March 6-9, 2011  |  Lost Pines, Texas
Published: March 16, 2011
How to avoid a brand's worst nightmare

With more than 50 percent of campaigns using an ad verification provider, here's why marketers who aren't making brand protection their top priority need to sit up and take notice.

The complex ecosystem of the internet presents many challenges when it comes to protecting brand integrity and making sure that ads don't end up being compromised, undervalued or, worse, positioned alongside distasteful content.

"It's a very noisy environment," Paul Audino, vice president of national sales for DoubleVerify, told iMedia Brand Summit attendees, adding that up to 31 percent of ad impressions are non-compliant within the average online campaign, a chilling fact that keeps many brand marketers awake at night.

In a presentation titled "Verification to the rescue!" Audino and co-presenter Mitchell Weinstein, vice president and director of ad operations for UM, made a strong case for how a partnership with an ad verification system can help brands stay on the safe side of the web and ensure that no embarrassing or costly mishaps occur.

The core aim of ad verification services like DoubleVerify is brand protection, fraud detection, and compliance. "That's how we define our business," Audino said.

A recent survey queried media buyers on whether they value scale or brand protection, and the majority said brand protection, with the shared sentiment that scale is good but protection is key.

There are many things that can go wrong when a brand enters the sometimes uncertain and choppy waters of the web. Among the worst, of course, is getting inadvertently mixed up with some of the seedier elements online, like pornography.

But an ad verification system can prevent that by blocking and reporting on high severity sites to keep close tabs on safe placement, monitor ad impressions, and make sure a brand's ROI isn't compromised by non-compliance. Other risks brands face are placement below the fold and losing valuable ad impressions they may never be aware are being wasted. There is also the risk of multiple ad incidents, which can resultin doubled, and somtimes competing, ads appearing. But an ad verification system can be swift in spotting the problem and can more easily approach the publisher to solve the issue before it results in costly or long-term damage to the brand's image.

DoubleVerify currently works with dozens of fortune 500 companies to make sure their brands are safe, and across the digital industry, upwards of 50 percent of campaigns are now run through a verification provider -- a number that will only increase as awareness becomes widespread and brand marketers realize how crucial protection is.

There are no shortage of challenges out there, Audino stressed. Financial services companies have to be extremely cautious about where their ads appear. Travel brands can't have their ads associated with disaster. CPG brands have to be sure they aren't advertising to minors. There is also the matter of international traffic, Audino added. When most ad buys are U.S.-based only, an ad verification system helps monitor impressions showing up outside the U.S.

The result, Audino said, is that non-compliance decreases and quality, performance, and conversions go up because these ads are now adjacent to appropriate content.

Audino and Mitchell concluded their presentation with the following key takeaways for 2011 beyond:

  • Be transparent with media partners
  • Communicate how verification will be used prior to campaign launch
  • Agree on vendor methodology, include necessary terms in MSAs or IOs
  • Understand that the technology is evolving and there will always be issues and discrepancies
  • After the campaign launches, share all data with the publishers. This is a partnership. Don't wait until the end of campaign to share
  • Monitor reports daily
  • Ad verification will become a standard in the industry
  • Non-compliance and make-good language will be built into the IOs

Gretchen Hyman is editor-in-chief of iMedia Connection.