Google Lays Down Ad Verification Gauntlet; PM Nelson Discusses Roll-Out

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For several years, companies such as DoubleVerify, Adsafe Media and AdXpose (now part of comScore) have been verifying that buy-side, display ad commitments are being met on the sell-side. Over time, the sell-side has become a partner to these companies to a degree, too.

Initially, Google appeared to take the stance that ad verification capabilities weren't needed for its display ad network - Google took care of that sort of thing already. But, the market seemed to say otherwise as, eventually, Google allowed technology from DoubleVerify and others to be used on its network with caveats around the implementation.

Yesterday, Google laid down the gauntlet (read the Google post), as it did last week with its tag manager application, to lay claim to the ad verification space through its DFA ad server. Similar to the tag manager product, Google's first steps may put it behind the more robust feature sets of the "ad verifier" group, but that isn't to say they won't catch up -perhaps soon. Google Product Manager Aaron Nelson says in a promotional video that the new product will cover "the entirety of your media buy." And, it doesn't hurt that they have the ever-popular DoubleClick For Advertiser ad server as a launch pad within the DoubleClick Digital Marketing platform.

Nelson discussed his newly-launched product with AdExchanger's Zach Rodgers and John Ebbert.

AdExchanger (Zach): What are the seeds of the new ad verification product? How far back does it go?

AARON NELSON:  We have been following this space for a while. I joined the company in 2010 and I know [Google was] looking at it a little bit before then. We started on it sometime after that, and obviously, we're launching today. Also, as we watched the industry develop, the IAB stepped in and played a key role in helping to establish a set of standards by which the industry is following.

We've obviously listened to our clients, too, who have increasingly told us that they would value our entry into that space and so we made the determination that it was worthwhile to invest in [the development].  We took some time to try and get it right with the scale that we need to operate – which is all campaigns running through DFA. So we're rolling it out in phases.

AdExchanger (Zach): What are those phases?

AARON NELSON:  Today, we're coming out with site context monitoring, which means  reporting on where your ads were shown and the type of content that it was served next to. We have 18 different content classifiers which cover many of the major categories that most brands would not be comfortable with. There's enough range in there so that everything from adult sites to gambling, smoking, politics, religion and forum sites are covered. Also, you can create white lists and flag lists.   That’s one of the service lines.

The other is "geo" - making sure your serving in the right geo. The other serving lines - as defined by the IAB - we are actively looking at in order to understand where it makes sense to enter.

We have the “Brand Activate” initiative, which we've talked about with AdExchanger and others at length –and, someday that may be a natural fit for what we're doing for a lot of those things.

We are looking at all of the different service lines that the IAB has defined and we’re building a solution that we can enter with that works at scale and works well both for our advertisers and is at least fair and transparent to publishers, as well.

AdExchanger (John): In terms of the publisher and DFP, what kind of integration is going to happen there, if any? And what does this ad verification capability and DFA mean for the publisher?

AARON NELSON: So, I won't speak to any specific integration, as right now there isn't one. We treat all media the same whether it's coming from DFP, a third party publishing system or if it's any of the Google in-house media properties. We look at it all, and treat it all, the same.

Longer term, things you could imagine, such as at synchronizing workflows, things like that - none of this is on the road map at all, but you could imagine that ties between the systems might make sense at some point. We're not commenting or committed to any of that.  It’s things like that you could imagine might be interesting.

But as far as for the publisher, where we're at right now is, since it is enabled on all DFA impressions, publishers have the ability to opt their inventory out and declare it to be anonymous and we'll respect that.

In the future, just like we do in DFA and reporting, we allow advertisers to grant publishers the ability to log in and see how we are verifying their content.

For now, advertisers can generate and export from our system, and they could send it to the publisher. But as I said, in the future, we plan to offer [a login capability] which would make the system more fair and transparent, both to advertisers and publishers.

AdExchanger (John): The IAB has been very active with a bunch of companies regarding viewability. Have you addressed viewability with your new product?

AARON NELSON: It is not in this launch. And going back to the earlier comment, we would say that the DoubleClick verification and our entire suite is a natural fit to the ‘brand activate’ initiative.

AdExchanger (John): How quickly do you think you'll be iterating the platform as it relates to ad verification? Can we expect constant product updates, or is this an annual thing?

AARON NELSON: It’s definitely more than an annual thing. And much like we're doing with the rest of DFA and the DoubleClick Digital Marketing (DDM) platform, it's regular updates and an area we're going to continue to invest in. I would expect regular updates both in terms of major new features as well as enhancements to the UI or fixing workflows, things like that.

AdExchanger (Zach):  Can you talk a little bit about the potential to do viewable impression verification for inventory in the DoubleClick Ad Exchange? Will this create efficiencies there by verifying viewability on a pre‑bid basis?

AARON NELSON: All the things you mentioned are definitely things to get excited about, but beyond the two being a real good fit for each other, I don't want to cover more on that. They're all exciting areas, for sure.

AdExchanger (John): What's the additional cost here for advertisers or agencies?

AARON NELSON:  There is no impact on the DoubleClick fees at all. It's a new addition to the DoubleClick platform, there's no change in our fee structure whatsoever.

AdExchanger (Zach):  Speaking of fees from the DFA side, the one hypothetical impact for you all is as the viewability trend takes hold, and I realize we're not talking about viewability here yet, but that down the road, maybe, there are lower fees for DoubleClick ad serving. Can you comment on that?

No, I don't want to comment on that. The company as a whole is in a quiet period.

AdExchanger (Zach):  Fair enough. Did you evaluate any of the constellation of verification companies out there before deciding to build this in-house?

AARON NELSON:  We definitely looked at the competition to understand their offerings, and, at the same time, we talked to our clients to understand what they were looking for. We made the decision that this is an area we wanted to invest in for the long term, and this is our entry point into this market. So, yes, we looked at what's out there, listened to clients, and are making an investment.

AdExchanger (John):  Is there a potential for firms that call themselves ad verification companies in the space to have a business model that aligns with the ad verification product that you all offer. Can both exist? Or do you see yourselves just continuing to add features and do everything that people want for ad verification?

AARON NELSON:  I would definitely say there is room for both to exist, and DoubleClick has been and always will be an open platform. And clients are free to use our service and if they want to use any third party verification or other tool on top of their  DoubleClick ad‑serving tag, they're free to do so. And, we're happy to make sure that our system will remain open to other verifiers that may have certain features that we don't have. So we're definitely open and will remain so.

By Zach Rodgers and John Ebbert

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