Fake news and hate websites have become prevalent alongside the mass adoption and growth of programmatic advertising. This is not a coincidence.

Online advertising served through programmatic advertising fund these sites. These sites will not have a sales team selling direct advertising placements, they're entirely reliant on revenue generated from advertising served through advertising display networks. These networks are, in turn, fed through programmatic advertising technologies.

eMarketer expects programmatic display ad spending to reach $37.88bn, or 82.0% of total spending on display in the US alone.

Of course, as Europe's leading student digital marketing agency and a Google Premier Partner we use programmatic technology in the mix for our clients' campaigns and Net Natives is the go-to agency in our space for our programmatic expertise.

As an agency we've led on the potential dangers of lazy programmatic advertising since the start of the programmatic era. If you're buying "off site inventory" from a publisher, or you have an agency that provides programmatic advertising as a strategy rather than as a tactic then you need to question whether you are responsible for the funding of fake news and hate sites.

Programmatic advertising needs to be approached ethically and with care. As an agency, we ensure programmatic ads are only going to be placed and tracked on the relevant sites for their audience. We combine whitelists, blacklists and semantic technologies to filter out sites and placements that could cause brand damage. And we constantly review; the world of fake news and hate filled semantics is ever evolving, sadly. Most importantly, we focus on the right outcomes, not chasing impressions or clicks.

Recently, we decided to remove the Facebook Audience Network as standard from our campaigns. It's a bold move from us because FAN is an easy way to generate more reach. But it's a trade off between reach and keeping our client's brand safe. And whilst Facebook keep saying"Advertisers can't choose where their ads run on Audience Network", we've removed Audience Network from a default offering until there is more clarity and transparency within Facebook's black boxed network. Like I said (and will say again and again), we focus on the right outcomes and being in control of brand reputation for our clients over chasing clicks and impressions.

I wrote about loving ad blocking back in 2015 because I thought people would wake up to using programmatic with care, but it seems that university brands are still not listening.

In a recent survey by the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) 90% of the world's biggest brands surveyed are demanding significantly improved control and transparency over their programmatic partners.

Maybe now with what's going on in the world, with the rise of fake news and hate websites, education marketers will begin to question their programmatic providers (both publishers and agencies) and take more care in where their brand is being placed.

As always, I'd love to know your thoughts.

Article by

Steve Evans