Amidst concern and controversy from Google/YouTube’s ad placements, many upset advertisers pulled ad dollars from fear for their brand safety. With advertisers looking to protect their brand image, there are many solutions in display and affiliate marketing could be exactly what is needed.
What’s Happening with Google, YouTube, and Advertisements
Brand safety has been headline news since YouTube came under scrutiny in March. That comes as no surprise – people want their brands protected, and want to be identified alongside content that compliments their brand. The challenge many brands face is, with all the digital touchpoints that us to reach consumers, how can they protect their brand image as effectively as possible?
We spoke with experts in the affiliate and display marketing channels to identify key strategies for brand safety in both channels. Let’s take a look at how these two prominent channels can provide the brand protection advertisers are looking for!
The Display Marketing Strategies to Protecting Your Brand
Since the initial concerns that had been raised about Google and YouTube in March, Google has already accomplished a lot to help brands feel safer and more protected. Changes such as safer defaults for brands when they enroll in the network, as well as better calibrated and fine-tuned controls for ensuring advertisements only appear where an advertiser might want them appearing. These are all direct addresses to the safety concerns that have been raised, and the efforts will only continue as advertisers remain mindful of what content their advertisements are appearing next to.
For Rakuten Marketing Display, brand safety and the integrity of ad placements are top priorities. To maintain this, Rakuten Marketing Display follows these measures:
- Maintain an ongoing whitelist: A list of safe, advertiser-friendly sites is maintained so that they can be leveraged for advertisers to place their ads on. Likewise, a blacklist (containing terms that could be harmful) is also maintained. This means that a careful eye is kept not only on which sites are safe, but which could be problematic.
- Maintaining a list of fraudulent sites: In addition to protecting a brand’s reputation by maintaining whitelists and blacklists, there are also lists kept regarding fraudulent sites (such as sites that have no traffic, but are just there trying to capture revenue without visits or engagements that provide actual value).
- Using humans in addition to technology: Programs and IT are great ways to identify potentially unsafe ad placements, but that’s not enough. Leveraging real people to evaluate content, websites, and potential placements that could be harmful or undesirable for advertisers. That adds a layer of security and verification for advertisers to rely on.
- Make this information available: In order to provide transparency for advertisers, we make all this information available to clients upon request.
The Affiliate Marketing Solution to Brand Safety
Fortunately for advertisers, the affiliate channel relies on partnerships, an understanding of brand ideologies and messaging, and how to connect with a publisher’s audience. For advertisers looking to protect their brand’s reputation, the affiliate channel offers a solution that benefits both the advertisers and the publishers they partner with. Let’s dig a little deeper into the system of controls and safeguards that have been put in place for affiliate marketing:
Mutually Beneficial Partnerships
In affiliate marketing, advertisers must approve all publishers that are in their affiliate program. That means that advertisers are able to select publishers who can best represent their brands and products to potential customers. For brand safety and protection, the ability to pick and choose which publishers join an advertiser’s affiliate program is one of the best defenses offered in affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing publishers are able to address concerns for brand safety because of how their various publishing models work. For example, influencers and content creators understand their audience and know what content works to get their audience to respond, and they can share that message in detail with a brand. Therefore, when an advertiser wants to work with a content publisher directly, they’re placing products in a controlled environment.
The partnership aspect of affiliate also provides transparency for the advertiser so they can see what’s driving the most traffic to their sites, which publisher models have the highest conversions – in short, this is an in-depth look at which publishers are accomplishing what. This transparency helps the advertiser become even more strategic with their placements (for example, focusing on publishers with the highest conversions by placing a special offer with them) as well as identify other strategic partnerships in the future. Additionally, through the use of attribution tools, advertisers can get a more transparent view of the shopper’s path to purchase, enabling the advertiser to make even more strategic decisions to enhance the performance of their affiliate program.
The Win-Win of the CPA Model
The strength of the affiliate marketing channel lies in the advertiser-publisher relationship and the reliance they have on each other to succeed.
The CPA model in affiliate marketing is a driver for success. A publisher doesn’t earn commission until visitors make purchases, which motivates the publisher to help their visitors become customers. Likewise, an advertiser is looking to sell their products to customers and won’t need to pay a publisher commission until a sale occurs.
This means publishers and advertisers need each other to succeed, and that encourages them to work together to build a strategic affiliate plan. There’s more to do than just providing a link and having a publisher publish it – advertisers can work with content publishers to identify product features or benefits, and even provide sample products, so that content publishers can share insights and thoughts on the products to their followers. Or, advertisers can work with cashback or loyalty/reward programs to find the best way to reach these publisher users by offering strategic cashback offers, free shipping coupons, or another exciting deal that customers will value. These are just two of the ways advertisers and publishers can develop a plan for success, and doesn’t even scratch the surface on other potential strategies with other publisher models such as influencers and coupon malls.
The “everyone wins” foundation of the affiliate marketing channel encourages strategic planning, communication, and an effort from all parties. The result is not only that the brand is well represented, but that it may improve it’s reputation and value in the eyes of consumers.
One of the most valuable resources for an advertiser’s affiliate program is that, if they partner with an affiliate network, they have a network quality team supporting their efforts. This doesn’t mean advertisers don’t need a dedicated effort on their end – instead, it means that advertisers have additional reinforcements that, when working in tandem with one another, can help prevent advertisements from appearing by undesirable content. In other words, advertisers have an entire army of experts and tools providing support and protection.
The benefit starts before an advertiser even makes a partnership with a publisher. A good network quality team reviews publishers joining the network to ensure they meet basic criteria, ranging from “is their website complete and functional?” to “are they adhering to network guidelines?” to ensure that publishers meet a certain level of quality. This makes identifying the right publishers an easier task for advertisers because it provides them with qualified options. This is achieved through various tools, but also a team of experts who make sure they keep a watchful eye for potentially-problematic publishers.
The value of a good network quality team can’t be overstated when it comes to protecting a brand’s reputation. In addition to ensuring the publisher follows an advertiser’s guidelines, network quality teams can also evaluate for concerns such as cookie stuffing, black hat SEO tactics, check if traffic is fraudulent or not, or media display ads that weren’t disclosed or being placed next to content that might not be in line with the brand or restricted places.
Network quality teams also make monitoring easier because they’re dedicated to that role. A good network quality team checks and verifies traffic sources from a publisher, evaluates potentially questionable actions, and – if need be – terminates the publisher for their violations. Most importantly, it protects the advertisers in the network from a litany of potential issues they could face.