Protecting brands in a post-IASH age

IASH may have gone – but there are better ways of protecting brands online

Advertisers want performance at the best price, but not if it puts their brand at risk. Major brands including British Gas, Tesco and EasyJet were recently accused in the Times and the Daily Mail of advertising on illegal file-sharing sites. They’re not the first and probably won’t be the last to have their ads show up where they’d rather they didn’t; it’s an industry-wide issue. The emergence of supply side platforms (SSPs), ad exchanges and demand side platforms (DSPs) is exacerbating the difficulties of maintaining brand safety, and new, technical solutions that enable advertisers to protect their brands should be adopted urgently.

The huge growth in inventory supply and real-time technologies has rendered IASH unworkable – and SSPs and ad exchanges were never IASH members. IASH never promised to provide 100 per cent brand safety and anything that replaces it won’t achieve that either. Whatever shape a new initiative takes, it should be an improvement on IASH – but that doesn’t mean advertisers can sit back and do nothing.

The industry is in a period of limbo: IASH as we know it is finished, and while the Digital Trading Standards Group (DTSG), under the direction of the ABC is doing some great work in developing a new process and audit, this is still some months away. In the interim it is more important than ever that every agency adopts a robust, proactive client brand protection strategy. Likewise, advertisers need to check what policies their agency has put in place to protect their brand.

Advertisers need to ensure that campaigns run by agencies through trading desks or DSPs use content verification tools from companies like Adsafe, Adexpose and DoubleVerify. These tools assess page content and rate pages according to a set of criteria including the presence of adult content, illegal download availability, offensive language, mentions of illegal drugs and hate speech. Some simply provide delivery reports of the URLs used for the campaign and provide an analysis of the content of each page, but the best systems block the ad before it is served if the URL is recognised as inappropriate.

Agencies that use third party ad networks – whether they use a DSP or more traditional technology – should make sure they get a clear statement that sets out exactly what steps the network is taking to protect advertisers’ brands. For our own part, Crimtan runs Adsafe on every campaign and has produced a Digital Trading Statement that gives agencies and advertisers total transparency into our brand protection policy and process.

Brands need to feel confident about advertising online, and any company that runs campaigns on their behalf needs to take meaningful, demonstrable and effective steps to reassure advertisers that their ads will only appear next to brand safe content. Established ad networks will undoubtedly step up and undertake a DTSG audit as soon as it becomes available, and responsible industry players sincerely hope that many other companies – including DSPs, ad exchanges and SSPs – choose to do the same. Until then, it is vital that advertisers and agencies take steps to ensure their brands are safe when advertising online.

By Tony Evans, Corporate Development Director, Crimtan.

This article first appeared on on 21 March 2012