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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Digital media transparency: publisher best practices

May 25, 2021 | By Steve Guenther, Vice President, Digital Auditing—Alliance for Audited Media@SteveGuenther13

As concerns about media transparency rise, marketers are becoming more selective about where they place their media investment. They are asking questions like: Where are my ads being shown? Are they being served to humans or lost to fraud? Are they delivering maximum ROI?

The industry has developed several solutions that bring greater transparency to the supply chain. This also helps marketers identify publishers that provide quality advertising platforms. When layered together, each of these complementary solutions offers more comprehensive protection. They also minimize fraud risk and assure marketers that their ads are being seen by humans.

Here are a few ways publishers can use these solutions to optimize their websites, improve system performance, and minimize fraud risk.

1. Implement Industry Tools

It is important for marketers to understand how their digital ads move through the supply chain. The IAB Tech Lab develops standards and solutions to increase supply chain transparency. IAB Tech Lab tools such as Ads.txt, App-ads.txt, sellers.json, and OpenRTB 3.0 (Ads-Cert) give marketers insight into the buying process by identifying authorized sellers of inventory. It is helpful for publishers to implement these solutions. However, they should also be sure to incorporate other IAB Tech Lab tools into their websites as they are released. In fact, implementation should not be considered a “one and done” process.

Once these tools are implemented, it is important to regularly update and edit these files to ensure accuracy. Publishers can analyze their site to learn who is selling their inventory with this new resource, Sellers.guide. Providing buyers with up-to-date information makes it easier for them to see who is authorized to sell your inventory as they compare your list with their ad tech vendor’s sellers.json file.

2. Follow Standards and Guidelines

As digital ad fraud became more widespread, the industry recognized the need for standards and guidelines to help disrupt the cycle of fraud in the marketplace. Organizations such as the Media Rating Council (MRC) set standards to define and measure invalid traffic.

The MRC also created a process to gauge a vendor’s adherence to these standards through accreditation. Using an MRC-accredited ad server is one step publishers can take to minimize fraud risk. By partnering with accredited vendors, publishers assure advertisers that they are doing everything possible to provide accurate metrics that meet or exceed industry standards.

3. Take a Proactive Approach

Publishers can also demonstrate their commitment to quality by being proactive in other ways:

  • Regularly update website content and social media channels
  • Track and monitor all traffic sources for IVT
  • Familiarize your team with industry guidelines and best practices so these standards are followed throughout your organization
  • Participate in a third-party website audit. This demonstrate to advertisers that you are providing them with a quality platform and a valid human audience

Following industry guidelines and best practices helps minimize fraud risk. It also proves to advertisers that you are providing them with a quality platform that delivers a real audience and results. Publishers must talk to advertisers to make them aware of all the steps they have taken to protect their investment and deliver results. The more advertisers realize the advantages of partnering with quality media, the more ad revenue they will direct toward legitimate publishers.

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