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Why the advertising industry needs to reprioritise ad quality urgently

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Last year, eMarketer’s Geoff Ramsey highlighted the “crisis of trust” across the digital ecosystem: not only pointing to the need for better relations between brands and consumers, but also within the marketing community itself; covering advertisers, agencies, publishers, and ad tech players.

As 2019 begins, issues with misunderstanding and mistrust persist — especially in programmatic. One of the main talking points at this year’s dmexco was around auction complexity in programmatic advertising, while recent research from the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) shows ad quality concerns such as fraud still represent potential barriers to investment for some. Arguably there is more work to be done to weed out bad practices, so advertisers and publishers can enjoy the benefits of large-scale reach, efficiency, precise targeting and monetisation that programmatic affords, without putting themselves at risk.

So what can be done?

Programmatic: the status quo

It’s important to recognise that positive advances have been made. For instance, Google has applied stricter YouTube controls, such as higher criteria for content producers hoping to host ads and a tougher stance on rule breaking; account deletion after three strikes. Not to mention the launch of its built-in blocker, which instantly wipes disruptive ads on Chrome.

At a wider level, there has also been increased movement towards simplification via supply path optimisation (SPO). Using a blend of automated and manual filtering, the SPO process aims to streamline supply chains; ensuring buyers only purchase inventory that offers the best value, increasing trading efficiency and decreasing complexity.

But despite this progress, issues remain. Juniper Research predicts global advertisers stand to lose billions to fraudulent ads this year and there could be potential annual losses far greater down the line, if nothing changes. To sustain the growth of programmatic advertising, it is essential that trust and security are improved by re-focusing on a vital element: quality.

Setting the bar higher

Quality is a choice, not a guarantee. So, if advertisers want programmatic ads that are safe, valid, and fraud-free, they must prioritise quality. More specifically, they need to leverage industry initiatives designed to raise standards and select partners wisely. Here are two ways:

Embrace industry initiatives

Leading the drive to improve quality across the digital landscape is the IAB. In addition to providing technical standards for building better ads — such as the consumer-friendly LEAN principles and HTML5-centric New Ad Portfolio — the IAB has developed initiatives advertisers can use to better vet buys, including ads.txt. By enabling publishers to place a text file on their servers that details those officially allowed to trade their media, ads.txt creates a reference point advertisers can use to validate inventory and sellers, before parting with spend. In doing so, they can ensure ad budgets aren’t lost to fraud under the guise of genuine or desirable media (i.e. domain spoofing).

Choose partners wisely

As a further precaution, advertisers should assess potential new partners with care: selecting those that demonstrate a commitment to ad quality. The first key step is looking for partners with external industry certification. For example, checking the list of companies that have earned IAB Gold Standard certification will allow advertisers to quickly establish which technology companies and exchanges have already signed up to follow the IAB’s guidelines (including ads.txt), as well as steer clear of the 12 ‘bad’ ad types as defined by the Coalition for Better Ads, and boost brand safety by working with Jicwebs.

When it comes to minimising fraud risk specifically, they can also prioritise companies who’ve earned seals of approval from the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG). Since 2016, TAG has run the ‘Certified Against Ad Fraud’ programme, where companies that abide by its guidelines are awarded a seal they can use to publicly display their reliability. By searching for the seal when picking tech partners, advertisers can instantly obtain both peace of mind and a higher level of ad quality. Recent studies show invalid traffic rates for TAG certified channels are 83% lower than those generally measured across the industry.

Secondly, partners must be able to demonstrate transparency. Advertisers have struggled in the past to discern trustworthy partners from those who are in constant search of ways to game the system to their benefit. One recent example is auction mechanics, where certain practices (i.e. bid caching) or even the type of auction (first or second price) are not always clear to the buyer. Another example is whether or not the technology partner is upfront about fee structure, sharing details about additional costs and where they apply.

Luckily some progress has been made to make it easier for advertisers to make more informed decisions. Just last month, six advertising exchanges published an open letter introducing the Programmatic Principles – an outline of clear business practices for technology companies and programmatic transactions. While the principles are in the early stages, the goal is to eventually refine and standardize the ideas included in it to serve as a guide for advertisers and publishers looking to make smarter decisions about their partners.

The industry is undeniably in need of a reboot. But if changes are to be successful, they must be carefully managed and collaborative. Raising quality must be a shared and continuous priority for all components of programmatic: brands, publishers, and tech vendors. And for advertisers especially, it is imperative to start forcing improvement in quality standards by pushing for fraud-free, verified, secure media from transparent partners, and refusing to accept anything less.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.

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10 questions with… Anna Watkins, UK managing director of Verizon Media

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In an attempt to showcase the personalities of the people behind the media and marketing sector, The Drum speaks to individuals who are bringing something a little different to the industry and talks to them about what insights and life experience they can offer the rest of us. This week's 10 Questions are put to Verizon Media's UK managing director Anna Watkins.

What was your first ever job?
It would have been washing my dad's car to earn my £1 pocket money each week. Smart man.

Which industry buzzword annoys you most?
Relatable.

Who do you find most interesting to follow on social media?
@POTUS is truly mind-boggling.

what is the highlight of your career (so far?)
Working with such a creative, inspiring and intelligent bunch of people every step of the way.

What piece of tech can you not live without?
It's baffling that I was born in London yet still seem to use Citymapper every day.

Who or what did you have posters of on your bedroom wall as a teenager?
Adam Ant and Count Dracula (aged 7). I'm not quite sure what that says about me.

In advertising, what needs to change soon?
We need a truly diverse workforce.

If you could change anything about a social media platform you use, which one and what would you choose to do?
It’s more a question of changing myself – I need to flex my creative muscles if I’m ever to make more than one friend on Tumblr…

What is (in your opinion) the greatest film/album/book of your life?
Scarface / Sign of the Times / War and Peace – delusions of grandeur, mine and theirs.

Which industry event can you not afford to miss each year and why?
The big awards bashes – it's like going to a series of weddings where you know half the guests.

The Drum's 10 Questions With… runs each week with previous entries available to view here.

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Mobile carriers end data sharing with location aggregators; should marketers worry?

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The collection and use of real-time mobile-location data has emerged as a critical piece of the larger data-privacy debate. A recent run of negative stories have conveyed the impression that location data usage by marketers is tantamount to spying on consumers.

We’re also starting to see lawsuits, like one recently filed by the Los Angeles City Attorney against the Weather Company, for allegedly misleading consumers about how their location data would be used. More suits will likely follow.

Carriers cut off data sharing. The negative coverage and exposure of some high-profile abuses have motivated major U.S. mobile carriers to cut off location data sharing with third party “location aggregators.” The latest to do so is AT&T, following a story by Motherboard that indicated carrier data was getting into the hands of unauthorized third parties — bounty hunters, in this case — and being used for legally dubious purposes.

As a practical matter, these moves are unlikely to significantly impact use of location data by advertisers on major platforms or in the programmatic ecosystem. AT&T owns AppNexus; Verizon owns Verizon Media Group (the rebranded Oath). Location data will probably still be available to advertisers on these platforms — they’re not “third parties.” (We’ve asked Verizon for clarification on this point and will update the story if they respond.)

Calls for more regulation or legislation. Location data are so valuable and widely available that abuses are inevitable. Some of these increasingly frequent reports are adding momentum to calls for federal data privacy legislation. The carriers’ decision to cut off location aggregators is at least partly an effort to preempt investigations and potentially forestall regulation.

Some location data companies embrace the proposition of clear regulatory or legislative guidelines, however.

For example, PlaceIQ CEO Duncan McCall recently told me in email: “I think that the California Consumer Privacy Act and hopefully a similar federal law (as a state-by-state patchwork of different laws would be good for no one) will not only give consumers protection and confidence, but will finally give the digital data and location data ecosystem a well-thought out set of rules and guidelines to adhere to. This will bring stability and predictability to the industry, and help weed out some of the “wild west” players that have had no interest in investing for the long term good of the ecosystem.”

Most location-data companies also say they adhere to ethical data-collection practices and are scrupulous about being “good actors” in the ecosystem. Some are vocal about the responsible and/or socially beneficial use of location technology. And some organizations (e.g., NAI) are seeking to enforce transparent and ethical data collection standards. Foursquare told me in email that their apps and partners seek opt-in consent for use of location data.

Why you should care. Location data is available from a wide range of sources in the market, including app developers and the programmatic bid stream. The loss of carrier location is not a significant blow to the ecosystem.

However it is reflective of a trend toward the tightening of access to location information more generally. While it remains to be seen whether federal privacy legislation passes in 2019 (multiple bills have been proposed), California’s Consumer Privacy Act will go into effect January 1, 2020. Other states may enact similar or more strict laws, which would lend further impetus to comprehensive federal legislation.

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Catalina adds first attribution tracking service

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Best known as a provider of retail marketing intelligence based around loyalty cards and in-store printed coupons, Catalina this week released its first attribution service.

Called Catalina Multi-touch AttributR, it traces a path from digital advertising — in various channels on various devices — to a purchase made in a store with a loyalty card. The company is able to track purchases down to the UPC bar code level.

At the level of the Diet Coke flavor. Coca-Cola, for instance, can now track how a web site ad shown on a computer affects the purchase of a Diet Coke, as well as whether the flavor chosen is Twisted Mango versus Ginger Lime. Additionally, the attribution service can report if it’s the first time this consumer bought Twisted Mango.

Previously, Catalina measured how its printed in-store coupons affected buyer behavior, but it didn’t track the impact of ads. The new attribution solution is the company’s first effort to link digital ads to buyer behavior, and it plans to add addressable TV ads to the system.

Catalina tags the digital ad with its own attribution pixel, which is called when the ad is shown and provides data on the specific campaign deployments.

But the connection between the ads shown, the various devices used by a single individual, and the in-store purchases are actually made by consumer data firm Experian on Catalina’s behalf, through such persistent identifiers as phone numbers or email addresses.

“Not in the business of knowing who you are.” In the new attribution service, the retailer sends the loyalty card ID to Experian, which matches it with the digital cross-device profile of a given individual and with the ads shown to the user on those devices. Experiam then returns a report to Catalina that uses an anonymized ID.

Catalina CMO Marta Cyhan told me the company deals only with anonymized IDs because “we’re not in the business of knowing who you are,” although Experian does have PII.

The data is updated daily to a self-service dashboard for brands (see below) and, since Experian tracks profiles, the attribution can also include the effect of ads on repeat purchases, new buyers of a product category and other consumer behaviors.

Difference from NCS. Catalina, which filed for bankruptcy protection last month, is also known as a partner in Nielsen Catalina Solutions (NCS), which employs data from the in-store coupons and loyalty cards. But, Cyhan said, Catalina’s new attribution measures individuals across multiple channels deterministically, since the actual people are known through the Experian matching, while NCS is focused on measuring single channels through probabilistic modeled data.

Additionally, she said, Catalina’s new solution is updated daily, includes buyer behavior changes and provides granularity down to the UPC level, while NCS provides post-campaign reports on overall sales lifts.

Why you should care. Catalina’s shopper data is used widely by marketers, and this first attribution service will help brands determine the impact of their paid media spend.

Additionally, Catalina is providing a very fine level of granularity, down to the individual product bar code, with a very high level of certainty. This approach could provide the kind of accurate, return-on-spending results that major consumer brands have clamored for.

The post Catalina adds first attribution tracking service appeared first on Marketing Land.

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