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Following a tirade of barriers for digital and and programmatic advertising over the past couple of years, where brand safety took a pivotal role in the boxing ring along with clarity, transparency and viewability, confidence in data-driven advertising took a nose dive. 

But is this lack of confidence just an illusion, rather than the reality, as many markets will see significant increases in digital ad spend?

Ahead of his judging role at The Drum Digital Trading Awards APAC, Integral Ad Science's (IAS) managing director, Southeast Asia, Niall Hogan spoke to The Drum about how bad reputations have the potential to harm investment and why the industry needs to come together to eliminate risk for the advertiser and apply new guidelines to their own businesses. 

There is a sense that brands don’t trust programmatic or digital marketing as much, would you agree? What has factored into this?
There has been a crisis of confidence regrading digital marketing, and programmatic has borne the brunt of a lot of the bad PR. When buying programmatically on the open exchange, you are exposing yourself to hundreds of thousands of websites and billions of potential impressions to bid on buy. With all of that choice, comes more risk. However, there are tools and data that can help marketeers mitigate the risk, and navigate programmatic buys, so that they deliver quality media as well as results for advertisers. 

Could this harm investment into digital?
Yes, a bad reputation has the potential to harm investment in both programmatic and digital. However, we are not really seeing that happen. In reality, what we are seeing happen, is agencies and advertisers educate themselves in the potential risk, and then employ solutions that enable them to avoid those risks. 

Is it justified or is it overstated?
The potential risks of buying programmatically have most likely been over inflated. If we have a look at our won SEA benchmarks for H2 2017, we can see that programmatic buys have less brand safety issues than buying publisher direct, and actually generated better viewability. As a word of caution, we saw slightly more fraud on programmatic buys, compared to buys from publisher direct. 

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What can we do to generate more trust as an industry?
It's important that the industry pulls together to eliminate risk for the advertiser and to build trust in both digital marketing and specifically in programmatic buying. Yes there are challenges when buying programmatically, but with the right bidding strategy, combined with the right use of data, risk can be mitigated and media quality can be improved. That means advertisers, agencies, publishers, tech companies and vendors, working together to define best practices for digital trading, and applying these guidelines to their own businesses. 

What positive moves are already happening? Either in your business or the wider industry?
A couple of years ago, IAS created a proprietary SDK with open measurement as the ultimate goal. The IAB Tech Lab assumed governance of IAS’ open measurement initiative in January 2017.  IAS efforts were transferred to the Open Measurement Working Group, where IAS now sits on a leadership team of Commit Group members. 2018 will be the year that Asia will see the benefit of the OM SDK for mobile viewability, as large mobile platforms in the region, like MoPub and InMobi, roll this out to their publisher partners.

We’re already seeing the benefits of a single consistent measurement standard being applied at scale. App developers are utilising the SDK to apply a single standardized approach to measuring viewability making it so much easier to gain consistent viewability metrics on mobile. This means that advertiser and agencies in Asia will be able to get accurate Viewability measurement and reporting for all of their In-App buys.

The OM SDK helps advertisers looking for a uniform approach to measurement regardless of the device or environment – whether that’s desktop or mobile, web or in-app. Those who are using more than one vendor can now expect a consistent approach to how the viewability measurement signal is derived. For brand marketers and agencies looking for a consistent measurement across their entire digital buy has greatly improved efficiency.

IAS are sponsors of The Drum Digital Trading Awards APAC. The entry deadline is Tuesday 21 August, download your entry pack now and show the industry the outstanding work you have been producing.