For any of you who may have missed our press release yesterday, SafeScreen, the industry’s first preventative page-level brand safety solution, turned 2 years old earlier this month. As we proudly celebrate this milestone, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on market developments since Brand.net introduced the digital media market to the notion of page-level, preventative quality filtering for brand safety (or “ad verification” as it has come to be known).
Last year certain of the multiple ad verification technologies that followed SafeScreen to market in 2009 added preventative “blocking” capability to their original retrospective “reporting” offerings. We congratulate them on their progress, but while 2011 promises to be another action-packed year for digital media, we believe it will also bring some new challenges for third party verification providers. These new challenges will stem from false positives and billing discrepancies, which add another layer of cost in terms of both cash and cycle time to 3rd party verification (above and beyond the well-documented problems with page-level visibility due to iframes).
False positives cause friction in the context of retrospective reporting, but that friction goes to an entirely new level when ads are preemptively blocked. Look for this friction to generate increasing heat as blocking implementations become more common. Ditto for discrepancies, an issue primarily associated with blocking as the verification provider must actually hold up the ad call while deciding whether or not the page content is safe. This additional hop in the serving chain introduces latency which is a source of material ad serving discrepancies.
So add 5% of spend to the $.10 verification fee to account for discrepancies, 1% for extra manual overhead, another 0.5% for false positives and it’s not too much of a stretch to see 15% of spend going just to verification.
Stepping back for a moment, would we tolerate this in any other market? For example, would we accept it if the GIA report for a diamond added 15% to the purchase price (whether we paid this fee to GIA or the jeweler did and passed it along)? Would we accept a 15% SEC fee on each and every stock trade (whether or not our broker “paid it for us”)? Apparently not, because current SEC fees on equity transactions are 1/800th of 1%. At up to 15% of spend, verification fees are currently some 10,000 times higher than SEC fees.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
For example, SafeScreen is free, and because Brand.net controls both the filtering and the serving the operational issues of false positives and latency aren’t left to the advertiser and publisher to resolve. This may appear shamelessly partisan, but I re-introduce the alternative architecture here primarily to make a broader point; I have been quite surprised that preventative brand safety technology hasn’t yet been incorporated on the server side by one or more of the major exchange platforms. In doing so they could not only help market principals avoid latency and billing disputes, but would be in a position to minimize refURL-related visibility issues as well.
It will be interesting to watch things shake out in 2011 and in particular whether the need for quality and efficiency drives towards consolidation (happy investors) or aggressive disruption of the emerging verification market (unhappy investors).
What do you think?