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Back in 2017, we published a piece on our blog about a growing scandal in online advertising. Has programmatic become problematic? went on to be one of our most read and shared posts and looked at the risks of buying RTB inventory on the open market and not fully understanding the content your ads were appearing next to.

Ads for some of the world’s biggest brands were found alongside highly questionable content on sites like YouTube. Advertisers scrambled to pull their campaigns, shifting budgets to more brand safe channels.

A familiar pattern

Fast-forward to 2019 and a new Wired investigation has revealed that the site’s problems haven’t gone away. Their research found brand’s pre-roll video ads appearing next to content popular with and commented on by pedophiles. Again, when alerted, advertisers including food giant Nestlé and Fortnite creator Epic Games pulled campaigns.

Why is it so hard to police?

The problem adversely affects any site containing UG (user generated) content. Only a couple of months ago popular micro blogging site Tumblr was pulled from Apple’s app store because filters had failed to spot illegal images that had been uploaded.

Just this week, far right activist ‘Tommy Robinson’ had his Facebook and Instagram accounts deleted for spreading hate speech. In short, despite technology improving all the time, it’s hard to guarantee brand safety on any UG site that is retroactively policed.

Knowing where your ads are 

One way of migrating the risks of your content appearing in places you’d rather it didn’t is moving towards trusted publishers via a programmatic direct or a PMP deal. Indeed, Econsultancy reports that that both media agencies and publishers are looking to reduce their reliance on open exchanges this year. From a publisher perspective, it reduces the risk of poor quality or fraudulent ads appearing on their site and for advertisers, increases brand safety.

The benefits of premium inventory

Aside from brand safety, new research from Newsworks / AOP shows that ads seen in a premium context are viewed for 17% longer and with 29% higher levels of engagement than ads on social sites such as Facebook and YouTube.

Author Adam Rock

More posts by Adam Rock

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