern supply chains and provide new techniques for reducing fraud vectors.” Yet, the main question here is old and same: technical implementation alone won’t bring advertising heaven on earth.

Advertisers can bring tectonic shifts to the industry.

Similarly to the case of P&G’s “big cleaning,” it’s essential that brands have to become active advertising process participants. It’s advertisers who need to understand their role in their brand safety. Likewise, they should challenge their ad partners and get into details for fees and prices.

Brands’ responsibility is enormous, but surely they are not the only ones who are accountable. Ad agencies, suppliers, ad networks, and tech companies need to contribute to impartiality, honesty, and integrity. And most importantly, they all – or rather we all – have to consolidate to build a trustful and professional culture in the ad industry.


About the author
Alexander Feshchenko
Head of Supply Partnerships at Admixer Technologies