Transparency: Marketing’s New Currency – Part I

In part I of our two part series on transparency in advertising, we look at the recent demand for transparency from brands and consumers, who is affected, and what needs to be addressed.

The term ‘transparency’ has been bandied about the advertising industry for years but will take on exceptional importance in 2017. After a dismal year plagued by fake news, fake news ads, algorithm blunders, improper metrics attribution, security breaches, and an unwillingness to quickly act on hate speech, marketers will feel the backlash from disillusioned consumers fed up with murky tactics and feeble apologies.

Advertisers are more concerned than ever with where their ads land with regards to ad fraud, viewability, and brand alignment, i.e., is this the image we want associated with our brand? We’ve seen large brands begin to take action as public opinion has forced their hand. The threat of financial loss has finally caused brands to mobilise and do something about transparency, or risk losing future business.

Who is Affected?

In short, everyone. Politicians were not the only casualties in 2016’s trust fallout, social media brands, agencies, and marketers were also caught in the fray, and will continue to pay the price for missteps in the coming year.

Brands were recently taken to task for (unwittingly) appearing on sites that are deemed controversial for their political views. Advertisers are being asked to be aware of their social and political footprint, to be accountable for where their ad dollars land, and for stepping up and admitting any wrongdoing. Brands that don’t comply are swiftly, and publicly denounced. The Twitter account,  Sleeping Giants, names, shames, and call outs brands for appearing on hate sites and right wing publications such as Breitbart.  Sleeping Giants’ campaign has witnessed unparalleled support as consumers quickly jump behind their initiative and boycott brands that show ads on these sites.

Even as brands cry foul and claim surprise that their ads have landed on such sites, saying ‘we didn’t know!’ is no longer an acceptable excuse.  Advertisers are expected to know where the company logo lands.  Consumers have moved beyond just being happy with ‘great low prices’ and ‘excellent customer service’. Shoppers have higher expectations and want to feel good about where they spend their hard earned cash. They want to be assured that they aren’t supporting a potentially harmful organization that runs contrary to their political beliefs.

In early February, Procter & Gamble rolled out a transparency charter, adopted MRC standards to implement third party verification, and created ‘transparency contracts’ with its suppliers. If suppliers don’t conform to P&G’s new policies, they simply won’t do business with them. The announcement sent shock waves through the industry, but also saw many other brands immediately follow suit.

More recently, large brands like Lloyd’s, McDonald’s, the Guardian, and the UK government have pulled their advertising from Google amid concerns of their ads showing up beside terrorist content. Brand safety is now top priority and the reprecussions for inaction are swift and severe. These aren’t small companies, they are major players that will impact Google’s reputation and revenue.

But is this really surprising? It is no coincidence that this has occurred alongside public outcry over corporate accountability. With grassroots campaigns like the one initiated by Sleeping Giants, companies can no longer hope to sweep social and political issues under the rug. Their feet are being held to the fire ,and announcements like P&Gs, no longer seem ‘revolutionary’ but more ‘reactionary’, in a climate where if brands do nothing, they can watch their revenues fall as consumer vote with their feet and shop elsewhere.

Fake News

Fake news has not only plagued social media and Google search, but has been a bane to brands and advertisers as well. In addition to landing on hate and extremist websites, brands have seen their ads land on dubious “news” sites. There is an industry wide crisis now with fake news generators selling ads on fake news sites via programmatic. According to The Drum, marketers aren’t always sure that ads won’t end up on these pages, ‘due to the automated nature of programmatic’.  The problem is also that controversial sites, like Breitbart,  are part of the Google Display Network. Even more problematic, according to Marketingland, is that ‘Google has no publisher policy against sites running fake news stories’. Although Google claims to be combating fake news, and hate sites, a lack of strong policy indicates this is nothing more than lip service.

Ad Fraud

An attack by Russian hackers in late December 2016 shook advertisers across the globe. The hackers made between $3-5 million USD per day with fake clicks on video ads. This was digital ad fraud of an unprecedented scale, by creating fake domains, they managed to trick  algorithms into displaying their most lucrative ads on these dummy domains instead of legitimate websites. Bots were deployed to click on these ads and supposedly “watched” 300 million video ads per day. What is disconcerting is that this ploy was so well thought out that they managed to bypass traditional anti-fraud detection measures, causing massive losses for advertisers.

Fake Metrics

Another pressing issue that rattled brands and advertisers was the revelation of the fake metrics scandal that rocked Facebook from September to December 2016. The social media giant came clean about incorrectly reported video metrics that miscalculated viewing times by counting views of only three seconds, thereby skewing reporting by as much as 60-80% according to Publicis.  Then, between September and December, another three blunders surfaced, leaving publishers and advertisers questioning the veracity of claims being made by Facebook, and platforms like it.

Stay tuned for Part II of our series on Transparency soon…

5 Minutes, 5 Questions, All Digital with Craig Brown

Current Occupation?
Account Director

Favourite thing about digital marketing?
The sheer amount of data that is available and the speed at which learnings can be made! This means that digital marketing is starting to shape full marketing strategies rather than being a bolt on.

Favourite aspect of your job?
The variety. No day is ever the same, which keeps it fresh. It can be difficult at times because there’s always something that I’m never quite sure how to do, but that’s part of the fun.

Why did you choose NMPi?
I didn’t know what PPC was before I started here! But I chose NMPi based on the feel of the office while I was here interviewing. I chose the company rather than the job!

What projects are you working on now?
Working with Hellocar as a start-up, who want to disrupt the car buying sector by creating an eCommerce site where people can buy the car online without seeing it. Helping them define their brand, target market,08 and place within the industry is really exciting.

Want to know more about an exciting career in PPC? Watch this video

5 Minutes, 5 Questions, All Digital with Alex Haynes

Current Occupation?
Partnerships Manager

Favourite thing about digital marketing?
The constant innovations in adtech that are occuring as a direct result of changing consumer behaviours, particularly around targeting capabilities.

Favourite aspect of your job?
The variety of projects that I have the chance to work on, along with the knowledge that I’m having a direct impact on the performance of my business.

Why did you choose NMPi?
NMPi gave me the chance to make a difference, and to challenge myself in an environment where you’re given responsibilities from very early on.

What projects are you working on now?
Expansion into the US, with the ultimate goal of opening up a US office.
European partner engagement, to ensure our growth continues across Europe too.
Lastly, integration of our new products/services into our existing proposition to ensure our capabilities as an agency are fully communicated.

Want to work in Business Development? Learn more here

#5MinuteDigital: 5 Minutes, 5 Questions, All Digital with Alice Malthouse

Current Occupation?
Senior Programmatic Account Executive

Favourite thing about digital marketing?
It’s great how fast-paced the industry is, things change really quickly!

Favourite aspect of your job?
I love finding out about all the new and exciting technology that has come to market that we can use in our campaigns.I also love telling my clients all about the new and exciting features they can use in their campaigns.

Why did you choose NMPi?
Everyone was really friendly and they were passionate about the industry.

What projects are you working on now?
I’m getting up to speed with a range of social platforms and then I’m off to a DoubleClick event to represent the company in Dublin!

Want to know more about Programmatic at NMPi? Watch this video

NMPi Shortlisted for 3 Awards!

The Performance marketing Awards Shortlist has been revealed and we’re delighted to announce that that along with our Rising Star nomination for Anna Jorysz, we have been selected for two Performance Marketing Awards: Industry Choice Publisher and Most Creative Performance Campaign.

The 11th annual awards show will be held at the Grosvenor Hotel on April 25th, highlighting the best and brightest in performance marketing across 24 categories, with a special focus on innovation and industry achievements.

With the shortlist finally released, the industry can now cast their votes for Industry Choice of Partner, as well as continue to vote for this year’s Rising Star.

View the shortlist here

Industry-Choice-of-Publisher

[Case Study] Real-Time Visability of Snow Heights for Transavia

When a consumer looks to book a ski holiday, they think about clear blue skies and white slopes. However, over the past few years, we have learned that there is no guaranteed there will be snow in Europe, and consumers have begun to want confirmation of snow conditions before booking a flight.

For one of our Netherland’s  clients ski holidays are an incredibly important part of their business. Transavia asked NMPi Netherlands to help them take advantage of the unpredictability of snowfall in top ski destinations where they fly.

Goal

Traditional programmatic display campaigns are distributed regardless of weather conditions. What we looked to do if find an innovative way to entice the consumer with competitive pricing and the guarantee of snowfall.

Our goal was to use technological advancements that allowed us to include snow heights at popular ski areas across Europe in our display ads, all in real time. With the help of weather specialist, Meteovista, we created a solution for Transavia that delivers real value to their travel customers.

Strategy

When fresh snow falls, Meteovista tracks the height in real time. The weather data is sent to Meteovista in the Netherlands, which is then shared with us, and entered into our database. This triggers the campaign across every platform (Display, Premium Display, Facebook and Digital-out-of-Home). Creatives are adjusted to show current snow height and indicate fresh snowfall.

Results

In the end, everything comes together. Ads are distributed at the right time across all channels with consistent and accurate messaging. This campaign has seen tremendous success improving customer loyalty and increasing ROI by 72%.

Intermediate results:

  • ROI +72%
  • Clicks +39%
  • Soft conversion CPA +64%
  • Hard conversion CPA +77%

#5MinuteDigital: 5 Minutes, 5 Questions, All Digital with Paul Risebury-Crisp

Current Occupation?
Account Director

Favourite thing about digital marketing?
Clarity and accountability. When you do something that works, it’s easy to attribute success – and if you do something that doesn’t work, you can find out why quickly!

Favourite aspect of your job?
I love the variety of working with clients across different industries – different seasonal trends, different user-bases, different risks, issues, and opportunities. It keeps things exciting; means there’s always something new to be involved with and it makes you a bit of a Jack-of-all-sectors.

Why did you choose NMPi?
I bought in to the management team members that I met – I thought they were A) smart and B) nice. That’s what I like in a manager/director.

What projects are you working on now?
I’m working on taking two clients to new ways of working with the agency, and bringing two teams closer together to manage channels more holistically. I’m also helping clients push conversion volume and efficiency across the board, while continuing to put time in to developing my team to get them ready for the next stages of their careers.

Ignorance is Not Bliss: Steps to Protect Your Brand from Bad Advertising

There has been a recent spate of articles calling out brands whose ads have appeared on political websites, sometimes event inadvertently funding terror or hate groups.

This should never happen. So how has it been happening?

Brands are paying a lot of money to have agencies place ads for them and since this issue keeps cropping up, something is clearly broken. Accusations have been levelled at YouTube, unscrupulous advertisers, and shady programmatic advertising practices. So who is really at fault and what should agencies be doing about it?

Why This Happened

This issue became newsworthy as the line between brands and politics became blurred during the recent US election. The ripple effect has become a tidal wave, and brands are being affected globally as consumers are taking cues from the US and aligning their shopping habits with their personal and political beliefs. A pair of jeans isn’t just a pair of jeans anymore, who made them? Who owns the company? Where is the company’s money going in the political arena? All this matters to consumers now.

Public opinion in a heated political climate can make or break a brand. Advertisers have been quick to react to their customer’s political leanings by donating money to certain causes and groups, boycotting merchandise, or taking a stance on government policy.

Who is Responsible

Many brands have been caught off guard when their image has been tarnished by appearing on sites that don’t align with their political or brand beliefs. Sleeping Giants, a Twitter account that names, shames, and encourages consumers to call out brands for appearing on hate sites, has witnessed an unprecedented following. Consumers have been quick to condemn and boycott brands that are found wanting in their political leanings. The claims of ‘we had no idea’ ring hollow when ads appear on Neo-nazi websites or under ISIS videos. Brand managers, advertisers, and agencies are expected to do their due diligence before the company’s logo appears on a terrorist or hate group website. There has been plenty of hand-wringing and finger-pointing, but the truth of the matter is, from a programmatic viewpoint, it’s preventable.

Prevention

The underlying issue is that RTB programmatic buys an audience, and it’s easier to reach people where they appear online rather than targeting specific sites. There is also the problem of fraudsters pretending to be legitimate sites and bypassing Google’s controls, but in the majority of cases, it’s simply down to inventory that has yet to be classified, or a site not declaring their URL. Where advertisers can run afoul of their clientele is that by not bidding you could lose up to 30-45% of your inventory options. Unknown inventory isn’t always the proverbial ‘bad guy’, it’s just uncategorised. Google isn’t able to keep up and categorise every single site by the time bidding occurs, and not all sites have adequate content to be classified.

Even given the speed at which programmatic buying and selling takes place, there are steps that can be taken to make sure your (and your clients) are protected from landing on dubious websites. Tools exist that provide pre-bid ad-verification, which intercepts the auction, and, based on data passed during the ad call such as, the publisher’s ID, the site ID, or publisher’s site URL, will prevent the buyer from bidding all in a matter of milliseconds. This also taps into third party ad-verification providers who have databases of unsafe sites that are constantly updated, doing the heavy lifting for you so that you don’t have to manage the process manually.

DoubleClick also contains preventative measures to protect clients from ending up on nefarious sites. DoubleClick categorises websites when they receive ads and can quickly scan the site for words or URLs that are problematic. It also will exclude categories of websites when problems are found.

If All Else Fails…

Post-bid, if your ad slips through the cracks and lands on an unwanted site, ad-verification partners can help by preventing your ad from showing. This means that while your ad still lands on the page, it will serve a white box that protects the brand’s ad from being seen by users if it detects unsafe content. While this is far from perfect, since the client is still paying to end up on this site, the good news is that their brand is protected from being inadvertently associated with something that in this climate could, quickly and negatively, impact their reputation. Finally, advertisers and agencies can be more proactive by creating exclusion lists which they are consistently reviewing and updating.