The digital media landscape is seemingly cosmic in size and complexity, and so very tricky for us to picture in its entirety. But if I were to scale it down to something that could be analogised more clearly, it reminds me very much of Minecraft. An open-world, sandbox environment in which everyone is free to choose what, when and how they want to approach the content.
There are different kinds of player. Most are benign, using the internet for convenience and enjoying the process of bettering themselves through the platforms – again, just like a Minecraft player. But there are all sorts of bad guys lurking in the shadows of the dark web looking to cause mischief at best, and destruction at worst.
So whilst digital marketing is always a busy task, the last couple of months have been particularly eventful, challenging even, when discussing brand safety and the protection of audiences online. Google has been ‘rattled’ this quarter by a series of high profile brands withholding spend on their AdWords platforms – fuelled by accusations of ad fraud and ads appearing in inappropriate content.
The aftershocks have been felt throughout the industry, including at Generation Media. Like many companies, we have been concerned with ongoing issues regarding the security and safeguarding of our clients’ reputations within the Google marketing space, including YouTube.
"Any agency worth their salt should tread very cautiously when it comes to programmatic, and work with companies such as Google to pull in the right direction."
Martin Doyle, Generation Media
When executing any media campaign on any platform, we constantly monitor and optimise campaigns to give confidence that a campaign appears alongside appropriate content. That takes more than just a few clicks: we use human judgment and common sense to do this – not just algorithms. Any agency worth their salt should tread very cautiously when it comes to programmatic, and work with companies such as Google to pull in the right direction.
Representatives at Google have given us assurances that they are improving many elements of the AdWords platform as a top priority. These include: increased brand safety, automatically excluding ‘potentially questionable content’, easier access to exclusion management and finer tuned content control.
Furthermore, we’re currently consulting with a number of technology partners to mitigate our clients’ brands exposure to potential inappropriate content. An upgrade to our current campaign tracking systems will further protect our clients and their brands.
There will always be issues around brand safety online – this space is not going to suddenly become a safe haven. But for me, the overarching issue is that, in this open-world universe, there still remain walled gardens that advertisers can’t quite peek into. I suggest the bigger question is whether huge internet companies with their zettabytes of data can keep operating in the way they always have for the foreseeable future.
If accusations of murky advertising practices continue to rumble on, then it may be that agencies lobby lawmakers around the world to step in and legislate; which would lead to walls being pulled down. It’s unlikely to happen soon, but I do think it is a possibility. After all, this is far more serious than Minecraft. Although that can be very serious too: just ask an eight-year-old.
Martin Doyle is head of digital at Generation Media, the UK’s leading independent media buyer of toys and games advertising.