Quality ad environment: how to deliver it

A quality advertising environment is premium publishers’ USP. The task of delivering that rests largely with Ad Ops teams. Kerys Arundell, Head of Ad Operations - Automotive at Bauer Media and co-chair on the AOP Ad Ops Steering Group, looks at some of the challenges Ad Ops teams face.

By Kerys Arundell

Quality ad environment: how to deliver it

Q: What is the main item on the AOP Ad Ops Group's agenda at the moment and why is it important?

A: Brand safety is an ongoing topic on the Ad Ops Group’s agenda as we’re the teams who are implementing the content verification tags and reviewing the reporting publisher-side to ensure that the ads are serving as expected. I think there will always be a conversation happening around brand safety, particularly as some of the group are working with news content, which can have its own unique brand safety challenges.

While we’re seeing some improvements in the way content verification tools validate webpages, blocklists are frequently applied with blunt force and some platforms are unable to detect nuance; words that are used in a completely safe context are still blocked or flagged because the word itself might mean something else amongst less safe content or in a negative news story (‘battery’ is a one such word we see blocked regularly).

There is also the question of how much the addition of content verification tags affects ad load speeds and what effect this has on the performance of both the ad and site. As there is an incredible amount of depth to digital reporting, it’s important that we’re able to deliver optimum performance whilst offering an excellent user experience to our audience and maintaining trust with our advertisers.

Q: What is the opportunity for publishers in finding a successful resolution to this?

A: Resolving how we manage brand safety will ultimately show the value of premium publisher inventory. There are a lot of bad actors out there and by being able to provide a level of transparency to our advertisers, we can build trust in our brands and our content. Additionally, ensuring that the technology both ourselves and our advertisers employ is implemented to allow nuance and consider the full context of the page will mean that there is more inventory available to monetise.

In an ideal world, the level of trust between brands and publishers would be such that content verification tags would only be needed in specific circumstances (such as when there is potential to serve against negative news stories or user-created content). Doing so would help improve the load speed of ads and improve digital performance.

Q: What changes need to be made to achieve the right outcome and what is the timeline?

A: There’s still a lot of work to be done around the technology used for brand safety, and there are some conscious efforts on the part of tech providers to ensure that the verification focuses on the context instead of a word in isolation. I believe we also have a responsibility as publishers to be invested in the conversations with tech providers in order to help establish platforms that work in the best interests of all players.

There is also an education piece to be done around brand safety. A lot of the measures put in place have been done in response to some high-profile brand safety incidents and keyword blocklists have been applied indiscriminately. We need to work closely with our partners to ensure that the protective measures implemented are proportionate to the risks faced.

The timelines for this are ongoing; there will always been changes in technology that will move the goal posts and new crises that we need to respond to.

Q: What have been the key areas of progress that the industry has made in Ad Ops over the past 12 months?

A: Ad Ops has spent much of the past year focused on implementing publisher data strategies in advance of the removal of 3rd party cookies, as the changes are allowing publishers to harness their own data. For example, at Bauer Media, we’ve launched Bauer Illuminate, which is our 1st party data product. Ad Ops is heavily involved in these changes, from building audiences to managing audience campaigns from start to finish. The implementation of DMPs to enable 1st party data strategies has given Ad Ops teams access to richer data and has allowed us to provide sophisticated insights to our partners.

Q: What projects / challenges do you expect to come to the fore in future meetings of your steering group?

A: Attention metrics are being discussed a lot in the wider industry right now and there are some advertisers who are keen to drive the conversation in order to simplify success metrics. There are new tech companies in the space offering products to measure attention, but there is still work to be done on standardising measurements and methodologies. Cross-platform attention metrics form a part of this work, which will bring the challenge of ensuring that digital can stand up against its counterparts across Audio, TV and OOH.

I expect we’ll continue to talk about the removal of 3rd party cookies from Chrome for the rest of 2022 as there is still plenty of work to do to manage this. It’s a huge opportunity for publishers to take control of their own data and monetise it in a compliant way. Teams will also be testing alternatives to the cookie and be looking at how products such as Google Topics will work for them.

With the UK government currently reviewing the GDPR framework there is a very real possibility that there will be changes proposed that affect privacy and user consent. If this is the case, there will be lots of discussion across the Ad Ops group around ensuring the platforms we use and our CMPs are compliant with any proposed changes.

Q: Looking more widely at Ad Ops within publishers, where do you suggest publishers should be focusing their resources?

A: Data and insights is an area where publishers can really add value to their products. Use your data and you partner feedback to inform where you’re going and use that data to help your advertisers maximise their potential on your properties. Additionally, work to standardise data so your insights are meaningful and comparable.

I would always suggest taking some time to review process, products and workflows to see if they still work efficiently for your business. Digital advertising is still constantly changing and what you were doing 2-3 years ago may not be working as effectively now, so taking that time to review and change may ultimately free up resource for exciting new projects and products.

About us

Formed in 2002, the Association of Online Publishers [AOP] is a UK industry body representing digital publishing companies. We champion the interests of media owners from diverse backgrounds including newspaper and magazine publishing, TV and radio broadcasting, and pure online media.

Our steering groups are the life blood of the AOP and help build networking ties across the industry. Member organisations can input into the agenda, drive discussion, share learnings, and send key staff members to represent them in the meetings. Our current steering groups include: Commercial, Ad Ops, Research, Product Development, B2B, Audience Development, HR and JAB [Journalism Advisory Board].



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