Digital Advertising: Prime real estate. Controversial context.

Placement is key. But without due diligence, your brand could get caught in the wrong conversation.

The digital industry was shaken up recently when major advertisers found that their messages on YouTube could be displayed next to highly inappropriate content. Some of this content was even deemed to be racist, resulting in a boycott, which included PepsiCo, Wal-Mart, Starbucks, AT&T, Verizon, Johnson & Johnson, and Volkswagen.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time digital advertising has been under a microscope. Vulnerabilities with automated systems have plagued the industry for years, but this most recent outcry has resulted in a major shift in digital media dollars. 

The New York Times reported that JPMorgan Chase took a close examination of its digital buy and removed advertising from 350,000 websites, limiting its advertising to merely 5,000 websites. While it’s too soon to actualize true results, the brand has stated that it has seen no significant decrease in KPIs.

The Times article went on to say, “…some advertisers are questioning the value of showing up on hundreds of thousands of unknown sites, and wondering whether millions of appearances actually translate into more sales.”

Of course, limiting a brand’s exposure on the web comes with its own set of risks.

A key advantage to programmatic advertising is the ability to find unexpected customers based on their individual behavior patterns. Being overly restrictive on the places where your ads are seen can restrict the added benefits and ability to grow your brand amongst new audiences.

Nonetheless, this is a necessary time for brands to re-evaluate the way they approach digital advertising. At Ramey, we always challenge the marketing team to clearly define the role of digital as part of the entire communications strategy. Establishing these expectations and performance indicators on the front-end help to define how advertising is purchased, monitored and adjusted.

In a recent article in Advertising Age, Lauren Fisher, principal analyst at eMarketer said, “It is important for everyone to remember that even when we’re using technology there needs to be some sort of human review and involvement to make sure the tech is working correctly and if it’s not, to pivot and adjust appropriately.”

Knowing your partners is another key component to creating brand-safe digital campaigns – whether Agencies or media vendors. Being able to count on their expertise, transparency and reliability is imperative. Ramey prides itself on partnering with digital industry leaders that implement controls to ensure brand safety for our clients.  These include:

  1. Proactive controls that eliminate publishers and inventory at the pre-bid level to ensure advertising is being delivered in a brand-safe environment
  2. Reactive controls with inventory teams that survey and blacklist websites that have increased traffic rankings yet do not align with content advertisers want to be paired with
  3. Collaborative controls with partners like the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) and other ad verification vendors to share best practices and ensure to stay fully up to speed on brand safety

Our key takeaway – without proper monitoring and adjusting, a brand can leave itself exposed to unacceptable risks in the digital space. By utilizing complex algorithms to reach audiences, closely monitored by human supervision, advertisers minimize those risks without losing the reach and power they so clearly need.

Erick Evans, Account Supervisor

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