All I want for Christmas is Accurate Domain Targeting

Dec 17 2017 | Jess Hollingbery

Christmas advertising isn’t all about nostalgia, snowflakes and monsters under the bed. In their seasonal ATL campaign, Barclays have bucked the festive trend and continued their ongoing commitment to digital evangelism. In the latest instalment, the bank is advising the British public about online retail fraud in a bid to save the unwitting consumer from a disappointing Christmas.

Key advice includes checking for the https:// padlock at the beginning of a URL and cross-referencing online sellers to make sure they’re genuine. At the heart of the campaign is the consumer’s trust in a brand, its domain and what’s being offered to them.

Barclays’ digital display activity will likely be running across premium properties such as The Economist and Wired; these sites are authoritative sources of content and pillars of brand safety which Barclays will want their brand to be associated with. However, if 2017 has taught us anything, it’s that domain targeting can be as problematic as Barclays’ fake toy, the Super-Con – promising its very own jet-pack CTRs, disc-cannon conversions and all at a tidy £1.99 CPM.

The difficulties of applying a site list
As programmatic advertisers, we face many of the same challenges as the naïve digital consumer. When assessing inventory on the ad exchange, we need to be able to trust that we’re buying what we think we’re buying and unfortunately this isn’t always a simple process. In recent years, online fraudsters have tried to compromise our ability to deploy whitelists by spoofing the domains of premium websites and falsely labelling inventory on the open marketplace.

Of course, the industry hasn’t been sitting still. The ads.txt initiative has gained considerable traction in the second half of 2017. It’s a great example of the supply and demand sides collaborating and working towards a cleaner digital ecosystem. As an agency, we must scrutinise how demand side platforms are deploying the data from ads.txt files and understand where the initiative’s current limitations lie. Common sense logic can often go far here. In September the Financial Times noticed FT video inventory being advertised on the open exchange, despite the fact it doesn’t sell any of its video programmatically.

Identifying opportunities in contextual targeting
In 2018, the year of GDPR, there will be a renewed incentive to confidently deliver domain targeting. The new EU regulation will limit our ability to target using audience data and, with restrictions on data usage tightening, many are predicting a resurgence in contextual targeting. Granular audience targeting was never scalable when combined with highly prescriptive whitelists, and typically programmatic advertising has focused on following an audience rather than assuming its presence on high quality sites with relevant content.

In overcoming the threats to accurate domain targeting, we should now fully embrace the possibilities of targeting by context, particularly for campaigns with upper funnel KPIs where we aren’t dictated by last-click conversions. Being articulate in the language of PMP deals, savvy in the use of keyword targeting and clued up on who is authorized to sell what inventory will enable us to curate, and deliver against, highly relevant whitelists.

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