Companies like DoubleVerify, AdSafe and AdXpose have built a business on ensuring that marketers’ display ads pop up only in brand-safe environments. While those companies have since expanded their services into other areas, Google may be about to relegate their historical business into simply a feature. Google has built out ad verification capabilities within its DoubleClick for Advertisers ad management and ad serving platform and may roll it out as soon as a month from now, according to a source with knowledge of the capability.
"We are constantly experimenting with new features within DoubleClick for Advertisers in collaboration with some of our advertiser and agency partners, but have nothing to announce at this time,” said a Google spokesperson.
Google has been testing ad verification within DFA (DoubleClick's trafficking tool) since the second half of last year, said Oren Netzer, CEO of ad verification pioneer DoubleVerify. He contended that advertisers who participated in that beta considered it “a half-baked product.” Complaints focused on a handful of areas, he said: an inability to see through complex site codes (called "nested iframes") which led to low verification rates; that the verification only focused on brand safety and only identified where an ad ran instead of also working with publishers and ad networks to resolve issues (DoubleVerify, of course, offers clients this remediation service, said Netzer); and unblinded ad networks by revealing the full list of sites on which an ad was served.
However those deficiencies will have been shored up by the time DFA ad verification goes live. The capability will support the verification guidelines proposed by the Interactive Advertising Bureau in February, such as content classifications and geo-verification. As it happens Google, and DoubleVerify, participated in the IAB project on which the guidelines are based. DFA ad verification will also feature safeguards to maintain the anonymity of blind inventory. Additionally the DFA ad verification capability will be built into the tag so that the process won’t slow down page loads and would be automatically enabled for campaigns, instead of advertisers and agencies needing to set the capability each time.
While the knowledgeable source said Google adding ad verification is bad news for specialist companies like DoubleVerify, that may not be the case—at least not just as yet. Zenith’s president of activation John Nitti said advertisers would prefer verification built into one tech stack, such as Google’s coming DoubleClick Digital Marketing platform, that “works cohesively and can be rolled up in reporting a lot more easily, versus having several different sources of data and verification.
“On the flip side, you can look at it and say, ‘Do I want the same party that I’m being media from also doing the verification on that same media,” Nitti said. That questions presents an opportunity for DoubleVerify and company, depending on whether Google’s capability can match theirs.
For what it’s worth, Netzer sees the news as a win for the ad verification ecosystem. “I think Google making this a flagship product really says not just how important verification is in the present but also how important and mainstream it’s going to become in the future,” Netzer said. “It’s our belief that every impression is going to be verified in the near future, whether it’s two or three years down the road. Google releasing a product is a big testament to that.”
According to a comScore study released last March, 140,000 of 1.8 billion impressions examined were found to run alongside objectionable content. Small as that number seems, comScore’s vp of advertising effectiveness products Anne Hunter told Adweek at the time that those impressions were seen by 92,000 consumers and that “it only takes one to take a screengrab [and] post it on Twitter” with the suggestion that the corresponding brand must be of equal reputation to the objectionable site if it’s running ads there.