Programmatic ad fails, again

WHAT THE..? A new report from NewsGuard, which uses journalists and artificial intelligence to identify sources of misinformation online, found more than 42,000 programmatic ads from 4,315 brands running on websites spouting misinformation about the vaccine and COVID over the past year. Programmatic continues to fail brands.

The issue that has humiliated brand online advertisers continues to be programmatic. Brands don’t often have power over where their programmatic ads are appearing online, due to third-party vendors. NewsGuard found that 67% of the COVID misinformation sites had Google advertising tags and 30% had tags from The Trade Desk. In addition I have seen brand online sites appearing on a lot of other questionable sites.

It was estimated that the costs related to digital advertising fraud worldwide would grow exponentially within the four years between 2018 and 2022, from 19 billion to 44 billion U.S. dollars. In the United States, the costs incurred due to digital ad fraud were believed to reach 11 billion U.S dollars in 2018.

Yet, there is an easy way for brands to fight ad fraud…

1ne: Cancel all programmatic ads and fire any agency that recommends them.

2wo: Have your online media agency place online ads that align with your target audience.

3hree: Develop creative based on where your online ad is going to appear and alternate creative.

Programmatic advertising technology-enabled advertisers to easily create campaigns where their ads get placed on seemingly endless sites, creating the illusion of enormous reach. But if you consider how many humans actually go to those long-tail, niche websites, you might realize much of that “reach” is not real — i.e. not human, but bots. A big brand, Chase, ran an experiment in 2017, where they reduced their programmatic reach from 400,000 sites to just 5,000 sites (a 99% decrease). They saw no change in business outcomes. Similarly, P&G cut $200 million in digital spend in 2017 and saw no negative impact on their sales.

As more brands shift ad dollars online they are wasting a ton of money. In addition to online ad fraud ad blocking penetration in the U.S. 2014-2021. In 2019, roughly 25.8 percent of internet users were blocking advertising on their connected devices. This figure is expected to keep growing (albeit slowly) which loosely translated means that a quarter of paid advertising messages will never reach their audiences.

Programmatic ads are a way for agencies to make a lot of money without doing the work to ensure the ads succeed. It’s time to admit programmatic is broken.

Programmatic ad fails, again