Programmatic buying increases the need for ad verification

Publishers, agencies and marketers use ad verification services to validate the delivery of display ads and ensure brand safety. Verification measures also provide insight into viewability and fraudulent activity, according to a new eMarketer report, “Ad Verification: Validating Brand Safety and Ensuring Quality Impressions.”

The past few years have seen new, indirect purchase channels boasting even greater reach and scale and automated buying capabilities. These programmatic inventory sources give buyers access to additional publishers, networks and inventory, but buyers and sellers are separated by layers of technology.

“As the distance between the buyer and seller of impressions increases, there are more opportunities for trafficking errors, or targeting errors or other misunderstandings that commonly occur and cause an ad to be delivered somewhere the advertiser does not want to appear,” said Matt McLaughlin, COO of ad verification provider DoubleVerify.

Findings from Integral Ad Science (then known as AdSafe Media) showed the frequency with which display ads were shown on moderate- to high-risk sites worldwide in the first two quarters of 2012. The study found that ad networks continued to serve the greatest number of very high-risk impressions in Q2 2012, with platforms and exchanges serving only slightly lower numbers.

But media buyers monitoring brand safety have options for identifying and minimizing instances of high-risk impressions. By using an ad-blocking tag, a verification company can receive data on site placement and page context as the page loads. If either is deemed unsafe, the ad tag will tell the ad server to deny the serving of that brand’s ad and then redirect the browser back to the publisher’s ad server to choose another ad.

Sites rife with user-generated content, such as social networks, also pose a challenge. Findings from the Online Publishers Association (OPA) and research firm Advertiser Perceptions show social networks have a ways to go in giving advertisers total brand comfort. An August 2012 study found that 71% of US ad agencies and marketers felt their brand-focused ads were safe on premium publisher sites, while just 36% said the same for Facebook.

Another area of quality assurance that media buyers use ad verification for is viewability.

Data from comScore showed less than half of US display ad impressions delivered between May 2012 and February 2013 were in-view, defined as at least 50% of the ad visible for one second or more.

To track viewability, most use ad verification tags that have the capability to look outside of the iframe to assess where the ad is on the page and therefore determine viewability. Though this provides a point of reference, it is not a complete measure.

Another trend surrounding viewability is the incorporation of these ad verification measures into attribution models to determine not just the quality of ad spend but the overall effectiveness.

“You might have targeted a person with a below-the-fold ad they never saw, but they were tagged, so that publisher got credit,” said Michael Kaushansky, Havas Media’s executive vice president and chief analytics officer. “Clearly, that person would have converted anyway.”-eMarketing

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