Emma Newman, VP, UK, PubMatic looks mat how publishers can regain control of their programmatic strategy and unlock brand budgets by renewing their focus on quality.
In 2012, after a decade of lagging behind the rise of digital content consumption, digital ad spend started to catch up, and has not stopped since. A key facilitator of this has been programmatic advertising.
As budgets accelerated towards programmatic, many publishers found themselves losing control their monetisation strategy as more and more technology ‘middlemen’ started to populate the supply chain leading to lost revenue as brands fought to secure ad impressions at the lowest possible cost.
Today, publishers need to focus on quality to capitalise on the opportunities offered by brand budgets. It’s this push toward quality that P&G’s chief brand officer Marc Pritchard demanded as a critical and urgent supply chain issue, along with more accountability and transparency. Unfortunately, many publishers still view this quality mandate as a direct threat to ad revenue. It doesn’t have to be.
In reality, both publishers and brands benefit from quality inventory, and both need to learn to pull in the same direction. Initiatives such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are causing demand partners across the digital advertising ecosystem to scrutinise their digital supply chains.
As a result of the increased understanding that comes from this scrutiny, marketing departments are being made more accountable for media spend, and agencies and demand-side platforms (DSPs) are working to optimise supply chains, removing partners that don’t meet their transparency and quality standards. As this process plays out, publishers offering high-quality inventory will be better positioned to capitalise on programmatic brand spend.
To address brands’ trust and safety concerns and build meaningful, long-term partnerships, publishers must focus on three areas. Doing so will put them back in a position of control.
- Content. Publishers need to prioritise the production of original content that attracts loyal audiences, not bots. Traditional news publications are brilliant at doing this (it’s their bread and butter after all) and that’s the reasons brands clamour to advertise on the likes of the Guardian, the Telegraph, and The Independent. The problem lies with content producers who reproduce original content through automatic feeds from other sources. Fake news and clickbait is, sadly, widespread across the internet, and can easily be pumped into content aggregators’ sites without them knowing. Content aggregators need to be mindful of this and put in place processes to stop this happening and avoid compromising the integrity of their inventory.
- Audience. When building an audience, publishers must take the long view. Over the years, many publishers have been seduced by the idea of buying inexpensive traffic to fill gaps in supply. Whilst this might increase short-term revenue, it increases the odds of invalid traffic (IVT) and can reduce engagement with content, especially when visitors expected something different — a frequent problem with click bait. As with content aggregators, it is imperative for ad networks and other downstream supply partners to create policies and workflows that place a significant emphasis on quality vetting.
- Control. Finally, quality content creators must take ownership of their monetisation to ensure they can continue to fund quality journalism. If you’re going to offer a subscription model, make sure consumers get value for money. If you chose to rely on advertising (either in conjunction with a subscription model, or as the only monetisation source) make sure ads are contextually relevant, non-interruptive, and engaging.
New fraud-fighting initiatives have enabled publishers to take back control of and manage their pricing and partners while investing in brand safety. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB)’s ads.txt effort, for example, has provided visibility into the certified supply path for quality inventory. As a growing number of buyers will only work with certified ads.txt inventory, the estimated 60% of comScore 1000 publishers that have obtained ads.txt certification can expect to offer the most in-demand inventory and secure a larger share of brand spend. Monetisation tactics like header bidding have also given publishers more control by providing greater access to demand, resulting in higher fill rates and increased revenue.
Increased brand spend in the programmatic ecosystem presents publishers with a tremendous opportunity IF they can solve the issues around quality and control. For publishers, this means offering desirable content that attracts real humans and taking ownership of revenue models and supply paths. For advertisers, this means working with trusted supply partners and knowing exactly where your ads are running. Over the next 12 months, digital content creators who are lax in these areas will suffer and possibly exit the ecosystem. Those who focus aggressively on inventory quality and demonstrate their commitment to advertisers, however, will be the winners, capturing the majority of programmatic budgets.
By Emma Newman,