The Key to Protecting Your Brand When Using Programmatic Advertising

Brock Munro
January 27, 2021
April 22, 2024
The Key to Protecting Your Brand When Using Programmatic Advertising

You may have heard about all the wonders of programmatic advertising: how it simplifies the selling process, connects you to thousands of advertisers instantly, and the targeted data-driven nature of it all.

But what about the downsides? What if ads pop up that don’t align with my brand? Or worse, what if downright crappy or spammy ads appear on my site? We have all seen the belly buster diet ads or banners claiming we have just won $100,000. How can we take advantage of all of the benefits and value of programmatic advertising without sacrificing our brand and user experience?

Well, it’s not just the wild west. There are a number of measures you can take to ensure you are not open to just any ad popping up and you can ensure some of the safety you get through direct deals.

What is Brand Alignment?

Website owners and publishers spend their lives building and curating a certain kind of content for the audience they know and care so deeply about visiting their website. So when an ad runs which is completely different from the branding of the website, it can be jarring for the user.

Ads from a particular category can even be downright harmful to a publisher if they are polar enough to the core message. For instance, a website for a medical journal would have a hard time explaining its credibility to its users after an ad for cigarettes popped up in their latest paper on lung disease.

It doesn’t have to be to this kind of extreme either. Having a competitor’s ad appear on your site would also be a big no-no for most brands, which could lead to some sneaky poaching.

Overall the more you can leave programmatic advertising to the free market and the more open you are to all the demand that’s available, the more money you will make. But this needs to be balanced with protection over the brand you have worked so hard to build.

So What Can I Do to Protect My Brand?

Well, there are a number of techniques which I am going to run through in detail below. All of these take some time and effort to implement but will be worth it in the long run. You need to really sit down and think about what types of ads you are happy to have on your site, and what ads will be harmful to your reputation.

Your first instinct may be to try and block every category possible, bar a small vertical which you may be in, but try to think this through. The more you block and floor and prevent, the less opportunity for demand you will have for your inventory and the lower your revenue will be. It’s all about balance. Sometimes it is worth taking the hit to protect your brand, but look to test everything you try to see the impact it has on both the revenue being generated and the ads you have coming through.

The more you block and floor and prevent, the less opportunity for demand you will have for your inventory and the lower your revenue will be. It’s all about balance.

How Long is This All Going to Take?

It is an ongoing process to get your site to a point where you are comfortable with this balance and it will take some trial and error. It is better to start by casting a wide net and gradually close in on specific categories, advertisers and ad campaigns you explicitly don’t want to see again, rather than starting very narrow and attempt to loosen things.

If it all just feels like too much, reach out to us. We have a team of Account Managers who do this on a daily basis and are well-versed in ensuring your brand is protected whilst you make revenue from programmatic advertising.

Where Do Bad Ads Come From?

Unfortunately, there are a few bad apples out there who may try and scam you if you’re not careful. The ad networks like Google, Rubicon and Pubmatic do their best to eliminate these nefarious actors with a host of technology, algorithms and requirements, but every so often one can slip through the cracks. The reach and scale of programmatic advertising make it extremely attractive, with 65% of all digital media now programmatic and a forecast of 80% by 2020. Those who want to get rich quick or implement malware on to users’ computers see an opportunity in programmatic.

Floor Prices

Floor prices allow publishers to ensure their inventory is not undersold. They let publishers set a minimum threshold at which advertisers can buy their inventory. Very often this is used in yield optimisation where publishers will look to find a fine balance between maximising the cpm they receive from advertisers and minimising their unfilled impressions or impressions which have not been sold.

Floor prices can also be used to prevent bad ads from coming through. These scam ads are run on an extremely low budget and usually only appear if no other advertiser has bid. By implementing price floors at say $1 (meaning no ads will appear for any bids below one dollar for your impressions), you can prevent any of these poorer quality ads from getting through.

Again all of this should be continually tested and optimised to ensure you are not getting poor ads through, but that you are also not increasing your unfilled rate too dramatically.

Category Blocking Lists

All ad networks provide fairly extensive and granular blocking rules and settings lists. These lists are based on information advertisers provide about the audience they are looking to target when they advertise through one of these networks. Advertisers are given the choice of who they wish to target with their ads.

Conversely, this gives publishers the opportunity to block certain categories of ads from being displayed. Categories can be as broad as “Family and Community,” “Health” and “Apparel,” down to more granular topics like “Fantasy Sports,” “Anti Ageing” and “Last Minute Travel.”

You also have the opportunity to block sensitive categories like black magic, dating and politics. These blocking categories are a great way to ensure brand safety. You do, however, want to make sure that you keep some of the larger and more lucrative sections like finance, vehicles and travel open unless you explicitly need to or this will eat into potential profits.

Brand safety

Chrome Extension Blocking Tools

Here at Publift, we have created a chrome extension called Adwizard which allows our customers to block any unwanted ads they see on their site by simply clicking on the ad unit. It acts as a last resort on ads coming through to your site and allows you to block the advertisers, creative or campaign permanently from appearing on your site.

Upon clicking on an ad, it instantly gathers all of the information about that ad, its advertiser and the network it came from and sends the information to our team to ensure it is blocked from your site forever. The chrome extension can be used by your whole team to help you monitor how your current brand alignment techniques are working. This is the first chrome extension of its kind.

Publift's Adwizard Google Chrome extension features

Building Programmatic Deals

Imagine a private club behind a velvet rope. Private marketplaces are customizable, invitation-only marketplaces where premium publishers make their inventory and audience available to selected buyers. Private marketplaces allow publishers to release select, premium inventory to a select group of advertisers willing to pay more.

Much like a private club, publishers curate a safe environment for buyers in exchange for a higher price. With private marketplaces, you get the best of both worlds with direct relationships between publishers and advertisers seen in traditional media buying, all while eliminating a lot of the manual work thanks to programmatic technology.

This means you get full site transparency, brand safety and programmatic buying efficiency. Buyers now have a priority buying option at a specific floor price before the inventory is open to the larger pool of advertisers.

All this means you can control what advertisers are appearing on your site as you have a direct relationship with them. There is a range of programmatic deals from Programmatic Guaranteed to private marketplace deals. They all have their own pros and cons, but essentially they offer the same thing. Advertisers and publishers can know where their placements are coming from in exchange for a higher cpm.

After you have run with programmatic for a few months, you may begin to see a pattern of larger advertisers buying across your site. This list of frequent buyers can then be used to get your foot in the door and offer them exclusive deals on inventory in exchange for higher CPMs. They are already buying across your site so may jump at the idea of having guaranteed volumes or budgets. Likewise, you get better CPMs and more brand-safe ads showing.

Is All This Really Fool-Proof?

These are some really good measures to help to minimise the amount of poor quality or off-message ads you have come through in programmatic advertising and will stop 99.9% of them if done correctly, but there is always an inherent risk with anything on the internet. You need to be able to weigh this up against the potential profit you can make from programmatic advertising.

Ads are everywhere on the internet and users expect to see them as they browse. More often than not, users are blind to some extent to these ads and continue to consume the content they came for. Unless you are in a highly sensitive category, I would recommend verging on the side of less blocking measures. At the end of the day, users know content isn’t free. So as long as we stop the spammy ads and your competitor’s shiny new banner ad from coming through, ads should not impact user experience to too much of an extent.

And remember, it is a process to get to a point where you re happy with your blocking versus revenue balance and will take some effort from your part to get there, but the end achievement of this will be the ability to have thousands of brand-safe advertisers competing against each other for your users. More money in the pocket.

What If I Need Help?

That’s what we’re here for! We have a team who specialise in managing programmatic ads with a heavy focus on finding that balance between revenue, user experience and brand alignment. Get in touch today if you think you might need a helping hand to get there.

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