The world of digital advertising is a fast-paced and competitive market with advertisers constantly seeking ways to maximize the reach of their message and brands to the appropriate end users—while ensuring online reputation management. Effective and strategic digital advertising can increase brand awareness and drive sales, but there are also millions of advertising dollars lost each year to ineffective, poorly conceived, or even scam-based digital campaigns. Customers are absolutely bombarded with digital advertising every day while they scroll through popular social media sites, read the daily news online, or use search engines to locate a recipe or compare prices on flights and hotels. It is virtually impossible to participate in the digital world without being touched by advertising on a daily basis.

How those ads reach the end consumer or company is a complex and sophisticated process; the background pieces in play are part of high-tech and quickly moving programmatic advertising networks and on social media that we will explore in this article. And for those who are selling the ad spaces—the “publishers” —we will explore how to enhance your reputation management and performance in this highly competitive programmatic advertising market.


What Is Programmatic Advertising?

Programmatic advertising is ultimately an automated system that makes advertising decisions without human intervention; computer software programs analyze data and then make real-time decisions about appropriate ad placements in a matter of milliseconds, in order to match and optimize ads to the target audience of users.

Web advertising has been around since the 1990s, with the first banner ad appearing in 1994, and in the four years that followed the web grew in leaps and bounds, leading to the first “ad networks” in 1998. This allowed brands to advertise on a variety of websites through one central dashboard, which was sufficient for a few years. However, the web kept growing and eventually, Google launched AdWords, another landmark milestone in the history of digital advertising.

Throughout the first decade of the 21st century, and especially with the introduction of smartphones, Internet usage skyrocketed, which meant the way we advertise digitally also continued to evolve. Ad networks organized publishers, paving the way for today’s programmatic advertising to reach more customers.

These automated ad campaigns are on the way to becoming the majority as far as online advertising is concerned, with some analysts predicting that programmatic spending will surpass $40 billion by 2020. The benefits to programmatic advertising are many: increased efficiencies for advertisers, agencies, and publishers; the ability to optimize for multiple campaigns; and automated reporting and billing, which eliminates the need to chase payments and issue invoices.

There are two main sides or platforms when it comes to programmatic advertising: the demand side platform (DSP) is what the agencies use to decide which impressions to buy and how much to pay for them. The supply side platform (SSP) is what publishers use to sell those ads to agencies.

DSPs can be filtered in a variety of ways for buyers or agencies to understand what impressions they want to purchase; they can filter the audience, viewability, site lists, and more. On the flip side, publishers have some unfortunate blind spots in terms of knowing why certain filters cause the buyers to opt out of their inventory or ad space.

However, publishers can and should take some proactive steps to maximize their inventory in the world of programmatic advertising and ensure online reputation management. We will look at three ways publishers can take some control of both their performance and reputation in this competitive digital market.

Step 1: Do Your Own Investigation

Third-party verification tools and DSP services must be thoroughly investigated by publishers. Simply put, you have to know what you are working with (or against) in programmatic advertising. Publishers cannot skimp on this; you must have a thorough understanding of how inventory is classified and rated to understand how you are performing in this digital market.

Some questions to consider in terms of how these third-party services operate include various aspects of measurability: do they capture ratings for ALL of your inventory? How often are the ratings refreshed? What are the ratings based on… domain or page levels? Placements? An understanding of how the ratings work will inform decisions about how a publisher can improve their own ratings.

Step 2: Pay Attention: Be Aware of Your Own Reputation!

As a publisher you have an externally scored reputation and staying abreast of that score can help you understand the swings you will see in demand on your inventory. A decline in bids on your inventory may very well be attributed to a decline in your external score.

Measuring and managing your reputation is all about tracking the right metrics: by monitoring viewability and brand safety scores from third-party vendors that act to verify these numbers, publishers can spot problems and red flags that may be affecting their reputation.

Step 3: Communicate with Buyers: You Are Your Best Champion and Advocate

Publishers are encouraged to track and share their performance with advertisers; they should also align themselves with DSP partners to better understand what portion of the inventory is not receiving bids. Publishers should act as a champion and advocate for their own inventory, but also the industry as a whole, by pushing for more transparency. The metrics provided by third-party verification vendors, even though they come at a cost, are crucial to publishers who want to improve performance, which, in turn, improves publisher reputation as well.


Improved communication across industry partners will strengthen the power of programmatic advertising for everyone involved. If agencies and publishers take the time to create educational opportunities within their own organizations and then create open lines of communication with partners, the industry as a whole will be improved by the sharing of best practices and innovative new strategies.  While it is true that advertising remains a competitive market, it is still possible that a rising tide can lift all boats!