Home The Sell Sider How Publishers Can Meet The Buy-Side’s Demands For ‘Cruelty-Free’ Ad Environments

How Publishers Can Meet The Buy-Side’s Demands For ‘Cruelty-Free’ Ad Environments


The Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Sarah Bolton, executive vice president of business intelligence at Advertiser Perceptions

The Perry Mason moment during Alex Jones’s recent defamation trial – when the plaintiff’s lawyers revealed they had access to two years of his cellphone data thanks to an error by his own team – was the stuff of legal drama dreams.

But the revelation that his Infowars website had grossed up to $800,000 in a single day should have grabbed the attention of everyone working in the digital media ecosystem. 

As industry ethics watchdogs such as CheckMyAds, Augustine Fou, Bob Hoffman and others continually highlight, the programmatic ecosystem is so complex and opaque that bad actors are able to game the system in order to fund hate, social harm and violence – including war and insurrection.

Increasingly, advertisers report being concerned about funding harmful activity through ad fraud and high-velocity disinformation within social and programmatic ecosystems. While this is nothing new, what is evident is a growing willingness among buyers to take action to mitigate some of the most devastating effects of chasing low-cost, highly targeted impressions at scale.

Here’s how publishers can be ready for advertisers’ growing savvy and selectiveness:

Stick to your content policies and practices 

With more than half of advertisers now saying defunding disinformation is an active priority for their organizations, media sellers need to be ready to have concrete, transparent conversations about how content is created and shared across their properties.

Prove your premium value

We know advertisers are increasingly working only with vetted media partners and placing ads on vetted domains and apps. Making moves to secure a spot on these inclusion lists is essential, though it may require some work to attest to practices via RFPs and other audits. 


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Still, these efforts can benefit publishers in the long run. Once advertisers are comfortable, they are more likely to back down from keyword blocking practices for preapproved partners.

Promoting your practices

As our industry’s focus on brand safety has broadened to brand suitability over the past few  years, there has been a growing expectation that advertising environments and media companies align their corporate values with their brand or agency.

Put bluntly: More than ever before, what’s said about a company is weighing heavily on advertisers’ decisions to work with it. Being a beacon for responsible advertising and engaging in more ethical practices will be a prerequisite for success. 

For most advertisers, corporate responsibility and brand values play a more prominent role in marketing decisions in 2022 than in recent years. For many, that starts with addressing inadvertent funding of the disinformation economy. 

For the sell side, that means cleaning up policies and practices in kind, from transparent and “cruelty-free” supply chains to content policies that prioritize information integrity. Or publishers simply risk being left behind in the industry’s reckoning.

Follow Advertiser Perceptions (@AdPerceptions) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter. 

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