How to Ensure Your Campaign Is as Brand-safe, Viewable and Fraud-free as Possible

Tips from the IAB Ad Effectiveness Working Group

The guide outlines what a marketer should consider regarding advertising quality measurement during campaign planning. Getty Images
Headshot of Ronan Shields

The programmatic advertising landscape provides significant efficiencies, but also presents myriad challenges for the contemporary marketer. And with U.S. advertisers poised to spend $46 billion on serving ads in such a manner in 2018 alone, the practice can no longer be considered a fringe activity.

In earlier years, ensuring media “quality” was relatively straightforward and often left to junior executives at a media agency, leaving more senior staff to focus on “added value” elements of campaign execution, according to Peter Minnium, president of Ipsos and former head of brand initiatives at the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).

However, episodes of ad misplacement now make headline news in mainstream media and subsequently place brands at risk of accusations over funding terror or supporting AIDS-denialist conspiracy theories and can land the media department in a world of trouble. Hence, it has never been more important to ensure that campaigns are conducted on brand-safe sites with ads that are actually viewed by real human beings.

Fundamentally, advertisers should expect their ads to be viewable, displayed next to brand-appropriate content and seen by real people. Minnium advises that “less time spent on quality issues means more time on added value—and moving closer to realizing the true potential of digital media.”

Below is a guide from experts at the IAB’s Ad Effectiveness Working Group to better guaranteeing quality control and ensuring campaign effectiveness. There are trade-offs with every decision, and marketers should contemplate them prior to campaign launch, making decisions based on their priorities. The IAB provides a guide to assessing the advertising quality metrics that matter:


  • Carefully choose the basis of benchmarks to measure against. Points to consider include average viewability on a campaign and placement level.
  • Devise benchmarks of each format—display, video, pre-roll and outstream, etc.—as well as each platform such as desktop and mobile.
  • Consider the measuring capabilities for an entire plan. For example, web measurement uses JavaScript tags, which does not work for apps without additional API [Application Programming Interface] such as MRAID [Mobile Rich Media Ad Interface Definitions] or Open Measurement SDK [Software Development Kit].
  • Consider the various viewable media charge metric definitions, such as “viewable CPM (vCPM)” or “CPM with % viewable guarantee” of your preferred supplier(s) before deciding on a viewability threshold.

Brand Safety

  • Brand safety is in the eye of the beholder, dependent on the brand.
  • Take a nuanced approach rather than blocking entire content categories. Think of possible false-positives and false-negatives that content category or keyword blocking may trigger.
  • A site may score high but actually have inappropriate content for that advertiser. Alternatively, a site may score low on the brand-safety scale, but not actually have inappropriate or unsafe content for the brand, if the service being used is limited to keyword search.
  • Brand safety should extend beyond keywords and take into account applicable age and regulatory restrictions. Extra considerations include audience verification and targeting parameters on proposed media buys.


  • Fraud can occur on all properties. Contributing factors include financial incentives, the sophistication of fraudsters, etc. Buyers and sellers tend to define their own fraud percentage threshold, and when the accepted threshold is surpassed.
  • Industry-accepted certification standards such as Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) have been established to help eliminate ad fraud. Advertisers should partner with TAG-certified good actors.
  • It is important to understand what a marketer’s selected fraud vendor deems as fraud. While Invalid Traffic (IVT) includes different ways to measure fraudulent traffic, not all metrics within IVT indicate fraudulent activity.

Click here for more information from the IAB Ad Effectiveness Working Group.

@ronan_shields Ronan Shields is a programmatic reporter at Adweek, focusing on ad-tech.