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A guide to improving inventory quality

A guide to improving inventory quality Mona Jalali

Despite the fact that quality ad placements have a better ROI for advertisers and generate higher CPMs for publishers, the online ad industry is failing across the board at offering consistently high-quality inventory. This is a pervasive problem in the business, affecting publishers, advertisers, agencies, and tech providers alike. The issue plaguing the sector is that quality ad placements are getting lost in the weeds with low quality ones, creating a diluted landscape in which buyers are confused about what they are going to get.

There is a widely accepted notion among media buyers that if you buy ads, only about half of them actually get shown to real human beings. With this in mind, ad buyers look for lower pricing since, conceivably, they have to pay for twice as many ads to hit their goals. This diluted approach would be completely unnecessary if advertisers were simply able to buy consistently high-quality inventory in the first place.

However, quality is within reach; it just takes some commitment and optimization. We've put together a list of helpful steps for publishers and digital ad technology providers to follow to improve the quality of ad inventory across the ecosystem.

Proactively fight fraud

Ad providers and publishers should maintain internal and external anti-fraud services to ensure the quality of their inventory. Publishers should be wary of how they are developing traffic in order to fight fraud. Ad tech providers should be vetting and using several scanning technologies. These firms should be doing the scanning before passing on traffic to demand partners in order to further weed out fraud.

All parties in the chain should comply with industry standards and transact upon these defined entities so that everyone is on the same page. Don't wait for a potential problem. Be proactive and talk about issues before it is too late. These elements are essential so that clients are only getting quality media and actual impressions.

Dedicate people, not just money

Media companies should develop strong inventory quality departments. This process can help weed out the low quality units and allows publishers to earn higher CPMs since the inventory is not diluted. Advertisers will pay higher CPMs if they get better results, and it does away with the myth/idea that a major percentage of their buy won't have impact. This strategy allows publishers who produce high value content to get paid for that content and keep producing and expanding that content. If technology companies across the industry adopt this approach, there is a real opportunity to improve the user experience and the overall perception of online advertising, raising the perception across the ecosystem.

Stay ahead of the curve

While media companies should follow industry standards and best practices, they should also take it a step further by lending a human eye that is able to identify inventory patterns and putting an end to negative trends before they take off. You may see trends emerging that aren't exactly illegal, but they are certainly not good. Template sites are a prime example of this. These sites clearly pull content directly from somewhere else as a means to generate ad revenue. Ad exchanges do not want this inventory in their ecosystems and advertisers certainly don't want their ads to run on these kinds of sites. While technically, this isn't against the rules yet, it is a bad trend that could potentially be stopped before it starts.

Digital ad technology providers have an opportunity to proactively improve the entire landscape, and this means always aiming for better standards and focusing on providing high impact inventory. Industry players should focus on a better end-user experience for advertisers that delivers better results by adopting industry best practices -- embrace scanning technologies, perform daily scans, and improve viewability in order to increase the overall efficacy of advertising. Ad tech firms have the opportunity keep their own inventory clean, as well as to identify bad actors and bad trends emerging and flag them for industry work groups.

Mona Jalali serves as the Vice President, Inventory Quality at engage:BDR. In her role, she manages the Publisher Development team, overseeing all associated functions.

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