Brand Safety – Better To Geek Out Than Freak Out

By Glen Duncan, Unruly’s Global Ops Director and Chair of IAB Ad Ops Council

Concerns around ad fraud and brand safety continue to pose a powerful threat to the health of the digital ecosystem. In a survey we conducted recently with 1,000 senior brand and agency marketers across the US and UK, ad fraud was cited as one of their top concerns when using programmatic ad exchanges, along with quality of inventory and viewability.

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As the chair of the IAB Ad Ops Council in the UK, I see similar concerns raised by stakeholders across the industry and these issues have become especially prominent with the growth of RTB programmatic exchanges, where human judgement is disintermediated and ads can be served across hundreds of thousands of sites at the tap of a screen. It’s my belief that until the digital ecosystem gets to grips with ad fraud and brand safety concerns, digital advertising will not be in a position to fulfil its growth potential and brand safety is something we take very seriously at Unruly.

Since we were founded back in 2006, we have worked long and hard to build a strong reputation for brand safety practices. We helped to write the Social Video Conduct, we were the first to be accredited by the ABC for brand safety, and although we’re a technology company, we believe that Tech + Team are both required to protect our clients’ brands online, particularly in open exchange environments.

I often get asked by media vendors and advertisers about the steps we take at Unruly to ensure that brand safety remains a top priority, so I thought I’d share the 5 flanks of Unruly Shield...

Unruly Shield is the suite of technologies and the set of practices that are provided to all advertisers who run campaigns with Unruly. It combines in-house technology, third party integrations, industry certification and daily quality assurance – all coordinated by our Digital Brand Safety team – to ensure that we’re playing a leading role in improving the quality of the ad experience for both marketer and consumer.  

So, no, it’s not sexy, and, yes, it is laborious, but we believe this defence-in-depth approach is essential for marketers to retain confidence and continue to grow spend across digital.

1. First-Party Ad Safety Technology:

Software built by our award-winning engineering team is the first wall of defence:

  • Transparent 1×1 pixels on our video players track multiple hits from a single IP address to determine whether they are human or non-human
  • Digital fingerprinting helps identify fraudulent or botnet traffic
  • Heat mapping identifies patterns of non-human click behaviour on our video players, removing any invalid click traffic from our campaigns
  • Automated removal of ad traffic from campaigns with invalid play ratios
  • Unapproved Domains validation – System alerts when our player is detected outside of an Unruly approved domain.
  • Real-Time Placement Blocking allows real-time, instantaneous blocking of any sites in breach of our network policies

2. Third Party Ad Safety Technology:

We also integrate and partner with best in class third party tech providers to help minimize risks of ad misplacement and traffic fraud. These include:

  • Integral Ad Science – A long-standing partnership, IAS monitors the Unruly publisher network for fraudulent traffic;
  • MOAT – MRC accredited for video viewability, MOAT provides viewability measurement for all Unruly Ad Formats so we can maintain high levels of ad effectiveness and accountability;
  • Brightcloud A URL classification service that alerts us if we have served impressions on websites containing inappropriate content.

3. Industry Certification:

We adhere to and have helped to shape many industry initiatives, and we seek independent audit and certification wherever possible, to ensure our processes are best-in-class and protect the brands we work with:

4. People who care:

We don’t leave your safety to machines alone; to ensure that best practices are rigorously applied, we have a dedicated in-house Brand Safety team to conduct the following daily checks and make sure your campaigns are in safe hands. You can reach our Global Ops Director or the Digital Brand Safety team at any time if brand safety is your bag. We geek out on this stuff!

  • Collaborate with our Publisher Activation team to ensure all potential publishers sign rigorous Terms of Service, manually vetting each new site before it is accepted to our network;
  • Monitor all third-party reports for instances of ad misplacement and traffic fraud;
  • Monitor upwards of 4 million views a day for compliance to Unruly’s Network Policies;
  • Blacklist IPs and immediately block publishers/pull any live placements as necessary.

5. People who view our ads:

  • Monitor upwards of 4 million views a day for compliance to Unruly’s Network Policies;
  • Blacklist IPs and immediately block publishers/pull any live placements as necessary. Crowdsourcing is our secret weapon when it comes to ensuring brand safety. We want to make sure consumers are empowered to help as well;
  • User feedback buttons on all our video players enable users to flag problems with ad units or placements.

OK, back to work for me. I really hope this was helpful and if this post has piqued your interest. Can I also recommend you come along to our brand safety breakfasts in New York or the Ad Ops Council in London for lively discussions about all things digital!