Ad Verification: An Ounce of Prevention Better Than a Pound of Cure

Article provided by Kent Wakeford, President and Co-founder of AdSafe Media; Matthew Scott, Director of Marketing of AdSafe Media

In 1736 Ben Franklin, championing the need for volunteer fire brigades after a series of disastrous fires, coined the phrase “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

To a striking degree, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is also a theme that has been playing out in the emerging field of Ad Verification over the past 24 months. At first resisted and dismissed (like Franklin’s fire brigades) as unnecessary, ad-verification has emerged in the last year as an essential component of most brand marketer’s digital advertising strategy. Increasingly brands and their agencies are saying that they will not run campaigns in environments that lack 3rd party ad verification.

Yet while many marketers and agencies see ad verification as a means for more safely and efficiently buying digital inventory, many networks, exchanges and publishers ask whether ad verification is good for business. Questions continue over the accuracy, integration and impact to publishers.

Further complicating the discussion is the fast emerging distinction between “ad-verification” and “brand protection”. Traditional ad-verification employs a post-campaign auditing methodology which enables campaign reconciliation for such issues as geographic flighting, above / below fold placements and content adjacency issues. Some have called this approach “post mortem” in nature. In reality, it’s more akin to an insurance adjuster coming out to look at the damage after an accident has happened and the parties involved have already been injured. In reality, it would be preferable for all concerned if the accident had not happened in the first place. And to make matters worse, these post campaign reports are now often used punitively to punish agencies, networks and publishers alike. Recently, some agencies and brands have reportedly begun using ad verification methodology to enforce “zero tolerance” policies for infractions of insertion order policies with networks and publishers, thereby threatening financial penalties or loss of business. This adversarial approach to ad verification not only creates a hostile working relationship among buyers and sellers of media, but it also hampers efficiency by focusing past problems rather than providing a solution.

By contrast, “brand protection” platforms offer a preventative approach which validates ad call prior to serving. This ensures that only insertion order compliant impressions are served, allowing non-compliant impressions to be returned to the originating sales channel for reselling to other advertisers. This approach clearly embraces Ben Franklin’s thought that prudent prevention is almost always preferable to a painful, disruptive cure.

While this preventative approach to ad monitoring eliminates the post campaign punitive nature of verification, it is not without its challenges. In order for such a platform to be effective, it must be supported by an enterprise-level infrastructure that ensures that each ad-call is validated accurately and that the ad-serving process is unaffected. When executed properly, preventative brand protection can provide powerful strategic and economic benefits to all members of the ecosystem, guaranteeing more dollars, more growth and more innovation across the industry.

The benefits that preventative brand protection provide to marketers and agencies have been widely discussed:  protection from inappropriate adjacent content, elimination of media outside of geo-targets, increased efficiency in media spend, total compliance with all insertion order guidelines and the ability to confidently use emerging audience targeting and buying platforms.

Less appreciated, however, are the very tangible economic benefits that preventative brand protection can provide to the other constituents in the industry such as Publishers, Ad-Networks and Exchanges.  Below are three key benefits brand protection solutions provide to these members of the industry:

1.    Effective Brand Protection Will Lead To Increased Digital Spending

All members of the digital advertising industry are acutely aware of the meager levels of brand advertising spend that digital currently garners. Brand marketers are not shifting their spending from other old media channels to digital in a way that comports with the enormous consumer engagement with digital media. And according to a recent e-marketing study, 67% of brand marketers say that fears of inappropriate adjacencies is the number one reason that they are not shifting more dollars online. Preventative brand protection platforms eliminate these concerns and provide marketers with the confidence to invest more significantly in digital. It is our belief that marketers who are the stewards for multi-billion dollar brands will not begin to truly spend in the digital medium until they feel that they have the same levels of control security that they have enjoyed for more than 75 years in every other major medium—TV, radio, magazines, etc. This increase in spending will be enjoyed across the levels of the digital value chain from agencies, to networks, to publishers. A recent study from the Winterberry Group sponsored by AdSafe Media estimates that as much of $2 billion in annual digital spending is sitting on the sidelines until marketers feel that the problem of preventing their ads from routinely appearing in brand damaging environments has been solved. Only through the widespread adoption of ad verification will these levels of spending increase and will the rewards be enjoyed across the industry.

2. Effective 3rd Party Brand Protection Will Allow Blind Networks To Prosper

Historically blind network buying has been a dominant sales channel for display inventory but recent concerns over ad placement and non-transparency have caused many marketers to abandon this channel. Brand protection platforms enable marketers to continue to utilize blind network buying by acting as a proxy for transparency.

3. Brand Protection Will Reward Providers of Quality Inventory With Higher CPMS

All digital publishers are aware of the depression of CMPs across the digital channel. Brand protection platforms enable marketers to differentiate between desired high quality impressions and low quality, remnant inventory. By giving marketers a means to select the higher quality impressions they desire, publishers with quality inventory are able to command CPM premium over publishers with lesser quality impressions. This translates into a pay for quality model for publishers, thereby increasing CPMs for most publishers.

Analysts are increasingly in agreement that ad verification will be an important part of the digital advertising ecosystem going forward, just as credit rating agencies are integral to the buying and selling of financial instruments. Exactly how the ad verification business will develop, and how it will innovate to provide value to brands, agencies, clients as well as all sources of inventory supply will be one of the interesting dynamics to watch.  Speaking for AdSafe, our solutions in this area must provide value to every member of the ecosystem —advertiser, agency, publisher and network. As Ben Franklin said regarding another matter “We must all hang together or assuredly we shall hang apart.”

Read the Q & A with AdSafe President and Co-Founder, Kent Wakeford.

Kent Wakeford, AdSafe MediaKent Wakeford is the President and Co-founder of the AdSafe Media, the industry leader in online brand protection. Kent has over 12 year’s leadership experience in digital and social media. Most recently Kent served as a senior executive at Clearspring Technologies helping to grow the company to the largest social content sharing platform. Prior, Kent spent over five years at AOL as a Vice President facilitating relationships with more than 250 brand marketers across AOL web properties as well as integrated marketing partnerships across Time Inc., Turner, and Warner Bros. with revenue in excess of $1.25 Billion. Kent represented AOL on the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) task force to publish the AAAA’s industry standard terms and conditions, and currently participates in the IAB Networks & Exchanges Committee. Kent began his career as an attorney at O’Melveny & Myers representing record labels, media and entertainment companies.