There’s more to programmatic than buying, brand protection is becoming more important as high return, low quality sites become more prevalent.

Programmatic media buying is well known as an efficient way to execute direct response campaigns. Demand-side platforms (DSPs) have advanced algorithms that optimise as the campaign progresses to become more cost-effective, and granular reporting is available so the buyer can make manual optimizations in addition to algorithmic.

The problem arises when buyers get tunnel vision and think that the cost per acquisition (CPA) or cost per click (CPC) metric is the only thing that matters. There is a vast amount of inventory available programmatically.  Much of it is poor quality, existing on sites with inappropriate content for the brand, such as sites that promote piracy, or sites that are riddled with bot activity. This inventory can often be bought at a relatively low-cost per thousand (CPM), which makes it so that if buyers aren’t careful, they can optimise into this inventory while chasing a low CPA or CPC. In other words, the brand can move toward lower quality, higher perceived performance assets.

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To avoid this from happening, programmatic buyers should put in place guardrails to ensure undesirable inventory is avoided.

  1. Use site lists across all targeting tactics when buying on the open exchange. Blacklists are the most popular way to do this; these are lists of sites where a buyer will not bid. Sites can be added to the list for any reason necessary, but the most common would be unacceptable levels of bot activity, pirated content or non-brand safe content.
  2. Use pre-bid targeting to only buy high-quality inventory. Most DSPs are integrated with third party verification partners that have this capability, and it can easily be turned on and off in the DSP. A verification provider analyses the performance of many sites and has an idea of which sites tend to have low bot activity, which sites tend to have gambling content and which sites tend to have high viewability, etc. A buyer can then set up the targeting to bid only on sites that have a history and probability of performing a certain way regarding bot activity, viewability, or content type.
  3. Use a third-party verification partner to measure how the campaign is performing for bot activity or brand-safe content. Different than pre-bid targeting, this is reporting to show what happened after the impression served, and this information can then be used to make manual optimisations. For example, if a certain data segment or site has a high fraud rate, the data segment can be cut, and the site can then be added to the blacklist mentioned in point one.

There are other methods to ensure quality inventory is bought in programmatic, but using the above three strategies is a great start for any trading team, especially those running DR campaigns that are optimizing towards efficiency metrics like CPA or CPC.