The growing trend for Real Time Bidding and what this means for brand safety

The growing trend for Real Time Bidding and what this means for brand safety

Bob Wootton

Bob Wootton, director of media & advertising at ISBA, says advertisers need real-time trading to be accompanied by an effective code of conduct, underpinned by an independent stamp of trust, to unlock the full potential that the technology offers…

The latest IAB Online Adspend study showed that the online market grew by £244 million in the first half of 2011 compared to the same period in 2010. Looking forward, forecasts point to spending on online continuing to rise – and these campaigns are increasingly being delivered on a real-time basis. But as with all buying decisions there are trade-offs – in this case it’s the balance between real-time focused targeting and the related safe placement of advertising.

Technology has brought about some fantastic opportunities for advertisers. Online advertising allows advertisers and agencies to buy audiences at an individual impression level. This brings the promise of both direct reach to a chosen audience demographic and optimal return on investment. To achieve this means applying technology to select only the impressions that best meet the profile of the advertiser’s target group. And all this is done in real time as your target consumer is online moving around from page to page. It’s a very exciting prospect.

However, this opportunity brings with it real challenges; not least the fact that millions of ad impressions are being traded in fractions of a second. To reach the right audience sophisticated programmes must consider multiple data sources to ensure the best match is made. And all this needs to happen in real time. Because this is a technology-driven buying process it inevitably carries some inherent risks in terms of the sites ads can end up on. Advertisers need to satisfy themselves that there are sufficient safeguards in place to ensure an appropriate destination for their ad. What’s more they need reassurance that those processes are being employed each and every time an ad is placed. At the aggregate level, trust is needed between trading partners.

But right now it’s not that easy for advertisers to find such comfort. Online ad-serving is a technology led ecosystem and must therefore place heavy reliance on technology to address the risks. The good news is that there are solutions on the market, such as Content Verification tools, which seek to ensure every ad served appears on an appropriate site in accordance with the buying instructions. However, the technology and the algorithms these solutions use are only as good as the humans who wrote them and the scenarios they predicted! We all also know that the appropriateness of a page or website can be highly subjective and brands, like people, have different opinions and sensitivities.

What can and should be delivered is a system of process verification so advertisers can be reassured that the technology their real time bidding or CV Tool provider uses applies principles to minimise the risk of misplacement. We know this type of self-regulated system can work because of the success of the IASH model. Here an industry-agreed code of best practice is underpinned by twice yearly independent ABC audit to verify compliance. This inspired the market confidence needed to allow the sector to grow because it gave advertisers reassurance that the technology companies apply key principles.

The introduction of real time bidding moves the market on and requires an evolution of the current IASH code to encompass all players within the new advertising ecosystem. The learning from IASH is that the model works; a successful code of practice, underpinned by independent verification, leads to full development of the market.

So whilst real-time trading is happening and will in all likelihood grow significantly in the next 12 months, the nature of the trade means that advertisers need this to be accompanied by effective code of conduct underpinned by an independent stamp of trust. That is the way to unlock the full potential that the technology offers.

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