3 Tips to Ensure Brand Safety for all Your Programmatic Media Buys

In 2017, marketers were told that they had to implement brand safety for all their digital and programmatic  display ad campaigns. The need for marketers to urgently address brand safety was spurred by the fact that “The Times” discovered that Youtube and Google were placing their ads next to content related to political violence, extremist religious propaganda and other offensive content that greatly misaligned with their brand’s messaging, and affected their brand safety. This prompted UK advertisers to quickly suspend their advertising on the site and countless U.S. advertisers quickly followed suit. Notably, the Havas Group, responsible for managing nearly $650 million (225€ million in the UK) in digital ad spend, decided to pull their ads from Google. This promoted advertisers to question how they can ensure that their digital display ads are running alongside publisher content that most closely aligns with their consumers’ values.

There are many precautions that advertisers can take to ensure their brands remain safe in the eyes of consumers. With digital ad spend expected to reach over $117 billion in 2018, we have outlined a few important tips that advertisers should use to ensure their programmatic buys are also brand safe.

1. Partner Up
Companies like Integral Ad Science, DoubleVerify and Comscore have developed formulas, algorithms and data-driven tools to prevent ads from ever appearing alongside undesirable content. Data-driven marketing companies already have developed the intelligence to ensure that an advertiser will buy ads that are brand safe. They are also continuously updating and improving this technology.

Global measurement and ad verification partners are constantly working to improve the user experience. They want to put the right content in front of the right person: someone interested in that brand, willing to purchase their offerings. They also want to ensure that brands have peace of mind with where their media budget is being used and that their content is being placed on the sites of reliable publishers. Programmatic works to generate qualified traffic so that the brand’s online presence is strengthened, values are maintained and reputations are not tarnished.

2. Invest in Private Marketplaces

In 2017, 74.5% of all domestic digital display ads ran via private marketplaces (PMP) and programmatic direct deals. By using this avenue for a media buy, advertisers know exactly who they are purchasing from and where their ad will be placed. This decision, although potentially more expensive, warrants ease of mind with ad placement. This marketplace also, just as with all programmatic buys, allows advertisers to reach their ideal customers.

3. Whitelisting
It is common to hear that marketers have blacklisted sites, a result of either their own experience was poor or it has a negative reputation. However, the number of “bad sites” is constantly rising and there is no way to constantly keep up todate. An alternative option is to whitelist sites. You can find sites that are safe to run ads on and compile a list of options that you can then use when preparing a campaign or a media buy. If this seems like an overwhelming task, there are exchanges that have an intense inventory approval process. These exchanges require sites to pass tests such as human approval or pre-approval of a new relationship with a site or app within existing relationships. If a site doesn’t pass the test, they are not able to sell their inventory on the exchange. This is a great step to take to ensure brand safety as you are confident in the sites you are choosing to place your ads.

Ensuring Brand Safety can Feel Overwhelming

Billions of digital display ad transactions occur everyday which means brand safety can become very overwhelming. There are many precautions that brands can take to ensure that their ads end up in an ideal location. However, what is most important to remember is to use common sense. If an deal seems too good to be true, it most likely is. Consumers will find your ad more appealing if it is displayed on the right site next to the right content. So, when choosing where to spend your programmatic media dollars, take the time to ensure you have done research on where your ad is is going to be placed and don’t forget to use the three tips above to get your head above water when it comes to keeping your brand safe.

How to Become a Better Programmatic Marketer

Programmatic ad buying has gone from being an advertising technology used only by the largest of businesses, to a key marketing tactic for any brand that wants to be seen and heard in today’s constantly expanding digital ecosystem. Despite its widespread prevalence, programmatic ad buying is an advertising practice that requires sophisticated training and knowledge to properly implement and get the most out of your ad dollars. If you want to plan and execute a programmatic ad campaign like a pro, you need to know what strategies to adopt, what trends and data to pay attention to and which metrics to follow to monitor performance?

Although programmatic ad buying campaigns can vary greatly in their tactics, with some aiming to amplify brand awareness, and others more focused on generating leads, a marketer that can develop a programmatic ad buying strategy that effectively reaches desired ROI while maintaining transparency is considered successful. Transparency refers to providing buyers with a clear view of the price of inventory purchased, the data leveraged to place their ads, and the environments in which those ads will ultimately end up, and being able to identify attribution.

How does programmatic advertising fit into an overall digital marketing strategy?

Whether you’re using digital media for direct acquisition or for brand awareness, if you’re still buying it traditionally, you’re letting go of opportunities to optimize your ad spend and maximize your total addressable market. In order to compete in today’s digital marketplace, integrating programmatic ad buying into your digital marketing strategy is a must.

In the broadest sense, programmatic is the automation of marketing activities, from the smallest programming of a post to implementing a highly layered real time omnichannel campaign. If you haven’t already dove into programmatic ad buying and are debating whether or not to get your toes wet, considering the following:

  • Would programmatic buying more efficient than how my brand is currently buying media?
  • Would programmatic buying be more transparent?
  • Would programmatic buying be more profitable?

How does the process of programmatic ad buying work?

The development of algorithms using data science driven technology that analyze the behavior of an individual user, is the driving force of programmatic ad buying, optimizing bidding in real time and reaching audiences composed of the users that are most likely to convert.

Businesses that bid for inventory through programmatic ad buying can compile an enormous amount of data that can become audience segments. The sooner you launch a campaign and the more time it has to gather this data, the sooner your programmatic ad buying platform’s data intelligence can strengthen your overall digital marketing strategy through more efficient targeting.

Learning about how programmatic ad buying can drive your digital marketing campaign is great, but it’s equally as important to know what’s underneath the hood. Purchasing programmatic ads involves the following systems:

1.) DSPs (Demand Side Platforms) facilitate the purchase of ad inventory and allow marketers to reach their target audience when integrated with a data management platform. In Today’s marketplace there’s a wide variety of DSPs available to brands looking to buy ads programmatically, and programmatic agencies such as Digilant who can manage your campaigns.

2.) DMPs (Data Management Platforms) compile and analyze massive quantities of cookie and mobile data that provide insights that help advertisers make better and more informed decisions. Generally the data sets with which DMPs work with are:

  • 1st party data: Data compiled directly from the advertiser; their website, social media platforms, email marketing and display campaigns, or their own CRM.
  • 3rd party data: Data compiled from external sources. The user data points generally consist of age, gender, social and professional interests, geographic location, and other interests or needs of the user inferred from their online behavior.

3.) For content publishers, SSPs (Sell Side Platforms) are essential in providing a source of revenue. This platform is where various types of online media manage their unsold ad inventory. Bidders using DSPs are provided with information on the value of the available inventory from the SSP with data on page visits, visitor demographics, number of pages viewed, and length of site visit.

Step-by-Step Process

It’s essential to know how to work with the data insights that you acquire through your DSP. Once you feel that you have a strong handle on the aforementioned elements involved in the programmatic ad buying process, you’ll want to launch your campaign on a programmatic buying platform.

Whether your campaign is managed or you opt for a platform with self-service, it’s crucial that you partner with a provider that has a great support team to help you through any challenges that you come across throughout your campaign’s operation.

As seen in the above infographic, the programmatic ad buying process can be divided into 5 steps:

  1. Picking: The starting point of any programmatic ad buying process, picking refers to the period during which brands define the inventory criteria that they’d like to set before moving forward with bidding. Regardless of the DSP that you opt to use, you’ll be asked for information surrounding your budget, target audience, and the KPIs you want to achieve.
  2. Matching: Now that the DSP system knows what type of inventory you’re looking for, it will search ad networks and buy audience data from various digital environments and match your ads with the sites and platforms that will best align with your KPIs.
  3. Triggering: Once a match is found, the ad is placed and waits for a trigger. There are various types of triggers, but all refer to an interaction with the ad creative,  whether it’s a click, a mouse-over, or simply a page view.
  4. Tracking: With the ad now visible and receiving engagement from users, data surrounding this engagement will be collected to provide advertisers with insights about how effectively the campaign is operating.
  5. Repeat: Programmatic ad buying is a cyclical process that repeats itself. Once you’ve launched your campaign and have had ample time to analyze its performance, the human aspect of programmatic must come into place. you will have to return to the starting point steadily. Being an automated process, the repetition becomes one more step, which the user assumes as natural and proper to the operation of this system of purchase.

Common Concerns of Marketers New to Programmatic Ad Buying

Programmatic ad buying was specifically designed to help marketers execute more scalable, efficient and precise digital campaigns, so why are some marketers hesitant to give it a shot?

There are several reasons why some brands don’t feel completely secure with implementing programmatic ad campaigns.

1. Ad Fraud

In today’s digital ecosystem, ad fraud is a huge concern for programmatic marketers. According to a Wall Street Journal report, it’s estimated that more than a third of online ad traffic is fraudulent, meaning a third of ads won’t be viewed by an actual user.

However, with advances in programmatic technology fraudulent traffic can now be detected by analyzing user behavior. The most common forms of fraud come from bots that generate irrelevant clicks and falsifying user characteristics, and ad fraud comes in many forms, including:

  • Selling of inventory automatically generated by bots or background mobile-app services
  • Serving ads on a site other than the one provided in a Real Time Bid – or RTB request
  • Delivering pre-roll video placements in display banner slots
  • Falsifying user characteristics like location and browser type
  • Hiding ads behind or inside other page elements so that they can’t be viewed hindering a user’s opportunity to engage by frequently refreshing the ad unit or page

Fortunately, technology exists that combats ad fraud, tracking suspicious traffic and retargeting ads to user traffic with real potential customers that are most prone to convert.

2. Viewability

As previously mentioned, a fraudulent ad will never be viewed by a real user, but beyond being seen by a human, what constitutes a viewable ad? The Media Rating Council deems a programmatic display ad viewable if at least 50% of the creative is visible to the user for at least one continuous second. This may sound like a non-issue, but viewability is crucial metric for any programmatic marketer. A study conducted last March found that 57% of ads served are not considered visible and that leads to wasted ad spend and diminishing ROI.

3. Brand Safety

Companies like Integral Ad Science, that specialize in guaranteeing brand safety, have evolved to fully integrate their services to protect programmatic advertisers’ campaigns from operating in ways that can damage brand reputation. The main responsibility of these companies is to assure that ads across the digital ecosystem don’t appear in environments that could be compromising to a brand’s identity or mission.

It’s ultimately not worth the risk to invest in a programmatic ad buying platform if you aren’t able to guarantee that your ads will be displayed on secure media platforms, and more importantly, alongside relevant content with values congruent to those of your brand. Let this past March’s Google Ad Crisis be a reminder for all advertisers to prioritize brand safety.

Major Brands Relying 0n Programmatic Ad Buying for Results

Many brands today are decreasing their traditional ad spend or cutting it all together. In an interview with CNBC, Adidas’ CEO, Kasper Rorsted, stated, “All of our engagement with the consumer is through digital media and we believe in the next three years we can take our online business from approximately 1 billion euros to 4 billion euros and create a much more direct engagement with consumers.”

This decision marks an important paradigm shift for digital marketers. With the sheer quantity of online user behavior data available and a plethora of digital media channels on which to reach these users, today’s advertisers are positioned to create digital marketing campaigns with incredible scale. When combined with programmatic ad buying, this scale is effectively leveraged to target and uncover the most valuable users in real time.

Interested in unlocking data and uncovering your brand’s potential through programmatic ad buying? Learn more about Digilant’s solutions here.

Programmatic Media Buying 101: Advertising Data Privacy Best Practices

Since the mid-1990s, digital advertising technology has been accessing user data to make ads more relevant and effective. This collection of user data has continuously raised concerns about privacy for consumers. Cookies were one of the first technologies used by digital advertisers to store a small amount of data on the user’s computers. This method is still used by programmatic buyers for frequency capping, creative rotation, as well as targeting against a small amount of user behaviors.

advertising cookie tracking


A long-time standard, location targeting was initially done using IP addresses. Geo-location data collection has evolved to more accurately identify where users are. Geo-location data is now collected via mobile device GPS technology, wireless routers, fitness trackers, smartwatches, and more.


As programmatic targeting tactics became standard for marketers, so did the need for maintaining consumer trust through privacy regulations.

In 1996, the Interactive Advertising Bureau was founded to support this need through advisory boards, research, standards, legal support, and also education — for both the industry and its audiences.

In many countries, the government is also involved in ensuring that consumers are aware of their privacy rights and choices. In 2009, the United States’ Federal Trade Commission began investigating advertising technology platforms that collect consumer data for advertising purposes. While recognizing the need for stricter regulations and privacy protection, they tasked industry leaders to develop a self-regulatory program. Multiple organizations across the advertising industry came together to set up self-regulations guidelines and resources forming the Digital Advertising Alliance.

AdChoices Opt-out Program

Most notable from these efforts is the AdChoices program.  AdChoices encourages advertising platforms to include the option icon on ads or webpages where data is collected and used for behavioral advertising.
adchoices advertising opt-out programThe AdChoices icon serves to inform consumers and give them the ability to opt-out of behavioral or interest-based ads. The user has to click on the icon to trigger the pop-up message, which varies depending on the environment in which it is served.
Fortunately for advertisers the icon is small, unobtrusive and most consumers don’t notice it. Viewers have to roll over the icon to see the word “AdChoices” and click on it to view the pop-up in which enables them to opt-out.

Consumers have become more knowledgeable about privacy and data. In 2016, about 20% of iOS device users in the United States were limiting ad tracking through the settings on their device, and in South America less than 10% of iOS devices have the “limit ad tracking” feature turned on.

Most consumers appear to be comfortable or at least accustomed to certain types of targeting.

Users who’ve abandoned items in their shopping carts have come to expect or sometimes even appreciate being retargeted. In 2016, 1 in 5 shoppers completed a purchase after a retargeting reminder.

Cookies and geolocation are still important data points, but a lot has changed since the 1990’s. With the rise of mobile and the growth in programmatic, targeting technology has shifted to include behavioral data — forcing a shift in how privacy is treated across the industry.

The best thing that marketers can do is stay informed about privacy regulations. Although that can be daunting for global brands, marketers need to earn the trust of their consumers — and respecting their privacy remains critical to supporting effective advertising as an industry.


  • The use of cookies and geographic data has been causing privacy concerns for consumers for several decades.
  • In a 2009 decision, the FTC placed self-regulatory responsibilities around privacy in the hands of the advertising industry.
  • AdChoices was developed to give consumers a choice that remains unobtrusive to advertisers.
  • Consumers are becoming more “data-savvy” which will require marketers to stay on top of regulations if they want to continue to build critical trust with their audiences.

Google Ad Crisis: Consequences For The Digital Marketer

By Colin Brown, Chief Operating Officer, Digilant

‘The Times’ unearthed a massive scandal in digital marketing this March. The British newspaper broke the news on YouTube and Google’s placement of ads alongside content associated with political violence, extremist religious propaganda and other offensive content incongruent with the messages of brands and organizations advertising on the platforms.

Upon discovering this extreme lack of oversight, the United Kingdom suspended all advertising through the search engine until it received a complete guarantee that all necessary filters would be implemented to ensure that the incident wouldn’t repeat itself.

In the following days, the phones in the offices of top ranking executives at Google and YouTube didn’t stop ringing. Huge advertisers followed suit with the British government, halting their advertisements on the platforms. One of the most notable agencies to pull their ad spend from Google was the Havas Group. Havas is responsible for managing nearly 650 million dollars in digital ad spend, of which about 225 million dollars belonged to companies running campaigns in the United Kingdom, such as the BBC, Clarks, Dominos, and Hyundai, among others.

The Mountain View tech giant watched as its shares plummeted in the stock market as everyone from multinational corporations to small independently-owned businesses began withdrawing their advertising budgets from YouTube and other platforms. The list of nearly 300 companies that withdrew their investments included some of the biggest brands in the world, like AT&T, Verizon, and Johnson & Johnson.

The most pressing concern surrounding the search engine’s crisis was the enormous economic blow that resulted from it; according to calculations from global investment group, Nomura, Google could lose more than 7% of its revenue in 2017, which would translate to approximately 750 million dollars. Their earnings totaled 7.8 billion dollars in Great Britain alone in 2016 and that figure will likely be much lower this year.

However, Google rushed to address the concerns of its shareholders, informing their clients that they’re moving forward with the creation of tools to detect and eliminate content related to the defense of terrorism, incitation of violence, xenophobia, homophobia, and all forms of radicalism. Their response to the crisis has at the very least allowed for its stock to recover significantly after reaching rock bottom on March 24th.

Of course, it isn’t easy to control what content is uploaded to YouTube with 300 hours of video being shared every minute. According to the platform’s data, YouTube has around a billion users (a third of the world’s internet users) that watch videos for 3.25 billion hours with billions of plays in only a month’s time, largely attributed to subscriptions to the channels of recognized influencers and other less-famous, but nonetheless noteworthy YouTubers.

Despite the power and influence still held by YouTube, what happened will contribute to a rebalancing of the distribution of global advertising investments. An eMarketer study conducted prior to the scandal estimated that YouTube and Google would receive 60% of the 203 billion dollars in revenue generated from digital ad buying, but actual revenue will very likely fall short of that estimate after news of the crisis was made public by ‘The Times.’  While there is still uncertainty for the future, it’s undeniable that brands that want to relate as fully as possible with their audiences can’t simply remove their ads from YouTube.

Reliable Partners

As is customary, every crisis provides an opportunity to make improvements and the solution lies in technology. There are already formulas, algorithms, and data-driven tools available to prevent ads from ever appearing alongside undesirable content. The players that participate in the intelligence and data-driven digital marketing ecosystem provide sufficient guarantee that an advertiser will almost never see their ads placed with compromising or low-quality content.

In fact, this problem is one that even the most experienced companies have overcome, those that strengthen their services by acquiring secure data and placing ads on guaranteed inventories. Ultimately, it’s the programmatic partners who are the first to be concerned with improving the user experience, ensuring that only relevant and novel advertising is delivered to each user, that brands have the peace of mind that their media budget will be used to place their ads on the sites of reliable publishers. It’s all about generating qualified traffic, which takes brand safety and reputation into consideration so that the brand’s online presence strengthened and values are maintained.

Constantly improving upon existing technologies is a crucial process for programmatic media providers. When well developed and responsibly managed, those technologies allow for advertising in a safe and controlled environment.

At Digilant, we have data solutions that enable clients to control brand safety. Advertisers are becoming increasingly demanding with how and where they advertise and we want to meet their needs. In order to achieve this, we always try to stay a step ahead with transparent processes from the moment we begin working with a client until their campaign is complete. It is crucial that upholding brand reputation remains a key priority for any media buying partner, so that programmatic continues to be the best solution for a business seeking to grow their digital advertising spend.

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