What will it take for CMOs to trust programmatic media trading?

Trade bodies are nearing agreement to ensure brand safety online but bad memories will linger even after the much-vaunted Digital Trading Standards Group (DTSG) is up and running. 


This week it emerged that ISBA, the IPA and IAB have resurrected talks to agree on brand safety protocols when trading media via ad networks, or exchanges, after earlier attempts at cross-industry consensus stalled earlier this year.

This was primarily because online advertising firms were concerned about the prospect of their processes being verified by third parties – such as ABC – while advertisers were worried about the lack of transparency of previously mooted plans to ensure their ads won’t appear against inappropriate content.

Such an agreement will bring to an end to three years of negotiations, and not a moment too soon when it is expected that as much as 40 per cent of all online display ads will be traded via ad exchanges and trading desks by 2017.

Digital media specialists will welcome this move as a key moment in the development of trading in such a fashion – which is effectively a more efficient way for brands to target relevant audiences – and I personally agree.

But I think high-profile scares in recent history will further stall ad budgets from going programmatic. For instance, the technical jargon of content verification tools may be music to the ears of a media agency’s head of digital trading, but how can they sell this in to CMOs when the memories of high-profile brands’ ads appearing against obscene content linger.

To recap, I was referring to Nissan and Nationwide pulling advertising from Facebook after their brands were placed next on pages advocating domestic violence on the social network.

This caused massive reputational damage to all parties concerned and counts as one of the darkest moments in the history of Facebook (in both a professional and social regard).

Digital specialists will be quick to point out that this incident wasn’t necessarily the result of automated media trading, but it serves as an example of what can go wrong when brands absolve complete control over where their ads appear.

So while the ‘digital first’ marketing community will appreciate the landmark moment about to be made by the IAB, IPA and ISBA, I believe the people in the boardroom (who ultimately control the purse strings) will remain risk averse until serious cost-savings and impact on their company’s bottom line can be attributed to it.   



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