Marketing in the UK: Premium Publishers Tackle Brand Safety, Fraud Risks in the Move to Digital - eMarketer
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Marketing in the UK: Premium Publishers Tackle Brand Safety, Fraud Risks in the Move to Digital


Richard Reeves
Managing Director
Association for Online Publishing (AOP)

Brands and advertisers are driving much of the narrative around brand safety and ad fraud, albeit with their ire currently pointed at Google (and YouTube). But what role do publishers more generally have to play in this debate? eMarketer’s Bill Fisher spoke with Richard Reeves, managing director at the AOP, on where publishers stand and what they’re doing to mitigate the risks.

eMarketer: How much impetus should fall on publishers to remedy the issues we’re seeing around ad fraud, brand safety and viewability?

Richard Reeves: It’s an industrywide issue and it’s the collective responsibility of everybody involved to ensure that we appropriately address any concerns, so publishers absolutely do have a responsibility.

We’re in an era where there is a greater emphasis on automated trading, and that inevitably encompasses the involvement of third parties. The emphasis so far has been on those third parties needing to have in place some form of accreditation that recognizes they are compliant with various industry standards.

“We just need to, as an industry, continue to make sure we’re all educated about what is available and continue to make sure that we work within those parameters.”

Publishers already have in place their own processes and their own auditing to negate against risk where fraud and brand safety are concerned. But there is clearly more that we can do. We just need to, as an industry, continue to make sure we’re all educated about what is available, continue to make sure that we work within those parameters and utilize industry-created resources designed for this purpose, such as JICWEBS [the Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards] here in the UK.

eMarketer: How difficult is it to get industry standards that everybody should follow?

Reeves: We have a very honest view of where things are working within the industry and where they’re not, but in the context of walled gardens, everybody struggles occasionally to get to a couple of those organizations. Google and Facebook are the obvious ones to name, and they do appear to be playing by a different set of rules.

As an industry, more and more pressure is being put on them to comply in the same way that everybody else in this industry is required to do. And there has been acknowledgement within those organizations that something needs to be done, that they need to take some responsibility. Google, for example, has agreed that it would accept and sign up to digital trading standards, so I think there is a sea change.

eMarketer: Do publishers have enough tools at their disposal to combat ad fraud, brand safety and viewability?

Reeves: People are often surprised about how much is available to us to rectify the situation. Continued education in this process is important, but tools are there.

One of the problems we have that is different to the offline world is that there is effectively zero barrier to entry for people to be able to launch and introduce content platforms. Members of the AOP have considerable history in terms of delivering trusted content in environments that are positive to advertisers. And way before digital, certain processes and approaches were put in place to ensure a positive and safe experience for consumers, as well as for the advertiser.

It’s not something that they’ve woken up to in a digital era. It’s far more complex, but it’s one that has always been recognized as a natural extension and there’s a need to understand [it] goes beyond what they have always done.

“One of the problems we have that is different to the offline world is that there is effectively zero barrier to entry for people to be able to launch and introduce content platforms.”

eMarketer: A lot of the blame is being laid at the feet of programmatic trading. Do you think it’s fair to make such a definite link?

Reeves: There was concern at the beginning of programmatic that it was at the cost of the relationship. With the concerns that are currently being identified and publicized, there’s now a renewed sense of responsibility from advertisers to ensure all elements of risk are negated. An automated process is definitely here to stay, but our community, our Tier 1 publishers, are ostensibly about driving the direct sales and those dialogues and relationships.

Like everything new and innovative, we still have to iron out the creases. You can’t expect to have a perfect solution from the get-go, but what you can do as an industry is continue to work together toward perfection. There are a number of organizations that operate extremely responsibly and are looking to grow this type of buying process—to develop their technology to ensure they eradicate some of the concerns that are making the headlines now.

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