Web Publishers, Ad Nets at Odds


It’s that sort of game playing that recently led The New York Times Co. to stop working with all ad networks. According to Todd Haskell, vp advertising, the Times constantly was issuing its network partners warnings or suspensions -- even threatening frequent rule violators with a complete severing of business dealings. “You’d be surprised at how many people reach the death penalty,” he said.

Going forward, the Times plans to be vocal about its avoidance of ad networks. But that won’t necessarily stop the games, argued Mary Bonomo, associate director, strategy and communications, Merkley + Partners. “There’s currently no transparency that exists,” she said. “Ad networks are continuing to misrepresent their site lists and media placements. There needs to be a third-party auditing system in place.”

It’s an idea many publishers echoed—that the industry universally adopt an ad verification technology platform such as those offered by companies like AdSafe or DoubleVerify.

(Curiously, just last week interCLICK announced it is now working with both companies.)

But other publishers are clamoring for trade organizations like the Interactive Advertising Bureau to take a more active role. “This is a serious problem in our industry and one that needs to be addressed in a way that gives publishers more protection,” said’s O’Regan.

Some publishers grumble that the IAB may be hesitant to take sides since so many ad networks are dues-paying members.

Randall Rothenberg, IAB president and CEO, bristled at the notion, pointing out that 46 percent of the IAB’s board consists of pure publishers while just 26 percent consists of networks, blogs and portals. Plus, he noted that the IAB has established a committee tasked with developing compliance standards for ad networks and exchanges. “We’ve bent over backwards,” said Rothenberg.

As a nonprofit, though, the IAB has limited enforcement power, he acknowledged: “What we can do is try to create a better environment for our members to drive growth.”

“The IAB is a big tent,” Rothenberg added. “Like any trade association, our members compete with each other. Sometimes they compete very vigorously.”

But perhaps some of the burden should be placed on digital agencies. After all, no one is ever forced to buy inventory from an ad network.

“This is an unfortunate problem within the industry. A few bad apples can ruin a bushel,” said Pam Horan, president of the Online Publishers Association. “Marketers need to think about where they want their ads to appear and decide if they want to sacrifice efficiency for quality. In order to ensure brand protection, marketers need to give serious consideration to the impact of their media buying and planning decisions.”