For all the opportunity that digital advertising has created, it turns out that marketers are now having to deal with serious challenges it also has given birth to.
The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) of South Africa has released a white paper addressing what it considers the most prominent problems facing agencies, publishers and brands today. In particular, three aspects, all tied up with digital advertising, were ringfenced: brand safety, ad fraud and viewability.
For many brands, taking part in digital means to be exposed to the growth pains of the internet. The use of the web to spread fake news, YouTube videos that promote terror and violence, or influencers behaving badly, all have the potential to negatively impact a brand. Just ask the brands caught up in a recent News24 report that exposed them as ‘advertising’ on fake news sites.
The MMA’s definition of ‘brand safety’ is quite clear, and describes an opportunity to advertise in a digital environment where content aligns with a brand’s image, values, and messaging. However, in the overarching context of brand safety, there is much to consider and marketers run the risk that an overemphasis on brand safety will negatively impact the flow of business.
Perhaps even more pertinent is the question of who is ultimately responsible for brand safety? For this reason the MMA globally launched in May of this year, a marketer-led Future of Brand Safety Council (SAVE) to ensure safeguards for brands in all marketing environments. The Council will develop processes, programs, benchmarks and measures to support protecting a marketer’s brand reputation and marketing investment. Part of this initiative involves working with leading marketers to define the role of the chief brand safety officer, to develop and drive a brand safety strategy, and to protect the brand’s reputation online.
The news regarding ad fraud is anything but good. It’s having an ongoing pernicious effect on the industry and shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. Those working to combat it – and this now includes cybersecurity agencies – are caught in an arms race against well financed and highly skilled opponents. Worldwide, depending on whose statistics one believes, 11-15% off all paid-for impressions on mobile are lost because of ad fraud.
Programmatic buying is part of the problem, having solved, but also created, many headaches. While initially thought of as a panacea of sorts, cheap impressions soon proved to be tainted, delivered by bots and click-farms and not carrying any value to a brand’s digital advertising efforts.
For any progress to be made in fighting ad fraud, the industry needs to stand together. This, however, will be easier said than done, especially since the initial process of removing fraud will put publishers under the cosh, and provide some the opportunity to benefit from bad behaviour.
Broadly speaking, viewability revolves around the fact that ads must be seen to be able to count towards impressions. While it sounds straightforward enough, the reality is that this is not actually the case. Reports suggest that up to 54% of ads are not viewable; it’s a shockingly high percentage for something that should be a given and for which brands pay for.
Interim CEO of Mindshare South Africa, Zia Namooya, noted that a full 100% of a static ad must be viewable before counting as an impression that can be invoiced. As a far richer medium, viewability on video is different, with 50% of a video having to be watched, with the volume turned up, before it can be billed for. It is, however, doubtful if these are metrics that can be traded on right now, since it will put a lot of pressure on publishers for compliant inventory.
The white paper flowed from a breakfast workshop event hosted by the MMA SA, and is the first step towards what we describe as shared accountability, gaining essential working guidelines and addressing the fault lines that erode digital and mobile marketing efforts and efficacy.
Timewise, we wish to engage key media owners in February 2019 and to host a second workshop that invites brands, marketers and publishers to collaboratively discuss viable solutions.
The Brand Safety, Viewability and Ad Fraud white paper is available for download here.
Sarah Utermark is country director for the MMA SA