Programmatic media has quickly become one of the fastest growing segments in the marketing and advertising industry, reaching $15.43 billion in 2015, up 49.5% over 2014’s spending levels. While programmatic platforms offer a host of benefits in efficiency and targeting, this brave new world welcomes poor media quality, ad fraud, and jeopardizes brand safety.
Programmatic refers to a the range of technologies that automate the buying, placement, and optimization of advertisements based on impressions of a qualified viewer. With a high propensity for accurate targeting, it’s no surprise that more than 80 percent of agencies and brands already purchase display ads programmatically with an even greater volume of publishers pursuing programmatic media channels.
However, before diving into programmatic platforms, it is important to understand the risks associated with programmatic trading. Marketers should be concerned because 56% of web traffic comes from bots, with bad bots (impersonators or spammers) making up 29% of this figure. The Internet Advertising Bureau predicted that ad fraud can cost brands as much as $6.5 billion, so brands should be fluent in the different types of fraud and policing techniques to protect their investment. Automation has fostered an environment that welcomes bad actors who push fraudulent inventory onto programmatic media networks. Black marketers can monetize on the lack of human interaction by bidding on unfamiliar websites instead of trusted sites. Furthermore, because there is an influx of ad inventory in the marketplace, the ability to properly monitor quality is mitigated, creating opportunity for black marketers to once again leverage the gap in security.
According to a 2015 estimate by eMarketer, URL masking has become one of the most common practices of fraudulent activity. As a result, buyers and sellers have begun to create private marketplaces to conduct business. Private marketplaces can achieve higher view-ability rates, but direct publisher transactions contradict the idea of programmatic media trading, and these media channels are still vulnerable to brand risk and fraud. In order to find a balance between programmatic trading and media quality, marketers must work with impression level data to warrant quality bids.
In reality, there isn’t a single fix that counteracts the inherent risks to brand safety, but there are some best practices to consider. At Katana, we recognize the value of analyzing media quality data — information about a webpage that records relevant information such as how many times an ad was viewed and for how long. This information can then help buyers predict future view-ability, find hospitable ad environments and avoid targeting inappropriate content. Additionally, brands can seek the services of 3rd party technology platforms, such as Katana, to combat fraud and secure brand placements. The quality risks of programmatic media buying are real, but consulting with technology leaders, assessing media quality data and analyzing audience targeting data can create a more protected ecosystem.