Just when we think we’re discovered the holy grail of digital advertising, the issue of fraud comes in and reminds us all that with great opportunity comes great risk. Because while the future of digital advertising is programmatic, it also has to provide safe and accurate solutions for advertisers and brands. Issues like brand safety, viewability, transparency and accurate reporting all have to be addressed to really make these platforms the tools of a rosy ad future.
The first issue is brand safety. Brands work tirelessly and spend millions of dollars creating an image and a message that will resonate with their target audience. Anything that gets in the way of this results in unhappy brands. An integral part of programmatic is making sure that brands only appear in proximity to content that compliments their image. There needs to be transparency to assure this. While iFrames do provide some sort of transparency, they are both a blessing and a curse. They protect the content inside them, yet they do not allow any transparency outside. Ads that appear under several layers of iFrame can never be truly safe. Detecting iFrame depth and acting programmatically on this data is crucial to brand safety.
Viewability was a hot issue even before a May 2014 New York Times piece claimed that up to 57% of all ads were unviewable.. Developing technology that will minimize unviewable impressions should be the industry’s highest priority. Advanced technology is currently being developed to provide several different options to ensure viewable impressions. Smart players that only play when they are visible, and reporting that provides real-time feedback on website functionality and content are just two of these options.
Unviewable impressions can also be generated by non-human traffic, botnets and traffic exchanges being the main culprits. They allow impressions to be “stolen” from innocent computers while you sleep, or they set up a kind of black market P2P system where fraudulent impressions are generated in a network of willing conspirators. Detecting these types of impressions and blocking ads from reaching their target is another way we can protect advertisers. It also proves the digital platforms are safe and can deliver advertising to the targeted consumer in a safe environment, generating real ROI.
There is no reason that we cannot provide the advertising community the most efficient platform available to bring their messages to potential customers through programmatic technology. Viewable ads, targeted to engaged consumers, should be the basis of this industry and its future. At DoubleVerify we were able to make the display industry safer and more responsible through the application of advanced technology. Now we are aiming to do the same with video and the results are excellent. Programmatic may complicate matters from a fraud standpoint, but it also enormously enhances the industry. And because good always prevails over evil, it’s our jobs to combat fraud and move forward as a superior, more secure industry through programmatic technology.