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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Don’t drive blind: Use benchmarks to navigate digital advertising

August 4, 2020 | By Cory Schnurr, Head of Marketplace Innovation – The Media Trust @TheMediaTrust

A day in the life of Advertising/Revenue operations may sound monotonous, but no challenge is solved in exactly the same manner. Today’s redirects and malvertising attacks are very different from tomorrow’s inflammatory content or phishing schemes. It’s time to change course in ad operations, and take a route guided by a publisher-specific benchmark.

Privacy regulations and increasingly sophisticated attacks are becoming ever more prominent in digital advertising. So, publishers must shut down risks that negatively impact monetization efforts, or worse, drive regulatory penalties.  Industry benchmarks allow you to assess your digital property’s distinct risk profile.

Understanding the risks

Raising awareness of these risks across media publishers is imperative. During the past six months, continuous scanning of dozens of B2C websites across a variety of industry segments uncovered the third-party code risks dwelling in their respective digital ecosystems.

For U.S. Media publishers, here’s what The Media Trust discovered during the past six months:

Security risks:
  • 92% of executing code is attributed to third-party code, up from 81% in 2019
  • 18% domain variability, reflecting the percentage of new domains to the publisher’s site compared to the previous month
Privacy Protection risks:
  • on average, ~1,500 cookies are dropped on user devices every time they access a media site, a factor that should be included in assessing CCPA compliance
  • 37% of those cookies have a lifespan greater than 12 months, a violation according to existing regulatory regimes, including CNIL’s “French Cookie Law”
  • We find decades-long lifespan cookies from reputable partners every day across these properties, some approaching an 8,000+ year lifespan 
 Performance risks:
  • 1.6MB is the JavaScript file size, approximately 60% more than the generally recommended 1MB polite limit
  • 5.66 seconds is the aggregate total load time; if you’re experiencing page latency issues you should look at the contribution from third-party code 

Addressing the issues

Publishers can no longer ignore the risks associated with unmanaged third-party code. Unfortunately, investments in resources to build the perfect customer experience and drive revenue often lead to unacceptable malware attacks, redirects, unauthorized collection of personal data, and more. Benchmarks provide a clear means to pinpoint and remediate issues out-of-sync with industry peers.

Brand integrity, regulatory compliance, and the bottom line are at stake. Ad operations must implement strategies that will control unmanaged third-party code. In the same way that brands exercise supply path optimization (SPO) efforts to understand pathways that impact performance and drive revenue, publishers should focus on identifying those vendors that cause problems.

Using these industry benchmarks, publishers can pinpoint which code and which corresponding vendors disrupt your customer experience. The ability to distinguish between what will cause security, regulatory, and performance issues (malware, data breaches) versus what will annoy your users (redirects, PII scams, and poor ad quality) is the first step. 

The dangers of driving blind are self-evident. With benchmarks, ad operations teams can change their processes to focus on the vendors that cause problems, and better navigate a path to success.

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