"Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by Kevin Arrix, chief revenue officer at Verve.
While the online brand-safety problem is the new normal – at least for now – it is up to brands to take the lead in winning back control. But it’s also the responsibility of other players in the advertising and marketing industries to work on the problem with them.
Certain parts of our ecosystem make it harder to lock down the situation, and a lot of this difficulty comes down to the mechanisms in the middle that sit between brands and business partners.
The technology that is supposed to help solve for volume and drive margins is also the technology that’s helping land legitimate brands in hot water online. It’s what unwittingly places their creative on sites that carry negative ads or content.
When it comes to the advertising ecosystem, there are two main categories to consider in this scenario: ad tech and mar tech.
Ad tech companies purchase and place ads at massive volume for clients and partner with third parties, such as agencies, to drive results. They focus on exchange, programmatic and automation. This is prospecting, if we’re honest, and what we’re seeing, in terms of this drive for scale and margins, is that brands lose out on curation and the door is opened for fraud. Advertisers end up in a programmatic space where they might not like their neighbors.
Marketing technology leverages control and selectivity, with first-party data driving both. The emphasis in mar tech tends to focus on selective direct consumer relationships. Mar tech companies also create and provide software solutions, and they serve marketers with data and campaign-management tools. The result is personalized communications that reach identified groups of known partners and consumers.
In short, mar tech is about people and consumers, owned media context and select paid-media partners, while ad tech is about massive numbers and building up brands via scale. It’s time to ask some serious questions about how we lock down the brand safety results that come with ad tech.
Beyond Scale: Growing Brands Without The ‘Strip Mine’ Effect
Think about what happens when we strip mine for minerals. Peeling away tons of soil and rock, we might get a lot of output quickly but we also damage the land and water. It’s a short-term strategy that results in long-term loss. In comparison, when we work in a more careful way via green mining, we get long-term value without causing the same kind of harm. The key question becomes, what price are we willing to pay for the value we want and what kind of collateral damage will we tolerate?
We can think about ad tech and mar tech along these lines. Let’s not take away technology or retreat to outmoded ways of doing things. But let’s not go full strip mine, either. If driving volume and pushing for margins creates disasters in the form of brand safety fallout, then we need to reorient and shift our focus on middle-system options and invest in one-to-one relationships.
Unilever has led the charge, in this respect. It wants ads that are 100% viewable and to know that its ads reach a certain demographic. When it puts those requirements in the marketplace, it chooses to limit the kinds and number of partners that work with it. Kellogg’s is also taking a stand, as have Allstate and Warby Parker, among others.
The bottom line is that our industry should not monetize technology and solutions that allow others to do harm. Our industry should monetize platforms and technology that allow advertisers and publishers to take back control of brand safety and fight for 100% viewability. It shouldn’t take additional incidents to get us moving in the right direction. The time has come to make an industrywide decision to choose a better way of doing business and to act now for positive change.