Who remembers the days when the internet first came about, bearing hope, robust knowledge and widespread connectivity?
A revolutionary information space popped up into everyday living one day and enabled users with access to infinite news sources and services at their fingertips.
However, fast forward to over two decades later, and what started off so promisingly has transgressed so horridly; the worst wide web, nothing more than an ad-flooded dumping ground, where identity thieves, extremists and click-fraud opportunists linger.
Maybe we’re being slightly dramatic…
Albeit, safety neglect and insensitive ad placement is affecting advertisers particularly, who feel there aren’t enough preventative measures in place to protect their brands, whilst running marketing campaigns via Google.
This probes us to shed light on the current issues with digital advertising, the types of threats out there, the measures being taken, and the solution.
A lack of brand protection
Over the past two years, global CMOs have come out to address their concerns regarding brand safety, the lack of seriousness surrounding the matter, being a major talking point in the digital industry.
How are radical adverts bypassing Google’s safety measures and merging into brand campaigns? Is it worthwhile for advertisers to market via advertising platforms, if their insights are made up of nothing but bot clicks?
Back in 2017, Google’s barrier set to protect advertising policies seems to have been non-existent. This meant that inappropriate content was not correctly filtered out, and by result was able to pass through Google’s security tiers.
By result, radical content was shown alongside major advertising campaigns published by government agencies via YouTube.
Further risks such as click-fraud are also costing businesses, of which probes us to question the extent to which Google is going to, to protect advertisers this year.
See below for a rundown of the current malfunctions affecting digital advertising platforms.
Online ad fraud is a huge problem for advertisers, being reported as the “#1 cybercrime in terms of revenue” ahead of tax-refund fraud.
Click fraud occurs when employed robots and low-paid workers sabotage online marketing campaigns such as pay per click, so that companies are billed for ads, which aren’t converting in sales, but incurring spend.
According to Google’s CFO George Reyes “fraud is the biggest threat to internet economy.”
The growth of internet usage in countries is expanding, and thus user data is becoming more accessible globally – whether users are aware of how their data is being handled, or giving permission for it to be shared via third parties is another matter.
Third-party businesses are sharing and selling user data – locally and overseas – of which undoubtedly is giving users more personalised and relevant search results. However, this is opening doors for hackers to access user data, such as medical records, incurring online crime such as identity theft to incur.
Privacy safeguards are needed to protect consumers, and should be outlined on websites for consumers to be aware of. This will considerate levels of privacy for users, whilst offering reassurance to consumers, when they’re browsing or shopping online. In turn, this will benefit brands.
Some firms are more vulnerable to scrutiny and consumer abandonment for if issues with their data security arise and become public knowledge.
For instance, if an airline or banking company – who advertise their secure, and trustworthy platforms – were outed for sharing consumer data via third parties without consent, or worse, hacked, then this would cause their consumer base to question the safety of their services, influencing users to go elsewhere.
Last year more than 250 brands including Marks and Spencer and Volkswagen, pulled their ads from Google. This occurred after Google placed branded adverts alongside “racist, violent and incendiary content”.
Such controversial ad misplacement, meant that brands like Marks and Spencer, were indirectly funding terrorist groups through their ill-placed pay-per-click adverts.
Despite Google’s audience of 2 billion monthly active users, brands had no other choice but to cut ties and market elsewhere.
This enforced Google to re-evaluate their digital advertising platform, implement new strategies and listen to advertisers who wanted more control over the placement of their adverts.
Since 2017, what changes have been made?
YouTube – a platform which accumulates 150 million hours of watch per day – have taken numerous steps in an attempt to prevent indecent content from being exposed online and to protect advertisers.
They have since made it less easy for YouTube users who aren’t reputable via the channel, to post harmful content by restricting the criteria.
This has strengthened the security barriers in place, acting as a resolution to preventing violent content from slipping through the gaps, becoming associated with big brands, and generating revenue.
YouTube have also introduced a “three-tier suitability system”, whereby advertisers are able to choose the placements of their adverts, as opposed to them being automatically planted.
Google’s Paul Muret, VP of display, video and analytics said: “While we took several steps last year to protect advertisers from inappropriate content, we know we need to do more to ensure that their ads run alongside content that reflects their values. We needed a fresh approach to advertising on YouTube.”
Revaluations and adjustments to Google’s services, has meant that brands such as Marks and Spencer have come back on board with Google, however YouTube has since been hit with further issues.
The future: AI and mankind working together to manage brand safety
AI is set to consume work industries in the upcoming years, and will provide many positive results for businesses, including a full-proof brand-safety strategy across all platforms.
However, AI won’t be able to do it alone. A binary effort from man and robot will be integral in ensuring optimum brand-safety protection.
Machine learning will employ automated, secure filters to detect and prevent ‘bad’ content from being published, of which will be supervised and elevated by human input, for when a personal, manual approach will be required to determine less-obvious unsafe content.
AI has been deemed as the solution to safe-proofing our digital eco-system, and will aid Google’s quest in becoming a “transparent, trustworthy and valuable” platform for advertisers.
Have you experienced issues whilst advertising content via Google? Are you confident in AI to resolve brand safety issues? Comment below with your thoughts.