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3 Tips for Brand Safety in Programmatic Buying
Programmatic buyers are worried about brand safety. And while it’s important to note this level of concern in the industry, the research just confirms what we already know.

The key is not to let concern turn into avoidance. Any marketer intimidated by programmatic media should consider the following tips:

1. Talk With Your Agency

In March of 2014, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) released a study concluding that half of surveyed marketers are concerned about the level of transparency with their media agency. Many marketers do not have access to the details and data behind their campaigns — from cost, margins and where ads run, to performance optimization efforts and detailed reporting about how audiences interact with the brand.

It’s critical to confirm if your agency’s solution is transparent — and to what level of detail. Some media buying agencies offer inventory, audience and optimization transparency through their own proprietary programmatic buying solutions.

2. Take a Second Look at Third-Party Data

Brands increasingly rely on third-party data providers, such as BlueKai and eXelate, to provide targeting lists for campaigns. These segmented lists might include people who are likely to apply for a mortgage, people who use a particular type of toothpaste or people from a particular economic group.

However, if there is any first-party data available, it is typically more reliable and accurate than third-party data. But if third-party data is being considered, it’s important for brands and their agencies to evaluate how it was collected and how it will be used.

Our industry must continue to ask third-party data sources for their exact methodologies. Data aggregation is an inherently messy process. Getting third-party data providers to be fully transparent, and to explain that transparency in a client-friendly way, is arduous but necessary.

3. Be Wary of Viewability Issues and False Attribution

A majority of exchange-based ad impressions will run unseen by humans if left to the technology’s own devices. It is simple to prevent and control, but it’s critical to remember that the green button in your user interface telling you that ads are running doesn’t mean humans are seeing them.

Green does not equal seen.

Similarly, some providers are all too happy to purchase bottom-of-the-page, unseen inventory at bargain-basement prices to stuff cookies on as many potential converters as possible. They then claim the view-through credit for one of those poor suckers who happens to convert without having seen the ad. This can influence marketers to reallocate spend improperly — decreasing funds for demand-creating ad vehicles to invest in underperforming vehicles instead.

Programmatic Is Not Automatic

Yes, fancy math helps the machines make some of the more rote decisions in programmatic buying. But brands and their agencies still need to spend time ensuring the machines will run well, fueled by the purest data needed to operate effectively and efficiently.

The key to eliminating worry over brand safety is to get involved and to ask questions. The more informed marketers and their agencies are, the less likely they are to experience display fraud, click fraud, conversion fraud or cookie stuffing.