Beware of the dangers surrounding “off-site” inventory – read this if you care for your brand

Beware of the dangers surrounding “off-site” inventory – read this if you care for your brand


Our new Direct Media Buyer and Planner, Stephi Gibbs (her bio is at the bottom of this blog post), warns about the dangers when buying media on publisher sites who package “off-site” inventory onto third party websites.

Hi, Stephi here, my job at Net Natives is to provide an ethical approach to buying traditional media from relevant publishers, TV, radio and out of home providers. I approach direct media buying with the same focus on creativity and outcomes that Net Natives have always had with their agile real-time bidding campaigns (you know: paid search, social media and programmatic display campaigns you’ve been using us for since 2008).

Net Natives are famous (or is it, infamous?) for their straight talking, so I thought I’d be just as forthright in my first blog post. If you’re responsible for an education brand, you need to read on…

Since starting, I’ve noticed a trend. Publishers are supplying advertising to the education sector and offering “off-site” inventory as part of their advertising packages. Something that major brands and the IPA are advised to steer well clear of.

Why? Well, “off-site” is literally that – off the publisher’s site, and onto other websites that have no relation to the publisher. Unless done ethically, you have no idea where your advert will end up and which third party websites the publisher will push your brand onto to get the promised impressions.

This is a recognised industry-wide challenge – with the IPA recently issuing a firm warning at a recent brand safety event to deter brands from buying adverts from publishers that include “off-site” inventory as part of the package. “A real danger and a point of weakness,” was how the IPA (the professional body for practitioners in advertising and marketing communications) described it.

In basic terms, certain publishers (and this is national newspapers as well as large specialist media providers) are naturally selling advert placements on their website. But, through programmatic technologies, publishers are now offering the opportunity to target both a wider audience and retarget adverts back to the same audience across other websites which may be relevant.

If you’re not aware which sites your brand appears across, in this chase for eyeballs, then how can you control your brand’s perception? This is where the danger occurs, which is why the IPA has highlighted such concern.

The issue of brand safety is one of utmost concern for our clients and so there are three things which you can do when considering offsite inventory…

  1. Ask the publisher what steps they’re taking to keep your brand safe and how will they ensure that your brand will not appear on the “wrong” sort of websites as part of their “off-site” package. (The Student Room has the most coherent brand safety measures we have seen in the education space)
  2. Ask the publisher what is their involvement with the Digital Trading Standards Group.

Right, that’s my first blog post. Hope it was useful. Speak to one of our digital experts to find out more about our ethical media buying manifesto or if you have any pressing questions. 



Who is Stephi Gibbs?

stephi-gibbsStephi has bought and planned client direct media across all “traditional” media types; press, radio, TV, OOH and digital display. Learning her trade in both a boutique media buying house and, most recently, at one of the world’s largest media buying agency, Maxus (part of WPP), where she was responsible for the buying and planning for BT’s broadband campaigns, both on a branding and direct-response level.