For those who work in digital advertising and publishing, it’s been a bumpy and complex first half of the year. Brand Safety and fraud are on the minds of all advertisers, publishers, and ad tech firms, due in large part to late-March’s “Google Panic,” after several brands pulled their Google Display Network and YouTube ads upon discovering them running alongside violent, hateful, and extremist content.
While this is far from a new problem (in fact, one that dates to the beginning of real-time bidding and programmatic advertising), the unfortunate reality is that harmful, false, violent, and extreme user-generated web content is on the rise. DoubleVerify CEO, Wayne Gattinella, noted “a clear acceleration in content being published on questionable topics – content that would be considered inappropriate by most brands” (AdExchanger). It behooves every organization and entity in the digital advertising ecosystem to do a better job of identifying, avoiding, and mitigating the spread of this content.
Enter Jeff Jarvis, a journalism professor and director of CUNY’s Tow-Knight Center, who has been tasked with the administration of more than $14M pledged by Facebook, the Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund, The Tow Foundation, the Democracy Fund, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to support trust in news, investigative journalism, and fight the spread of hate and misinformation (NiemanLab).
To start, Jarvis and his team, in partnership with Storyful and Moat, have started the Open Brand Safety framework (or OBS), which was announced at the beginning of May. Effectively, it’s an effort towards a crowdsourced, master blacklist of sites and content that promote hate speech, violence, and extremism from brand safety tech providers, networks, and ad tech firms who’ve found and blacklisted them. Moat Chief Technology Officer Dan Fichter called OBS an acknowledgment of a “collective responsibility to act” (NewsCorp).
What are the advantages of a master blacklist? First, creating a master blacklist (which is shared among advertisers) will begin to “choke off” the advertising dollars currently being piped back to the publishers of this harmful content, says Storyful CEO Rahul Chopra (NiemanLab).
Of equal importance is creating a data pool in which technology can be trained to detect, log, and avoid harmful and misleading digital environments. By expanding our understanding of which sites are blacklisted by advertisers, we can create a situation where technology can easily gather data about the defining characteristics of a brand-unsafe advertising environment, learn how to detect them, and ultimately, avoid advertising on them.
While the proliferation of fake and extremist content is merely a line item on a list of digital advertising grievances, it’s clear that Jarvis’ initiative is the first of many steps in the right direction – towards the truth, effective technical solutions, and ultimately, transparency.
Magnetic is dedicated to providing brand safe environments for our advertisers. We arm our clients with best-in-class brand protection through industry-leading partnerships with Integral Ad Science and DoubleVerify, brand-conscious ad buying practices, and highly vigilant campaign monitoring. As ad formats and platforms continue to evolve, we are constantly evaluating new mitigation strategies and tools to ensure the best ad placements possible for our customers and their brands.
Magnetic is a digital marketing and artificial intelligence company. We use machine learning and AI to deliver smarter, faster, and more effective advertising. Our powerful AI platform continuously analyzes the attributes of 320 million live user profiles alongside real-time inventory supply and bid opportunities to deliver highly performant and profitable campaigns for our clients.