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The recent articles by the New York Times and USA Today are inherently valuable for digital marketing. They cite big advertisers dropping out of video buys based on the ads being served on questionable content. This issue brings to light an important issue in digital ad buying and trafficking: programmatic buying as a way of automation efficiencies and how to protect your brand from appearing on an offensive site.

 An article from the Wall Street Journal on the perils of digital ad buying. An article from the Wall Street Journal on the perils of digital ad buying.

The Issue

First, let’s talk about the rise of programmatic ad buying as a way for advertisers to reach more people with less effort. This automated process allows an advertiser to broadcast their ads through large networks through a serving platform (such as Google or YouTube). This type of advertising is ideal for large-scale content with broad audience as it decreases the time needed to contact each market (or website) separately to traffic ads. It’s akin to asking NBC to play your TV commercial only during shows that have a mostly female audience. The advertiser assumes their TV commercial won’t come on during Saturday morning cartoons.

The difference here is that Google and YouTube don’t control the content of their markets. Anyone can have a blog or a YouTube channel, which is a very different situation than a television network being in charge of the shows it airs. The main difference is that Google and YouTube tell advertisers this when they agree to publish content. (Go ahead and read those “Terms and Conditions” during the account set up – to quote Google AdWords, “… [Website] content is the sole responsibility of the entity that makes it available. … Please don’t assume that we [review content]”)

The large advertisers pulling out of the Google/YouTube ad serving platforms (think AT&T and Johnson & Johnson) are doing so as a way to force the ad servers to review the content in which they serve ads. If you, like many companies, don’t have the ability to pull back from these large ad servers, here are three ways in which you can help decrease the likelihood of your ad being served within offensive content:

#1 – Content Filters

Setting up placement exclusions and negative keywords will ensure your ads aren’t being served within certain markets. Even if you are selling dog food, you’ll want to have a common list of negative keywords. (There are a lot of resources you can find online for industry-specific lists. Here’s one from an SEO speaker.)

#2 – Conversion Optimization

Setting up ad campaigns that are automatically optimized by conversion rates instead of click-through rates is also a good way to eliminate bad placements. This means the ad server will automatically optimize your ad placements to only show them where impressions turn into clicks, clicks turn into website visits and website visits turn into website activities. Overall, this means your ads will be increasingly served to only those people with a vested interest in your message.

In order to do this, you must have robust website tagging and the ability to feed these website tags into your ad server, whether it’s through floodlight tags or account integration (such as Google AdWords and Google Analytics).

(If you’d like to learn more about tagging your website, sit tight! We will be posting content about Google Analytics website tagging soon.)

#3 – Manual Monitoring

If your ad serving platform doesn’t automatically connect to your website tagging, long-tail optimization will need to happen manually. This means a series of digital reporting and analytics must be pulled, connected and interpreted to determine two things; which content is generating the most engagements, and from which placements. Then the best placements must get passed back to ad traffickers to effectively optimize.

Conversely, you could integrate a robust analytics platforms to automatically collect, combine and report long-tail optimization metrics, which will save both time and effort internally.

Final Thoughts

Programmatic ad buying has changed the game in terms of large-scale digital advertising. At the current time there aren’t rules built into the ad platforms to flag potentially offensive and/or questionable content, so in order for advertisers to protect their brand, certain actions can be made to lessen the potential. These actions include content filters, conversion optimization and manual monitoring.

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