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CEO of Trust Metrics
In his 20-plus years in the media industry, Marc Goldberg has been on multiple sides of the aisle. He started at the agency side JWT and Zenith Media before switching to the sales and publisher side. He served as General Manager at Howstuffworks, CEO at dailyRx and Senior Vice President of Business Development at About.com. He is now in the ad tech sector as CEO of Trust Metrics.
Goldberg serves on advisory boards and advises multiple startups, including The 614 Group, Plated.com and Cups. He is also an advisory board member for the Rutgers University Design Thinking Certificate Program. He has participated as a mentor for Techstars NY, 500 Startups and Entrepreneur Round Table Accelerators.
To what degree is digital ad safety a topic of conversation or a pressing problem for you or your clients?
Ad safety has become a much bigger conversation with the rise of fake news and its impact on our political system. It is no longer just a few impressions that cause a headache in post-campaign analysis; brands now run the risk of becoming the next viral sensation with a single poor ad placement. These sorts of ad disasters were easier to tackle with keyword blocking, but new hate and political terms emerge every day, and it is difficult to play catch-up. While it is tough to be in a position where every action that a brand takes is scrutinized, this scrutiny will hopefully help raise quality standards for the industry as a whole.
Can you reference any situations where client ads have run alongside offensive content and how have these incidents been handled?
Through our free impression log audits, we’ve been able to show customers where their ads have appeared, and brands have often been appalled to see where their money has been wasted. We have run across every sort of ad disaster you can think of, from brands being aligned with porn, fake news and copyright infringement to more specific instances where a brand appears on a site dedicated to brand recalls and complaints. We use these audits as a way to show brands the importance of being proactive and defining an environment (via a whitelist or virtual private network) in the planning stage.
Should brands be nervous about fake news?
Brands should absolutely be nervous about fake news. Fake news often slips through the cracks because it checks off all of the boxes that our industry cares about; these sites are “safe,” ads are viewable, and there is legitimate human traffic. The problem here lies in the fact that these sites are low quality and spread misinformation.
If quality and fake news don’t seem like concerns to marketers, I’d suggest that they re-evaluate the numbers. While only 13 percent of marketers are concerned about fake news and the public distrust of the media, 75 percent of consumers are concerned, with 60 percent actively seeking out trusted channels for content consumption. Marketers need to remember that they are ultimately serving the consumer, so if fake news is something that their consumers are concerned with, marketers should care and take appropriate action to avoid that concern.
What steps or procedures are you recommending that marketers take to minimize brand exposure to questionable online content?
We always suggest that marketers take a proactive whitelist approach rather than a reactive blacklist approach if they want to minimize exposure to questionable content. For every blacklisted site, there are hundreds more that are equally bad, if not worse. Blacklisting is a constant game of whack-a-mole. As much as we like to think of the internet as having an infinite supply, that’s simply not true. The universe of high quality, safe domains is fairly small and stagnant, and it is even smaller once brand-specific guidelines are layered in. It is important to identify these properties before the buy and be smart about spend rather than spending widely and having to reconcile ad placement after the fact.
Who should carry the primary burden of ensuring that brand advertisers are not aligning with controversial, irrelevant or damaging content?
There doesn’t seem to be a clear consensus from brand marketers on who should carry the burden when ads are placed next to controversial, irrelevant or damaging content. The real answer is that each step of the chain needs to carry equal burden, but it needs to start at the very top. It’s true that media-buying firms (67 percent of marketers agree), digital ad-buying networks (50 percent), digital media channels (49 percent), and ad agencies (42 percent) should carry tremendous burden, but CMOs need to hold the final responsibility and do everything they can do be proactive to ensure there are no problems upstream.