By Jeff Kamikow, CEO, Cross Audience
Fake news is becoming a big problem, particularly in the digital ad space. It’s bad enough your Facebook friends seem to believe literally everything they read; it’s even worse when the nonsense they’re sharing appears to be funded by your advertising dollars.
Keeping your mobile ads – as well as your display ads – off fake news sites, as well as sites with objectionable content, may seem like a challenge in the era of programmatic advertising and huge ad networks. Transparency is a long-standing concern in our industry. After all, the same ad nets that boast huge premium publishers probably also rep thousands of smaller sites that they’re less likely to tell you about – and that may be considerably lower in quality than what you’d typically accept. And your agency and tech partners may be more concerned with driving results on your campaigns than monitoring the quality of the sites on which your ads appear.
That’s why you need take responsibility for your campaigns. A bad adjacency can make your brand look really bad. It’s reason that companies like Kelloggs and BMW have elected to pull their advertising from controversial sites, and both Google and Facebook have taken measures to block fake news sites from their networks. This isn’t something marketers can trust the ad nets alone to manage, and it’s not something you can just hand off to your agency, either. Marketers and other brand custodians still have to actually own the work. It takes some doing, but don’t worry – it’s not impossible, and it won’t take up all that much of your time, either.
For starters, build your black lists and your white lists. White lists are actually most important – these are the lists of sites you approve for advertising. Black lists, while helpful, cannot be your only solution. Why? Because nefarious websites generally appear faster than we can block them. Some networks are so big, that questionable sites squeak through. Even if they’re shut down days later, damage has been done – and more bad sites have already popped up. So work with your partners to build a white list, make sure everyone has a copy of it, and make sure everyone follows it.
Worried about limiting your reach? Don’t be. Not only will you be filtering out low-quality and potentially unsafe websites, it’s been proven that high-quality sites actually do drive better ad performance. So what you’re losing in quantity, you are actually making up in quality.
Invest in verification technology. Whether you rely on Moat, Double Verify, Integral Ad Science or another player, paying for a service like this is well worth the investment. You’ll be able to ensure that your mobile ads are appearing on approved sites only. You’ll also be able to eliminate other concerns like ad fraud and viewability.
Take the responsibility to check for yourself, as well. Even with every other safeguard in place, you still have to check on your ads. With bad actors creating fake news and other unsavory sites at such a rapid pace, it’s impossible to stay ahead of everything all the time. Periodically, you or someone on your team should scan those blacklisted sites and manually check Moat to see where your ads are appearing. Things can slip through, and you want to take every precaution you can to avoid embarrassing – and potentially costly – mistakes.
Keeping your brand safe will ultimately always be the brand manager’s responsibility. You need to own it and take it seriously. That said, you don’t have to go it alone. Engage your team, and make sure your partners are on board – and that they know you’ll be holding them accountable. While it will take extra work, it will pay off with both a protected brand reputation and improved performance with your display and mobile ads.