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Why Brands Need Ad Verification Tools By Seth Meisel


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From the SMX West Conference in San Jose, California, March 21-23, 2017. SESSION: Protecting Your Brand In The Era Of Fake News. PRESENTATION: Why Brands Need Ad Verification Tools - Given by Seth Meisel, @sethmeisel -, Digital Marketing Manager. #SMX #32C2

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Why Brands Need Ad Verification Tools By Seth Meisel

  1. 1. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel Why Brands Need Ad Verification Tools Protecting Your Brand In The Era Of Fake News
  2. 2. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel Started in 2003 and operated from a storage unit in Kirkland, WA  2 founders would hand deliver books to the post office in the evenings In 2007 we opened our second warehouse  Rapid growth for the next 6 years Today we are the largest used book seller in the world  Over $95M in revenue  Over 700 employees in 11 states  Over 15M books shipped in the last 12 months  Our total Dev and Marketing Team is still less than 20 people today – Milestones
  3. 3. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel Does is matter which websites a brand’s ads show on?
  4. 4. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel How I found out I had a problem:
  5. 5. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel Sleeping Giants Movement (@slpng_giants) is a movement letting brands know they’re showing ads on They were tagged in this tweet because S.G. asks members like @Feralish / (aka “Cat Loaf”) to take screenshots of brands showing on Their aim is defund Breitbart of ad revenue. Here’s the steps I took to respond:
  6. 6. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel I initially reached out to the account that sent the tweet…
  7. 7. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel THE S.G. FAQ: THE S.G. UPDATED CONFIRMED LIST: REMOVE ADS YOURSELF: Note: As of writing this, S.G. reports that over 1,300 brands confirmed that they have removed from their ad buys. Then I read S.G.’s FAQs and did a “confirmation tweet”
  8. 8. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel Major brands not aware their ads are showing on Breitbart: – Macedonian town of Veles had a small industry of profiting from websites with fake news headlines during the recent US presidential election: – “Methbot” by October 2016 was siphoning $3 - $5 million per day in ad revenue across +6,000 websites: – Recent news tells me I am not alone:
  9. 9. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel 1. Am I able to fix this issue myself? 2. What is the extent of the issue? 3. How do I audit where our ads have shown and will be shown going forward? 4. How much has this issue cost my brand so far? 5. How would we go about blocking non-brand safe ad placements before they happen? Outlining the requirements of a possible solution:
  10. 10. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel Whitelisting & Blacklisting Solutions These solutions help brands create custom strategies specific to their business vertical (exp. Books vertical), analyze which sites you have served on & optimize for brand safety. Pre-bid Placement Verification These solutions monitor and/or blocks ads placements if the site violates your brand’s brand safety settings. My research turned up a few types of solutions:
  11. 11. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel  IAS (Integral Ad Sciences)  Trust Metrics  WhiteOps  Pixalate  Moat (Analytics)  DoubleVerify I ended up with a shortlist of potential vendors:
  12. 12. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel Needed a solution that would identify which sites we’ve been wasting ad spend on & stop traffic to those sites going forward. Step #1: How do we audit 145,000+ websites? domain
  13. 13. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel • Gave them a 7-month Inventory report of 140K+ domains our ads showed on. • Trust Metrics categorized 4,500+ domains that represented 93% of our ad impressions. Trust Metrics audit:
  14. 14. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel 1. “White” Sites 2. “Gray” Sites 3. “Black” Sites – (low quality, not safe, High UGH, Non-English, Insufficient Data, Foreign, redirected, opaque) Inventory breakdown of the 4,519 sites in the audit:
  15. 15. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel Trust Metrics audit: 1600
  16. 16. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel Good news is that half our spend was ok! The bad news is that the other half was “gray” or “black” and potentially wasted. Wait, what’s black mean?? 1600
  17. 17. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel “Black” site definitions:
  18. 18. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel “Black” site sub-definitions:
  19. 19. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel Some examples of “low quality” sites:
  20. 20. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel Examples of “not safe” sites:
  21. 21. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel And examples of sites “not in database”:
  22. 22. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel Finally, examples of “gray” sites:
  23. 23. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel “White” sites:
  24. 24. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel We followed up with 19 sites that we blacklisted (not safe, low quality, not in database) Blacklisted Sites from audit represented: o 771,422 ad impressions on brand unsafe domains. o 1,116 ad clicks o $1,372.94 in spend Actions taken as a result of this audit: Sites
  25. 25. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel Need a pre-bid blocking solution that would stop the programmatic ad buys before they’re bid on, before my company’s ad shows on the site. Step #2: Can we proactively prevent ads from showing on a non-brand safe site?
  26. 26. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel • 19 day test on our Remarketing campaigns that featured IAS “monitoring” tags • Set Brand Safety Settings for categories like Adult, Violent Content, etc. • Monitoring Fraudulent Traffic • Monitoring ad Inventory unrated by IAS • Monitoring ads showing on browser 3rd party tools • Monitoring Ad serving in Geographic regions • Monitoring View ability Percentage IAS (Integral Ad Sciences) Test
  27. 27. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel Not blocked at the domain level, but ads blocked on parts of domain that weren’t brand safe IAS (Integral Ad Sciences) Test
  28. 28. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel Geographic Ad Monitoring • Useful if your sites only fulfills to particular countries. 3rd Party Viewability KPIs “Suspicious Activity” Non-Human Traffic Monitoring Other KPIs monitored by Pre-bid Verification Vendors:
  29. 29. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel Findings: • 11% of our Ad Impressions monitored would have been blocked by our custom brand safety settings (or 321,153 ad impressions) • 1.3% of our program were “suspicious” ad impressions (or 35,531 suspicious ad Impressions)  less than 1% of ad impressions served in non- U.S. countries IAS (Integral Ad Sciences) Test
  30. 30. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel Google has started allowing MRC Audits: • Facebook’s changes to their “trending” feature: • • • Google removes 200 websites from AdSense network: • Final thoughts – looking forward:
  31. 31. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel 1. We blacklisted domains that are not safe, low quality and not in TM’s database. 2. Based on insights from our 19-day Integral Ad Sciences monitoring test, we are now looking into implementing a blocking tag solution so we can utilize pre-bid ad blocking. Actions taken based on findings:
  32. 32. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel 1. These types of solutions can help optimize ad spend & protect your brand’s (or client’s) ads from showing on non-brand safe sites. They can also filter out suspicious activity, monitor geographic ad serving & establish viewability metrics. 2. Look into the feasibility of serving your own ads via a dedicated ad server or via vendors like (DoubleClick Campaign Manager (DCM) or Sizmek for display ads & Innovid for video ads in order to be able to opt into tag-based solutions. 3. Make sure vendor you choose is properly accredited by the MRC (Media Rating Council) 4. Blacklist at the domain level only when the whole site is problematic, otherwise you risk limiting a program’s reach. My preference is pre-bid blocking at the sub-domain level. Recommendations for Brand Managers:
  33. 33. #SMX #32C2 @ThriftBooks @SethMeisel Related Links: Meet the Ad Companies Ditching Breitbart and Fake News: Advertising’s Moral Struggle: Is Online Reach Worth the Hurt? For Advertisers, Fake Eyeballs May Be Bigger Problem Than Fake News: Google purges nearly 200 websites in fake news crackdown White Ops reports biggest ad fraud botnet found yet: ‘Methbot’ targeting high-CPM video inventory: Journalism Fights For Survival In The Post-Truth Era: