Publishers Hard At Work! Publishers Talking About Brand Safety

On June 13 (Thu), we held an Ad fraud meetup event. Today’s post will be about the panel’s discussion in that seminar: Publishers Hard At Work! Publishers Talking About Brand Safety.
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Ad fraud is a heavily debated buzzword among advertisers. However, it has been an undeniable fact that there has been damage to publishers' brand image due to the influence of “fake advertisement.” Today, we take a look at the issue and see how top publishers in the industry work to protect their own images! 


Hiroshi Ikeda(Platform Division Deputy Division Manager - Ad Generation / Supership)


Tatsuya Yanagida (Digital Innovation HQ Product Planning Division / Asahi Shimbun)

Hiroharu Imaoka(Marketing Product Development Department / Cookpad)

Shinji Kawano(Media Division Manager / Socio Corporation)

Shuji Kobayashi(Media Business Unit Deputy General Manager, Sales Planning IT Department / Nikkei Inc.)


Ikeda: First off, there are stakeholders when distributing advertising. It’s not listed in this graph, but publishers are looking at what content readers are looking at. Our relationship with the user is something I think is obvious, but I want to emphasize that. We can’t risk destroying that relationship by saying that we want to increase advertising profits. Everyone that is involved with distributing advertisements needs to understand what ad fraud is.

Ad fraud is when money is exploited from advertisers. There is the tendency to think that publishers are behind this, but that is not the case. Today, we invited 4 speakers who work with monetized advertisements from the publisher side, to talk about what they are doing to make the advertising industry a more sound environment. 

Recent internet advertising has totaled to about 1.8 trillion yen, which is an increase of about 116% compared to the previous year, with total advertising expenditure now calculated to be about 6.5 trillion yen.

On the other hand, you probably see some wild ads like this on your smartphone, right? Advertisements that use these kinds of radical images are extremely profitable because they generate a lot of physical clicks. I think these kinds of ads are getting rectified now because the public has been talking about them.

Also, ad fraud that plagues publishers and are exploited by readers and users is a very tricky issue. NHK brought to light issues like illegal manga servers and fake advertisements in their “Close-up Gendai” show. Plus, a book called “Bousou suru netto koukoku: Runaway Internet Advertising” was published last year, and that book made the public question if internet advertisement was safe.

If you look at the ranking by company of advertising expenses as a whole, it is slightly different from so-called national clients who are mainly advertising on the Internet. I feel that there is a trend of re-evaluating ways in placing ads on the internet because of this fear that brands will be hurt by noise in the media, such as ad fraud and not knowing where ads are being distributed from.

What publishers are doing on their side

Right now, we are working on ways to identify our own ads such as through ads.txt or app-ads.txt and sales channels such as sellers.jsons to find out if they are being distributed. We are trying to serve ads correctly and transparently according to IAB standards.

It’s an age where we can demonstrate whether our ads are being seen correctly and safely

Meanwhile, publishers would like to ask how they operate the media.

Have there been any changes since the recent "Close-up Gendai"?

Kobayashi:There have been. Since we don’t accept PPC at our company, we don’t get those kinds of wild advertisements that we talked about a minute ago. Ads that are inappropriate for Nikkei are reviewed and denied. Even for Nikkei, we are asked if we could "...put an IAS tag on and measure it?". It’s natural for the media to ask to measure things like that but, rather it’s become more of a problem not to measure it. It’s not just because it’s Nikkei that you can trust them, but rather more and more similar media outlets and advertisers are asking to get things measured. 

Ikeda:You already don’t allow free buying through PPC such as OpenRTB; would someone that operates on such a high level such as Nikkei be ok with that?

Kawano:At the other end of the spectrum, Nikkei's main goal is to buy advertising space on Open RTB, and I feel that the impact from “Close-up Gendai” has been huge. When the revenue per thousand impressions of the ad is used as an index, it shows a different behavior from that of the previous year, showing that it began to fall from January this year and will not increase at all after March. There is also data showing that brand advertisers are less willing to place ads. The challenge is how to make a profit all while keeping a balance, because if you place the wild ad earlier, you will also push out fans and readers.

KobayashiThere has been progress in delivering ads on Whitelist operations to only safe and secure media. I think that the situation is developing into a sense that it will only be reliable media.

Yanagida:We’re fighting wild ads everyday. As an impact from the “Close-up Gendai” coverage, I feel that internal and external interest and understanding of PPC advertising is growing. I think it's a tailwind rather than a headwind for stabilized media. Sometimes when we talk about managed advertising, we ’re not too quick to talk about it. Also, we have introduced IAS's service as a media, and we are happy to say that PMP inquiries, excluding ad fraud measured by IAS standards, are increasingly targeting only articles that are brand safe.

Ikeda:Certainly, the "Close-up Gendai" coverage gave it a negative image, but there have also been many positive ads and positive aspects on the other side of things. Have there been any changes at Cookpad?

Imaoka:In all honesty, there haven’t been any major changes. If we were to talk about pure advertisement like brand safety and OpenRTB, talks about PMP have increased, but it doesn’t feel like there has been any major push to change the flow of things. I thought I would be following in the tailwinds of more serious media, but I did not make much profit in the end. I'm wondering more if the advertiser's way of dropping money has changed anything.

After thinking about brand safety now, what do you think is the one thing that causes the most trouble? What do you do specifically to tackle that issue? 

Kawano:I think that advertising creatives who send out enormous amounts of ads need to check them as an operations personnel. Lately, I have the impression that wild creatives and landing pagess are uploading ads rather than small and medium advertisers. But if you cut everything down to reduce the burden of checking, profits won’t increase and you definitely would want to do them in the end. However, If you do them, checks are going to be difficult and honestly, it's not the sort of task that is fun as it can leave you alone for a month or so. 

As for a specific blocking method, there is a block for each landing page domain, but even at present it is listed near 500, and it is difficult that there are limitations to blocking on domains that are growing non-stop.

Ikeda:What kind of references are you looking into at RocketNews24? 

Kawano:Based on the quality level and media concept required for the article, we check on the landing page that bounced from the creative and advertising.

Yanagida:Splitting it up, we have 3 major problems.

① Content (Request info)

② Unpleasant format 

③ Unwanted ads that forcefully redirects you

① deals with the issue of erotic and grotesque fake advertisements. Thanks to the coverage from “Close-up Gendai”, I feel like things have settled down a little. However, this is also a matter of morality in the whole industry, so I would like to continue to raise that voice from publishers.

Regarding ②, the better Ads Standards has been applied to Japan in some cases, and I think it is moving in the direction of soundness.

Regarding ③, this is a real headache for publishers. We know empirically that setting a higher floor price can eliminate some of this, but setting a higher floor price can impair profitability. In order to solve such problems, we introduced a tool called GeoEdge in the spring. It’s a company that detects and blocks malicious ads with embedded auto redirects.

Ikeda:You seem to be spending money on automation, but how well does it work?

Yanagida:A good amount is caught every day, but it seems that the majority is overseas. Does that mean that Japanese SSPs and DSPs are doing their best to deal with it? That’s how I interpreted it.

Imaoka:Since we are a recipe service, moms and their children look at our service when they’re cooking. Our creatives get many complaints. User voices are floating around on our slack channels which have over 100 people looking. For this reason, it looks bad from inside the company and it is difficult to block or use attack measures such as monetization. A few creatives are struggling to look down on other network ads themselves.

Ikeda:How are you checking up on ads?

Imaoka:We outsource business. The conditions for creatives to test around are negotiated and people actually look at it and test it out.

Ikeda:I see. AI is popular, but looks like it's actually checked visually. So Asahi Shimbun uses automation vendors, while Rocket News and Cookpad are done manually through human hands. Three of you check on an ad after it’s appeared, but Nikkei checks beforehand.

Kobayashi:That’s right. We do a full creative check before publication. Including that, there are 3 issues at hand. 

1: Client creative check, reviewer confirms before ad placement.

2: It is necessary to raise the level of understanding within the company, the differences in the characteristics of tools, an understanding for brand safety, and ad fraud.

3:There are many attacks coming from outside such as bots. Perhaps it’s because Nikkei is well known overseas so there are many attacks from bots. We’re constantly pursuing measures. It is also difficult to prevent such attacks.

Ikeda:Why is that you’re being attacked for being known overseas?

Kobayashi:To buy and sell Cookie data that’s been stolen through fraud, or the like. There are many targets for ad fraud. Maybe it's a cookie that wants to access "Nikkei readers".

IkedaYou don't want to have weird ads, but you're worried about the trade-offs between weird ads being profitable. Finally, what do you want the advertiser to do from a publisher’s perspective? Please tell us what you would like for them to do.

Yanagida:I’ve done digital advertisement for close to 15 years now. The industry as a whole has been steadily rising, technology is improving day by day. At least that is the dream I have. I think that the situation we’re in now where ads that are against our morals are being displayed normally like this is critical. I don't think it should be good if only some media are working towards soundness. For the reader, all media and services are connected into one place which is the internet. I think it's up to the morals of everyone in the industry to make sure that the advertising industry is healthy in 10 years.

Imaoka:I agree with Mr. Yanagida. 

Kobayashi:Media outlets that accept suspicious advertisers are not good either. Internet advertisers should monetize ads that are not offensive.

Kawano:Regardless of the web or apps, it’s too bad that ads can cause users to leave, and as Mr. Yanagita says, it is a problem to think and act in the industry as a whole looking ahead to the future. If you do not create or stop malicious accounts by managing credit information referred to by credit cards together with the business side, the future of online advertisement will not be so bright. 

Ikeda:First of all, the internet is a place where anyone can participate freely, to get information they like, to express content, and use it in any way that they wish to use it. That is what makes the internet great. But for advertisement, we’re limited to only a set number of players like tvs and newspapers. Everyone in the Internet advertising industry must consider creating a system that balances the goodness of the Internet with advertising.


Q1:Startups and upcoming media can't afford brand safety; how would you recommend dealing with this?

Kawano:You don’t need any tools. First, there’s the reality that OpenRTB and PMP which doesn’t guarantee delivery volume is dealt with on the purchasing side while the media side doesn’t have to do anything. Even if the media side starts using a tool, it can only be used for distribution in pure ad type deals, and there is no guarantee that it can sell more than the cost of implementation. On the other hand, there's also the dilemma where you cannot sell unless you use tools. We are working with the editing department so that ads with strict posting standards such as Google can be issued without problems

Q2:How common is ad block and how well known is it? What are your personal thoughts?

Imaoka:A couple of months ago when I looked up how many PCs and smartphones use ad block, it was about 1%.

Ikeda:Overseas, about 20% seem to be doing this, but if it rises to X%, what criteria do you take, such as implementing ad block measures?

Imaoka:I think ad block measures will be necessary when it rises to 10-20%. But I want those who are providing services to think about the benefits and demerits before making any decisions. 

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