Do You Know Where Your Ad Is?


milkcarton_smallADOTAS – I had an epiphany the other night. For many brand advertisers, display advertising is a lot like giving your teenager the car keys for the first time. They tell you exactly where they’re going, who they’re going to be with, what kind of activities and/or environments are expected, how much money they need and what time they’ll be home.

But once they leave the driveway, do you really know? You trust that they know what they’re doing and that they’ll stick to the plan, but face it — you won’t get a wink of sleep until the car is back safe in the driveway. You’ll get the full recap in the morning and decide whether they’ve earned your trust for next time or if they’re grounded for a month.

For brand advertisers, the anxieties are the same: Did my ad appear where or when it was supposed to? Did the right audience see it? Did it appear adjacent to questionable or benign content? Was all of the traffic and impressions legitimate? How much ad spend was lost to fraud? Can I trust my partners? With all that drama, it’s no wonder that brand advertisers have not jumped into display advertising with both feet.

You work with your agency to develop an ad strategy that will achieve your goals. You strategically map out your media buy, systematically researching and targeting the sites that will bring you the most optimal traffic and/or the most desirable audience.

You purchase intent and retargeting data to increase the likelihood of hitting the target. And then you entrust your plan to ad networks, exchanges and direct publishers, hoping that they will deliver the performance metrics and conversions as promised for the negotiated price.

Everything is figured out to a “T.” You pull the trigger and then… what, relax? I don’t think so. The car has left the driveway.

But there’s hope on the horizon. What brand advertisers need to know is that display advertising in 2010 can be tracked and monitored transparently — fear and guesswork no longer rule the day. The industry has heard your concerns, and responded in the past 12 months with a spate of solutions that prevent ads from entering the wrong neighborhood. If only parents had this level of control.

For instance, we now have the display ad equivalent of LoJack in the car so we can easily track exactly where and when your ad ran, whether it followed the prescribed media plan, whether it was hijacked by fraudsters — and if so, we can help you get your money back.

We have sensors in the car so we can see right down to the very impression how your ad performed, whether it met your demographic, geographic or other targeting requirements. They also track each trip to see which road gave you the most mileage and bang for the buck.

We have cameras (in the form of user engagement data) so you can see who got into the car, what they did in the car, whether they liked the vehicle, and what they would do to make the car perform better. We also throw in a transparent heads-up display so that all of your campaign variables are visible and at your finger tips.

But the one technology that I’m the most excited about is one that the industry didn’t have until this year — accident avoidance (aka, ad blocking). Previously, the industry had no effective way of knowing ahead of time whether an ad was going to be served next to questionable content.

There’s only so much an agency or media buyer can do to police the inventory on all the networks and exchanges. They rely on technology to help them make decisions, but unfortunately the data and “lessons learned” typically come after a campaign has run.

Ad blocking, on the other hand, is like collision radar and an intelligent auto-pilot rolled into one. The technology scans and analyzes page content in real-time, cross-references it against known malignant content, maps it against client-established content adjacency rules and prevents the ad from rendering if any red flags appear. This not only saves the advertiser money and improves campaign performance; it protects the brand from dings, blemishes and erosion.

The technology is evolving and improving to meet the constantly changing landscape. The more the technology is used, the smarter and faster it will become.

So the next time you’re considering advertising online, make sure to ask your agency or media buyer if their ad vehicle comes equipped with a full suite of verification, optimization and brand safety features. Otherwise your campaign could be in for a joy ride….


  1. Great post! We agree that advertisers ought to employ brand protection in their online campaigns so that brands will not be damaged by appearing alongside unwanted or salacious content. The risk of damaging a brand’s reputation and message is too great not to. These days, golf advertisers appearing alongside content about Tiger Wood’s latest mistress, and travel ads next to content about the devastation in Haiti are a couple of the downfalls of relying on targeting technologies that don’t employ brand protection. Brands should be assured that ads are placed where they belong, and even more so, not where they don’t belong. Emerging technologies, like Peer39’s recently released SematicProtect, help brands tame the wild world of online advertising and safely and effectively hit their targets.


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