Online display networks and DSPs have been getting a bad rap of late – Marketing Week's feature article last month by Michael Barnett opened by likening the internet to an "uncontrollable, inhospitable and bewildering" environment... "where it's every man for himself when it comes to keeping safe".
Now while we understand that some brands may be weary of blind buy display networks who 'optimise' campaigns on behalf of the client / agency, where there is no way of knowing where your ads will be served up there is a great deal of control available to agencies and clients who are running their own campaigns. We believe a quality campaign is achievable through great campaign management, and that not all online display networks are bad...
For example, being responsible for the on and offline marketing for a cruise client around the Costa Concordia disaster was not a walk in the park, by any means, but by being vigilant and through having good relationships with the networks and optimising campaigns ourselves it was possible to control where their ads were seen. For example, news sites were excluded from the targeting lists so that our brand's ads did not appear against horrific images of the sinking ship.
Before going live with a display network campaign, the level of brand safety measures required should be clearly defined. Only work with premium ad networks who abide by industry standards. Use networks that allow inappropriate sites and content (through keywords) to be excluded from a campaign; this will stop ads being displayed on inappropriate sites. Regularly reviewing site reports allows us to monitor exactly which sites our ads are appearing on. You can also put together custom site channels so we can be confident that impressions will only be served on sites we have specifically targeted. Keeping a universal blacklist updated means we can apply site exclusions across any Kaizen campaign at any time.
Content verification tools can add an extra layer of control to campaigns and provide visibility of where ads are running. You can go as far as blocking an impression if a site is deemed as inappropriate.
So although online advertising can sound risky - and careless slips can happen when campaigns are left to the hands of networks without any brand controls in place - if you take the time to define what level of brand safety you need at the outset, over and above standard processes and precautions, online ads can work wonders...
Therefore we have found that it is even possible to make this channel work hard within a sector where we have to answer to not only client brand safety parameters, but stringent FSA policing too.
By truly understanding the client channel mix, and optimising campaigns to conversion metrics, rather than leaving it to networks to optimise to impression delivery, in addition to rigorous brand safety processes online isn't really the wild west it is made out to be.