By Nader Bitar, deputy general manager, MMPWW
Fraud! Viewability! These terms were thrown around freely in the same sentence under an umbrella of brand safety and with an edge of controversy last year. From one data-related upset to the next, everyone in the world of media had a responsibility to answer to an industry in flux and a desire to find a scapegoat to offset blame. Whether we asked for it or not, 2018 was a catalyst year to a larger conversation around the role of programmatic, and a shift to brands bringing media planning in-house, publishers looking to take back control of their inventory and agencies seeking to acquire quick partner solutions of their own.
The truth of the matter is, we’ve only just begun to understand the depths of where brand safety rests. The only difference in headlines this time around? The proactive work being done to rebuild confidence, control and, above all else, trust in a such a misunderstood space.
In a region with varying levels of oversight and inconsistent measurement methods, creating and enforcing a brand-safe environment means taking pointers from other markets already a few paces ahead. The implementation of GDPR was arguably the number one talking point for data regulation last year, replacing old laws and outdated guidelines to bring legislation up to date. For us, the first step begins with bringing order to the chaos in the form of a new set of checks and balances and a truce amongst the industry’s biggest players. As we continue to see media parties doubling down on metrics and wait to see what GDPR still has in store, we’ve seen regulatory bodies come to prominence. The answer to self-policing in the GCC was the introduction of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), an effort that has been in the works for nine years. As anxious as the industry may be to see an instant fix, the collective has its work cut out in achieving its aims. In the year
ahead it has announced plans to bring regional ad standards up to international levels and put education, research and measurement in place to rebuild trust.
Trust, however, doesn’t just happen overnight, and arguably the most significant impact on brand safety will be led by reputable publishers with the support of key ad-tech partners in the region. Pressures mounting in accountability have propelled ad-tech to the front of the marketing equation, resulting in a significant number of players entering the market and affecting the ecosystem as a whole. Solutions from measurement tools and video to DSPs, ad servers and unique forms of native solutions all became more widely considered in the last 12 months alone. This list included MOAT, delivering brand intelligence on viewability, and Integral Ad Science (IAS), which offers solutions that feed into a safer and more effective advertising ecosystem at large. Both have made significant headway in addressing brand safety concerns. IAS has established technology for its clients to verify ad placements on YouTube after running a beta test on the platform, and MOAT’s Yield Intelligence helped publishers better monetise their inventory, tackling viewability concerns and ensuring advertising campaigns were delivered in a brand-safe environment.
However, ad-tech tools are just one link in a very long chain of rediscovery when it comes to media safety. While brands were quick to get on board, the focus now is on bringing publishers up to a level of understanding and implementation – a process that will take time and collaboration. MMPWW is making that its core mission for 2019. We’re kicking off with a series of roadshows throughout the year to meet, discuss and teach our advertising partners how to build a risk-free ad environment with tools and methodologies that work for them, and in turn, enable them to provide a more attractive offering. Equipping publishers to take back control of their inventory with measurement tools and metrics is no longer an option; it’s a must for campaigns to run. This kind of initiative is indicative of the way we at MMPWW operate as a whole. Our core purpose is to support and guide our partners with real and actionable insights that create value and make sense for the bottom line.
While it’s vital we continue to dispel programmatic myths and untruths, we can’t allow our focus to be too narrow. We must also take a step back and look at the broader trading environment view. Private marketplaces have proven to be the only reliable mode of buying when it comes to brand safety, transparency and accurate measurement. Programmatic is no longer a ‘nice to have’ in the marketer’s toolbox either; this is an industry that has grown at an exponential rate, with no indication of slowing down. Forecasters estimate its world value will reach $84.9bn this year, and account for two-thirds of all digital ad spend. Misinformation, or lack of understanding when it comes to the programmatic space, cannot continue to go unaddressed, especially when there is such untapped potential for the MENA market to take a big slice of this pie.
For us, we won’t consider our job done until we’ve reached a status both region-wide and world-wide, where the publishers’ inventory and platform are ready and safe to host brands’ content. Mitigating risks while capitalising on opportunities, that’s the goal for everyone at the end of the day. To achieve that future means creating a transparent and fraud-free supply chain, and ensuring the entire ecosystem is sticking to the same standards.