High Volume with Safety & Profit Vs Whitelisting


Dan Larden, Global Strategic Partnerships Director, Infectious Media (pictured below), an international programmatic agency, shares his insights on Whiltelisting.

With all the recent talk around ad fraud and viewability, it’s no surprise that whitelisting has started to enter into many conversations around brand safety. While it seems smart to reduce the risk of misplacement by limiting ad spend to a small number of premium publishers, it’s actually more likely to harm a digital advertiser’s bottom line.

Instead of bringing control over their programmatic ad spend, these extreme whitelisted domains are showing poor ROI for campaigns. Advertisers aren’t bringing in enough new users and they’re hitting the frequency cap on the users they’ve seen before.

Getting It Right

But advertisers can maintain confidence in their ad buy while still maintaining high audience volumes. Their priority must be to work with partners who are transparent about every part of their processes.

Right from the get-go, advertisers need to make sure their partners are using a variety of tools and methods to create a defensive wall against ad fraud. For example, pre-bid filters, rather than post-bid, can be used as the first layer to prevent Supply-Side Platforms (SSPs) and exchanges from sending risky impressions to your DSP. And although the service may need to come from a third party, monitoring for non-human/bot traffic builds an additional layer of protection.

These layers are the checks and balances in your brand safety strategy, and the more the merrier. For example, you might only buy from domains that provide full transparency about their audience and inventory. Having this information on hand protects brands from the risk of unsafe environments, but of course a URL won’t always provide the full picture. Page crawlers can scan each page and URL to determine whether there’s unsafe content ahead based on its context. But if any page bypasses the filters, a firewall blanks over any ads to stop them being seen by an audience before the ad’s delivered.

The way you define viewability metrics can also make a difference to a campaign. Some advertisers are demanding 100% campaign viewability, but this simply isn’t feasible without causing huge damage to performance. But you can still maximize viewability without jeopardizing campaigns if you factor it into the way you measure CPMs.

One way of doing this is only counting ad slots that match up to your defined acceptable level. The IAB defines an acceptable level as 50% of pixels on screen for at least one second, but the standard required will vary for each brand. Another option is to tie viewability to user action and measure the ads that produced conversions. By ignoring results from unviewed impressions, you can get a more realistic snapshot of your campaign’s true value, focusing instead on incrementality to understand exactly how your audience reacted to a specific creative.

Beyond Viewabililty

Beyond viewability metrics, the industry needs to take a look at how measurement is defined overall. Post-impression measurement puts volume over value with no real detriment to buying cheap and low value inventory to boost conversions. But if the focus is changed to incremental measurement, media buyers are incentivized to purchase the best quality inventory, as they know which viewable impressions generate conversions, and can optimize their campaigns to purchase more. Incrementality minimizes ad fraud often associated with low-quality pages, creating better results for brands.

Once you can trust your partners to be transparent throughout the process, overly restrictive, named publisher whitelisting shouldn’t even be a consideration of your programmatic ad strategy.  With close collaboration, advertisers and partners can effectively manage the challenges and reap the full rewards of a programmatic media campaign.


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