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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Advertising’s flight to trusted partners

May 11, 2017 | By Jason Kint, CEO—DCN @jason_kint

Fun fact: 96% of TSA Precheck passengers wait less than five minutes in line. This innovation is no less than a modern marvel created to save valuable time during an unprecedented increase in security. Meanwhile travelers “unknown” to TSA are relegated to the slow lane removing their shoes, pulling out liquids and laptops, and assuming the position to be body-scanned.

Now imagine for a moment that precheck has been eliminated. Every. Single. Passenger has to be hand-frisked, one at a time in a Single. File. Line. It would rip out the remaining thread of joy in air travel. You would scream. I would scream. There would be a collective cry of despair from travelers across America.

That’s what we see happening in our digital advertising industry today.

“Brand safety” is the latest float in the parade of ad tech problems. I know we’ve seen it before but it’s back with a vengeance. Unfortunately, we’re also seeing a rerun of ad tech firms trotting out “brand safety” filters. Some have even suggested that their tech can work like an ad blocker to prevent the advertisement from loading in an “unsafe environment.” Oh dear. This baggage needs to be hand-searched for restricted materials. Please step out of the line and join the security officer for a reality check.

The security firm White Ops stated in its 2015 Bot Benchmark Study, which analyzed fraud, that the real answers to advertising problems lie in the economics rather than the technology. We thought this was a fairly astute perspective, particularly from technology people.

Advertisers don’t need another layer of technology. Instead, they need transparency so that they know where their ads and money are going. This same approach can apply to solving for nearly every issue in digital advertising. Spend your advertising investments with publishers you know, and you’ll eliminate most of your issues.

Just a few weeks ago, JP Morgan Chase shone a sparkle of sunlight across our beleaguered industry by doing something so simple that there is no way anyone in the Silicon Valley would propose it. They had humans (remember them?) evaluate publishers for their campaign. These people whittled down the targeted sites on which their ads appeared from 400,000 to less than 5,000. The campaign had the same results. I repeat: same results.

Rather than treat every single ad impression as if it’s a random collection of pixels on an unfamiliar page of an unknown website, marketers who seek out trusted publishers already have the advantage of knowing their ads are likely to be viewed by an engaged audience in clean, well-lit environments. By this so-called “whitelisting” of sites, they’re undertaking the equivalent of the “Known Traveler” program: I know your site because it has been carefully evaluated. We can accelerate the process and I won’t need to slow you down with a pat down. In fact, we can speed you right through with a smile on your face.

I sense a movement from marketers (and audiences) towards trusted publishers. In this brighter future, viewability vendors, IVT vendors, and brand safety vendors are all unnecessary when working with quality publishers like the members of DCN. Instead, advertisers can confidently say “I know them and I don’t need to waste my time and money with layers of security measures that will hinder the experience.”

Keep your laptop in the bag. No need to remove your belt, jacket, or shoes. Let’s make this trip fast and fabulous.

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