Written by Zoe Poxon

The ad tech industry has been slammed with confusion and scepticism since recent scandals over fake ads. No advertiser out there wants their ads to unwittingly appear on controversial sites that could damage brand identity and credibility. But, unfortunately, they sometimes do.

So, how can we combat the ‘fake ad’ issue whilst continuing to reap all the benefits from digital advertising?

The impact of fake ads on online advertising

Remember that time the National Environment Agency ad on reducing food waste accidentally appeared on a site carrying pro-terrorism content? A scare like that would make any advertiser wary of where their content is being shown. Likewise, household brand ads have also appeared unintentionally on other rabble-rousing sites containing dubious content.

The worst part is that brands could have absolutely no idea that their ads are being shown on these types of sites. With ad placement at such high speed and large scale, it can be difficult to know exactly where your ads are showing.

What causes fake ads?

We could blame these mistakes on programmatic advertising. There’s a lot of confusion around what ‘programmatic ad buying’ is. Put simply, it is using computers to buy digital advertising inventory automatically, with the computer using data to decide when to buy and how much to pay. This promises to take the heavy lifting away from brands, offering them the opportunity to show their ads on the right websites at the right time. The problem is, however, that sometimes the computer is tricked into displaying brand advertisements on non-brand-safe-inventory (as a result of fake websites, websites with offensive content, or websites with bots), and this causes fake ads.

The issue then becomes a lack of transparency of where brand ads are actually appearing, coupled with a lack of awareness of how to re-gain this visibility and control.  It’s now more important than ever for brands to keep track of their ad placements when using programmatic to minimise risk and compromise.

Advertising precautions and the need for human touch

Although advertisers may be even more cautious than before when using programmatic ads, that should really be the case with any marketing activity. The promise of programmatic is automation, however there is still a need for the human touch to ensure safe operation. Thankfully, there are many ways for brands to monitor their programmatic campaigns to ensure that ads are appearing on the right websites:

  • Online software allows brands to detect whether a potential publisher is real and suitable for a particular campaign
  • Tracking and measurement is crucial; essentially ‘auditing’ the performance of ads can highlight viewing standards and placement suitability
  • Media management platforms help filter out sites that are fake and/or have offensive content or bot clicks, and generate a whitelist and blacklist of suitable/unsuitable publishers
  • Programmatic marketplaces (PMPs) allow brands to purchase ads in a brand-safe environment in line with specified targeting parameters

All of these tips can help reduce risk.

The role of digital marketing agencies

Supplementary to the precautions above, implementing and managing a programmatic campaign is no small task, and often requires programmatic experts to get things up and running and for ongoing management – and this is where digital agencies can help. Here at Aspectus this can include:

  • A dedicated performance management team that will regularly track a range of performance metrics, which could highlight any ad issues/placements
  • Only running ads that have purpose, by working from a clear strategy that adds value to the client’s business, in line with wider company goals
  • Knowledge and expertise in campaign management and optimisation from design to delivery

Don’t write off digital ads completely

Whilst advertisers will always need to take appropriate precautions, let’s not forget the promise of digital ads. Not only can you run highly targeted campaigns that speak to the right audience, but you can also gain an extremely precise measurement of campaign success. Shying away from powerful marketing tactics like this is not the answer – instead we need to tackle the threat and continue to benefit from them.

Find out more about Aspectus’ digital marketing services, or get in touch to understand how we can support your digital advertising campaigns.

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