Unruly’s First-Ever “Brand Safe Tea” Goes Down A Storm (With Tea Cups)

Unruly recently welcomed an expert panel from across the globe to meet at Unruly London HQ for our first-ever Brand Safety (or “Brand Safe Tea”,  as one of our punny developers coined it) Afternoon Tea session.

The event, introduced by Unruly’s Brand Safety Officer Jessica King, saw Unruly’s EMEA MD Olly Smith moderate an exciting discussion around ad fraud, ad misplacement and viewability with a panel of leading industry bodies from Unruly, Integral Ad Science, Altitude Digital and AOL. The event was, of course, accompanied by some delightfully British breakfast tea, scones and cakes – only the best here at Unruly HQ!

Safety in the digital ad landscape is a hot topic and one that Unruly takes extremely seriously, so it was fantastic to host such a lively and educational session with lots of key takeaways for all involved.

A big thank you to Devin Yeager (Altitude Digital), James Cooper (AOL), Phillip Hayman (Integral Ad Science) and our very own Glen Duncan for taking part.

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(Left to Right) Oliver Smith (Unruly), Devin Yeager (Altitude Digital), James Cooper (AOL), Phillip Hayman (Integral Ad Science), Glen Duncan (Unruly)

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For those who could not make it, here some of the key points raised:

On Ad Misplacement

We kicked off with an in-depth discussion around each of the business’ approach to ad misplacement. It was interesting to see that there was a clear distinction between vendors using technology based approaches, those using manual screening, and those using a mix of both. For instance, Altitude Digital and AOL have dedicated teams of individuals manually screening all domains prior to them appearing in the Altitude or AOL networks.

This ensures that unsafe, or offensive, domains are removed before damage can be caused. Similarly, Unruly uses a people-first approach with its dedicated in-house Unruly Shield team, supported by our technology partner, Brightcloud, a URL reputation technology vendor who screens our domains and alerts us to risky or illegal content, in addition to the manual screening we also carry out. In addition, Integral Ad Science offer a brand safety product which allows its clients to review and remove unsafe domains from its media mix.  No solution is perfect, however, and there was a general consensus that a combined technology/manual approach to ad misplacement ensures all involved have the best level of protection.

On Ad Fraud

The middle section of the event saw the conversation move towards ad fraud.  Possibly the biggest threat to advertisers in the current digital landscape, this was a highly passionate debate. Phillip Hayman, from IAS, talked in depth about the Suspicious Activity Detection product his business offers, which uses methods such as detecting anomalous browser behaviours as key indicators of fraudulent, or non-human, impressions. While these technologies are hugely important to the industry and continue to improve the way we can combat ad fraud, it was clear from the discussion on the day that all parties feel they have a level of responsibility to implement their own safety methods in the arena.

For instance, AOL is monitoring its own network looking for unusual or suspicious attention metrics, and at Unruly we have a number of first party tools, including automated traffic removal for any known fraudulent IPs. While each business had a unique approach to tackling this issue, all agreed the only sustainable solution will be one that sees everyone in the buy chain come together, with an aligned and dedicated commitment to combatting those individuals and groups out to exploit our industry.  Hopefully we will see a move towards this in 2016!

On Viewability

To bring the session to a close, we focused the discussion around viewability.  A topic that really sits on the edge of brand safety – predominantly used as a measurement tool, but also a great indicator of the quality of the traffic on a site. This is a subject that is growing in popularity, particularly with large media agencies, and is something that everyone on the panel felt they needed to be on top of in order to have their business succeed. Altitude Digital referenced a potential move towards a model in its business that would see advertisers only pay for viewable impressions, something that media agencies in the US are already starting to demand.

With quality metrics vendor IAS represented on the panel, alongside network suppliers and DSPs, it was obvious the industry still has a long way to go before it finds mutually agreeable benchmarks and measurement solutions that work for publishers and networks, but are also agreeable to agencies and brands. However, everyone was in agreement that viewability is an extremely valuable and worthy proposition, and something that all parties are investing time and spend in.

On Raising the Quality of Traffic

The final question of the day, posed by Olly, was what the panel felt was the best next step the industry could take to improve the quality of traffic in the buying chain.  Key responses were:

  1. Crack domain masking – it’s the act of replacing the actual domain of a site with a fake one, usually a reputable and premium domain name, to fool advertisers into thinking they are delivering impressions to a high quality site. In fact, their ad is appearing on a low quality, potentially fraudulent website. It’s a relatively new phenomenon that is gaining huge momentum and something that no safety or media vendor currently has a solution for.
  2. Working together – In order to improve the quality of traffic and ensure the buy chain continues to become safer, everyone needs to work together.  It’s futile having only some players involved in these conversations – everyone from buyer to publisher needs to get involved, and fast!

Look out for our next session, which will be held later this year!