"Ad tech has a long way to go before it serves the needs of marketers. We need better metrics and way more transparency. We don’t have that right now."Nandini Jammi, Check My Ads
I recently interviewed BRANDED co-writers Claire Atkin and Nandini Jammi about the inspiration behind their brand safety work — and their advice for publishers looking to offer greater transparency for advertisers.
Since our last conversation, Claire and Nandini have launched a new venture, Check My Ads, which helps brands stay away from fake news, disinformation, and hate speech. Check My Ads specializes in brand safety training that helps advertisers build out their media guidelines and policy.
My latest interview with Claire and Nandini shares their vision for Check My Ads and their perspectives on how publishers can join them in creating a user-friendly advertising ecosystem — one that ensures safety as well as revenue.
What inspired you to launch Check My Ads?
We found that for marketers, checking their ads is more difficult than it seems. There’s the hate and disinformation that seems to be a default in our media buys. And then, there are the uncomfortable conversations around where we should draw the line. Who should and shouldn’t we support through our ad budgets?
We started Check My Ads to help companies develop their own brand policy guidelines, and then navigate how to communicate — and check on — implementation with their media buying agencies and ad tech vendors.
A lot of our work is education. Marketers think implementing brand safety technology is enough to keep their brands safe. They tell us “Oh, we use DoubleVerify, or “We already have IAS” without realizing that those technologies are just one piece of the puzzle — that they’re not capable of deciding the best places for your brand to be seen.
How does Check My Ads work?
Our goal is to give marketers the tools they need to confidently make media buying decisions. One of the biggest issues marketers face today is drawing the line about what is and is not acceptable for their brand. It’s just not something you can’t just automate with brand safety technology.
So we work with teams to establish their brand values and their marketing goals. We train them to understand brand safety crises and how to respond (quickly!) when they come up. Then we help them operationalize their values with a set of brand policy guidelines that they can use to make their own judgment calls.
What are the most common questions and concerns you hear from brands?
The most common thing we hear on introductory calls is, “We don’t want to fund hate and disinformation. How do we make sure not to do that?”
The answer should be easy, but it’s not. Ad tech has a long way to go before it serves the needs of marketers. We need better metrics and way more transparency. We don’t have that right now.
We’re also fielding a lot of questions about the Facebook ad boycott. It’s caused a lot of conversations internally, but more importantly, it’s inspiring marketers to think creatively about their marketing strategy.
We’re hearing from companies that are really thinking about how to diversify their ad spend and be less reliant on Facebook, because they don’t want to contribute to the platform in general. We think that’s a healthy business practice, and probably good for marketing to get creative and get back to the roots of why we advertise in the first place.
What discoveries have surprised your clients most (to date)?
Their runaway ad spend.
Marketers come to us looking to help them identify hate sites in their media buy, but then we show them all the ways that their ad budgets are being wasted or stolen. That’s a real revelation for them.
Every client we’ve worked with has saved on their monthly ad budgets while still hitting their performance goals as a result of working with us. At a time when the economy is suffering, that means a lot.
What advice would you offer publishers who want to meet advertisers’ brand safety needs and expectations?
Publishers have it rough. When they’re not being over blocked by brand safety technology, they are competing on metrics that are meaningless and easy to game.
"As advertisers move towards inclusion lists, you want to be sure you make the cut. To that end, do the work to define who your audience is, what brings people to your website and what your unique offering is. Be ready to advocate for yourself and pitch your ideal advertisers to make sure you end up on that list."Claire Atkin, Check My Ads
There are bigger ideas worth exploring too. We’ve met with publishers — particularly news media — that are exploring ways to develop real partnerships with advertisers outside of the established ad tech ecosystem, like private marketplaces, direct advertising models, and packaged audience insights.
Marketers have never been more open to change, so we think this is a great time to start experimenting.
Claire Atkin is co-founder of Check My Ads. Claire is a marketing expert specializing in media and policy. In 2018, she launched a boutique marketing agency, First Mountain, where she focuses on customer research and development for B2B software clients in North America and Europe. At Check My Ads, Claire combines her marketing and policy experience to help clients craft their brand guidelines.
Nandini Jammi is co-founder of Check My Ads. Nandini has been immersed in the world of brand safety and digital advertising since 2016, when she began running Sleeping Giants, the social media campaign that alerted advertisers that their ads were funding hate speech on Breitbart News. At Check My Ads, Nandini turns her social media experience into proactive strategies for brands.
Thanks to Claire and Nandini for sharing their latest collaboration and advice.