Deadlock broken in ad misplacement talks

Trade bodies representing brands and online advertisers are edging closer to resolving earlier disagreements on self-regulation in the automated trading sector, in a move designed to assure marketers their brands won’t be placed beside inappropriate content. 

BrandSafety-Sign-2013
Talks to between trade bodies to establish cross-industry guidelines to protect brands online have been put on hold, according to sources.

ISBA, the IPA and IAB are currently in talks to agree on brand safety protocols when trading media via ad networks or exchanges that will be implemented by the cross-industry Digital Trading Standards Group (DTSG), after earlier talks stalled earlier this year.

Although sources told Marketing Week it is expected the three trade bodies will agree a finalised set of online brand safety guidelines by the end of 2013.

David Ellison, ISBA senior marketing manager, says: “Meetings are ongoing and we are in the process of finalising details [on how to verify brands’ ads will not appear against inappropriate and illegal content when trading automatically online].”

Nigel Gwilliam, IPA head of digital, adds: “It’s not a done deal but we [the IPA and ISBA] have had constructive talks [with the IAB].”

The IAB was also able to confirm talks to finalise how the DTSG will verify brand safety were taking place when contacted by Marketing Week.

It remains unclear what has led to the break in the deadlock. However, the IPA and ISBA have been moving ahead with their own brand safety initiative, without the IAB.

This has involved a recommended set of guidelines that third party ad serving companies can sign up to and then be audited by the Audited Bureau of Circulation (ABC).

The latest company to receive such verification under the scheme is IgnitionOne, which means its content verification tools and practices are effectively rubber-stamped as a ‘safe’ provider for brands to work with.Online ad sales house Ad2One was the first company to receive such backing under the scheme and a host of others are currently going through the process, according to sources.

A number of high profile cases of ad misplacement in recent years have increased the need to develop a consistent set of guidelines. Several advertisers pulled ads from Facebook earlier this year after ads were placed next to pages glorifying violence against women.   

Cross-industry negotiations to agree a set of best-practice principles for the automated online media trading process had been taking place since the closure of the Internet Advertising Sales Houses (IASH) in 2011.

This was to reflect the rapid development of the online advertising sector – namely emergence of trading media via ad exchanges and use of online behavioural targeting. IASH’s remit was online ad networks.

However, it emerged DTSG negotiations had stalled in early 2013, primarily because online advertising firms voiced concerns about their processes being verified by third parties, such as ABC.

Meanwhile, advertisers eager to reduce the reputational impact of having ads appear against inappropriate and illegal content had concerns about the ‘lack of transparency’ of previously mooted processes.

Julia Smith, a partner at consulting firm 614 Group and previously head of IASH, says: “The initial reason behind the creation of DTSG was to extend IASH beyond ad networks to better represent the digital industry and to provide advertisers with a level of protection when trading on exchanges and SSPs.

“DTSG needs to deliver a comprehensive and effective code and an appropriate compliance verification process [for third party ad serving companies to adhere to] that creates tangible value to both buyers and sellers.”

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