Advertising Technology

To Vet or Not to Vet

Media buying used to consist of vetting publisher sites for “quality” and quality was measured differently by every advertiser. Yet there were some standards that most often equated to scale – how much traffic the site generated, the quality of content – or even, was it professionally procured content? Advertisers also looked at relevance to the media brand: did the site’s content align or fit with the overall strategy of the media brand so that association to the content would not be awkward?

Although this used to be a time consuming effort on behalf of media buyers, I believe it was certainly a valuable one that is being lost in the world of automation.

Automation is supposed to provide us with efficiencies in execution, but it is not supposed to dumb down the process of media buying, message alignment, and overall relevancy of creative messaging as it relates to content adjacency.
There are publishers out there trying to participate in this automated environment who want to be transparent about who they are, the content they represent, the audiences they curate — and help advertisers align messaging against relevant audiences and content. Because after all, they too have a user experience to maintain.

In the ocean of available inventory, audience buying alone cannot solve for what used to be media buying 101. Humans relate to brand identities not machines. I think we often forget that just because anyone can be a publisher on the Internet, not everyone can create a relevant and notable brand identity. There are publishers who have invested many years in creating sustainable brands who are being marginalized by the short sightedness of solely buying audience regardless of contextual relevance.

The reality is, there is due diligence to be done on both sides. Publishers need to know who is advertising on their sites to maintain their own user experiences and advertisers need to know their messaging is additive and not disruptive or irrelevant to the user experience. That type of coordination takes cooperation from both sides.

As far as I have seen, no algorithm has produced that sort of output. Probably because coordination and cooperation are inherently terms associated with the human experience and not automation.

So I say all of this to say what?

Let’s as an industry proceed with caution and go in with our eyes wide open. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. There are years of precedence on evaluating media partners, so while audience buying provides tremendous opportunity in finding your target and RTB provides efficiencies in executing the buy, neither fully addresses brand and message alignment. And those are the associations upon which our industry has stood for many years.

I leave you with this example of why I believe content alignment matters: A well respected family vacation company wants to reach above average income adults with children. Surprisingly, the demographic can be found during a hip hop reality show about love, and another reality show about religious mobsters. Who knew?

This is not from personal experience… and really you just can’t account for people’s viewing habits.

But does that brand want to be aligned against such content and more importantly, will their message really be received? There is value in not only finding the desired audience, but also in being at the right place at the right time.

To vet or not to vet that is the question. By my view, why in the world wouldn’t you?


Shelly is a contributor at The Makegood and VP of Marketing Services at quadrantONE, a joint venture of the media companies Tribune Company, Gannett Co., Inc., Hearst Corporation and The New York Times Company.