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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Raising the bar on ad quality and transparency

February 23, 2021 | By Tobias Silber, VP Marketing—GeoEdge @tobiassilber

In recent years, the discussion around ad quality has become much more specific and tangible. The goals have become more quantifiable and the insights easier to act on. Today, there’s a lot riding on the publisher’s business in that moment when the page loads, and all page and ad content is revealed. And, frankly, there’s more money riding on that moment now.

As the programmatic market has grown more refined and valuable to advertisers and publishers alike, buyers increasingly pay attention to the environments their ads appear in. Quality advertisers demand that they appear adjacent not only to high-quality content, but also to other high-quality ads.

Meanwhile, increasingly sophisticated users expect publishers to host trustworthy, relevant ads alongside the content they’re engaged with. At the end of the day, reputation and revenue are on the line – from the moment the page loads and the ad content is revealed.

Context matters

The simple fact is that you can’t separate page content from ad content and from the content of the ad’s landing page. The user certainly doesn’t make that separation. The user assumes every ad on the page must be intentional, and the publisher must have co-signed on any page any ad links out to. It is time publishers view the page as a unified piece while also thinking about the ad experience beyond the page.

Today’s users are sensitive to ad content that sends a noticeably different message than the page content. They are sensitive to offensive, dishonest, or salacious ad content. They are also sensitive to clickbait-style, irrelevant, inappropriately partisan, and disruptively designed ad content. Unwelcome messages like those can lead users to lose trust in (and decrease monetizable engagement with) an otherwise high-quality publisher. And clicking through to a landing page containing misinformation, fraudulent products for sale, a phishing scam, or any other type of questionable environment can ruin a user’s relationship with a publisher for life.

Let’s face it, for publishers, there’s always been a push and pull between maintaining the integrity of the user experience and opening up ad inventory to the broadest range of programmatic buyers. And the traditional QA means to verify any and all ads on the page are relevant, on-brand, and legit often comes down to inefficient and inexact methods. This requires ad ops teams to manually refresh pages, or to check samples of ads from earlier scans.

The big picture

It may sound daunting to manage. However, today’s technology solutions help empower publishers to retain user trust and loyalty far better than, say, posting a disclaimer that explains to the user the complexities of programmatic.

Now, publishers seeking the highest level of ad content quality and control can view all 360 degrees of their ad inventory in one dashboard. This allows them to solidify their brand’s content strategy, avoid ad related annoyances, and ad quality issues. Considering how elusive real transparency in ad content/page content alignment has been, it’s about time.

When it comes to content quality control, publishers, have long been familiar with categorizing ad and page content by parameters like keywords, content vertical, domain, and blocklists. However, broad categorization is not good enough and leads to an abundance of inappropriate ad experiences.

Even worse, using blunt force to block entire categories of ads will fail to make good on the full revenue potential of premium ad inventory. In fact, 91% of publishers feel blunt-force blocking is hurting their rightful earnings. And 88% think that more customizable ad quality automation would increase their revenue.

Publishers know best

As a publisher, you recognize unwanted ads when you see them. But first, you’d have to see them. Without full transparency and vision into all of the ads on your site, that can be a tough ask. It’s tricky, time consuming, and resource draining. To streamline the process, publishers should employ ad quality tools that are customizable to the requirements of their own page content and the expectations of their particular audiences and advertisers.

Ultimately, though, the publisher knows those requirements and expectations better than anyone. Publishers absolutely need to apply a human layer to their QA process, which gives them complete control over what appears on their pages. When it comes to quality, it’s best not to simply “set it and forget it.”

Publishers need an ad content management solution that provides a full, unified view of all the ads on every page on the site, and that allows the publisher to instantly remove any unwanted, off-brand ads. Content quality QA might seem pedestrian, but it has the power to accelerate a publisher’s business, revenue, and relationships. Indeed, this is the level of real transparency the digital industry has talked about for years. Now’s the time to act.  

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