Reed Smith formed part of the core team drafting the seminal ANA Programmatic Media Supply Chain transparency study. Our Ad Bites break down each of the findings and delivers a key consideration when thinking about a marketer’s contractual relationship with its agency or vendor partner in respect of programmatic buying to protect your bottom line.
Regularly audit your campaign performance to understand the percentage of impressions and media spend represented by Made for Advertising (MFA) websites along with ongoing analysis of log-level data against a constantly updated MFA site list to make effective decisions on your treatment of MFA websites as part of your spend. To do this, you will need to (i) ensure that your agency agreement grants you broad audit rights, including access to transaction data, to conduct regular audits, and (ii) have programmatic guidelines in place that set forth your expectations as to the inclusion of MFA sites in your campaigns and appropriate remedies in the event your agency fails to comply with such guidelines.
Created to simultaneously buy and sell ad inventory, MFA sites typically use sensational headlines, clickbait, and provocative content to attract visitors and generate page views. MFA sites also usually feature low-quality content and may use tactics such as pop-up ads, auto-play videos, or intrusive ads to maximize ad revenue.
The study found that MFA websites comprised a startling 21% of study impressions and 15% of spend and every advertiser recorded at least some media spending on MFA websites, with volumes ranging from 0.13%-42%. The study also found that MFA websites arbitrage all ad types, with display ads accounting for 56% of media spend on MFA websites and video ads accounting for 44%. Prior to the ANA First Look report, awareness of MFA websites was limited and only recently has a definition been developed. MFA websites often have high measurability and good viewability rates, low levels of invalid traffic, and brand-safe environments, but they typically don’t perform well on key metrics like brand lift or drive sales. They also pose some troublesome sustainability impacts by generating 26% more carbon emissions than non-MFA inventory.
With MFA supply growing (from 5% of web auctions in early 2020 to nearly 30% by mid-2023), the recommended playbook is:
- Ensure your agency agreement grants you broad audit rights, including access to transaction data, and conduct regular audits to understand the percentage of impressions and spend represented by MFA websites.
- Have programmatic guidelines in place that set forth your expectations as to the inclusion of MFA sites in your campaigns and appropriate remedies in the event your agency fails to comply with such guidelines.
- Consider running an inclusion list (instead of an exclusion list) for your programmatic advertising, as if you want to eliminate MFA sites from your spend altogether, an exclusion list may not be the most effective solution, given the number of sites and apps which would need to be listed and regularly refreshed in order to capture all of this unwanted inventory.
- Consider whether MFA sites fit your brand suitability standards for content and user experience.
- Get your log-level data and analyze it against a constantly updated MFA site list.
- If your agency or other vendors along the supply chain offer new MFA-blocking or detection tools, your agency agreement and/or contracts with such vendors should ensure they are legally standing behind such offerings, with appropriate service levels, make-goods, and indemnification obligations in place in the event such offerings do not function as sold (as oftentimes there is still significant MFA leakage and waste).
- If you reduce or eliminate spend on MFA websites, remember that your CPMs will likely increase since CPMs paid on MFA websites are 25% lower than those paid on non-MFA websites.