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Programmatic Advertising – Demystifying the Matrix

Programmatic Advertising

Programmatic Advertising

Programmatic advertising has been one of the biggest advancements in digital marketing in the last ten years, but ask a marketer to explain how exactly it works and you will likely be deluged in strange words you’ve never heard of. This is no surprise – programmatic advertising has the same kind of mystique as magic does. In another similarity it often seems to pull its results out of a hat, without any explanation of how the system works or how those results were achieved. This has lead to a general sense of confusion and distrust around Programmatic, simple questions like “How does it work?”, “How successful can it be?”, and What does it work for?” are all raised often. Here, I hope to answer these, and give a somewhat straight answer which can be understood without needing to be a marketing master!


If you want to get in touch about how programmatic advertising could work for your charity or business, send us an email at hello@upriseup.co.uk.


What is Programmatic?


Let’s start at the beginning and define what Programmatic is. Put simply, Programmatic is a system that automates the process of buying places to show your adverts. It excels in the areas where previously you would have had very little control over who sees your ads, such as display or television.


How does it work?


Programmatic is made up of two different systems, one for advertisers (Called a demand side platform or DSP) and one for publishers (called a supply side platform or SSP). The publisher system allows websites to put ad placements up for sale. The system will define the type of user that placement is likely to be seen by. The advertiser side allows companies to upload their creative and budgets, along with a definition of the type of user they want to see their ads.






This is where the automation comes into the equation. The programs play a matching game, looking for placements uploaded on the advertiser system that match the audience definitions on the advertiser system. For an advertiser, you can think of it like a shop window, where you are allowing a robot to pick out the items it thinks are the best fit for you.

This is sometimes called ‘real-time bidding’, and this is highlighting one of the major differences between Programmatic and traditional advertising. Previously, you would have purchased impressions in bulk and in advance, purchasing a thousand impressions on one site, 10,000 on another. With Programmatic, you are purchasing placements on an impression by impression basis.


How successful can it be?


Very successful, but like any other marketing avenue it has its strengths and weaknesses. The biggest of both is how data driven the channel is. You need enough conversions and traffic for the programs to analyse, and a good enough understanding of your target audience to be able to target them effectively. If you don’t have this sort of data available, programmatic will likely do just as well as a normally managed display campaign.

Also, unlike digital channels such as AdWords or Facebook, to target users ‘programmatically’: platforms such as Google DoubleClick require minimum buy-ins (usually $5,000/month). This is why programmatic is often the realms of agencies or large companies, small businesses and many charities will find more value in using the ‘free entry’ channels above, as opposed to spending a large portion of their budget simply to get on to the ad platform.


What does it work for?


Programmatic advertising can work for most advertising campaigns, but some will always work better than others. We’ve already mentioned the need for the correct amount of data for the system to be effective, and that a higher budget campaign is required to justify the price of entry. This means that it will always tend to work better for more expansive advertising campaigns.

The activity is also far more inherently conversion driven than other channels, so a campaign with well defined primary and secondary conversions will always achieve better results than one where the conversion set up has been rushed. Similarly, if your campaign achieves a conversion every 3 weeks, it will take years for the system to effectively narrow down the type of user more likely to convert than others. Your campaign should be achieving at least 10 conversions a day to give the system enough data to work with.


And that’s it! Programmatic advertising may be very technical, but underneath the imposing façade it’s no different from any other channel. It has been trendy over the last few years to talk about programmatic like it is the saving grace of digital marketing, but there will always be a place for hand made advertising campaigns. Both small budget activities which can’t afford the cost to get on to a programmatic system, and bespoke, highly targeted campaigns that values quality over ease of management will both likely find that a manual approach to advertising will work best.

If you’d like to discuss the pros and cons of programmatic more, or want to discuss how we can help you with either programmatic or manual campaigns, please do get in touch!

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    Fake News Sites – An Update & Investigation

    Fake News Sites an Update and Investigation

    Fake News


    We published a blog a few months ago explaining why adverts might appear on fake news sites, as well as discussing who is responsible for preventing this.

    Since it seems that fake news, and accusations against advertisers, Facebook, Google and more, is here to stay for the foreseeable future, we wanted to give an update on what’s going on, as well as some more insight as to why it’s such a complex issue.

    The issue of fake news is still appearing in newspaper headlines and remains a hot topic for many. Articles are frequently being published detailing the problem of fake news and what major companies, such as Google and Facebook, have promised to do to tackle this problem.

    In addition, many have taken it upon themselves to inform companies when their ads have appeared on a fake news site in order to combat the problem. Yet, there is one important question that has yet to be answered and proves to be a barrier to finding an all-encompassing solution.


    What Counts As Fake News?

    The first question to consider is what actually counts as fake news? This is important as without a clear definition, we cannot decide which sites to be wary of.

    Opinion vs. Fake News

    Many argue that what they publish is just their opinion, not fake news, and targeting them constitutes an attack on freedom of speech. If a site contains articles with controversial opinions, but these opinions do not incite hate or violence, then is there any concrete reason why such sites should be banned from ad networks?

    However, many people still put sites such as these under the bracket of fake news and claim that they misinform the public and attempt to present something as fact, rather than opinion. But at what point does restricting this sort of content then constitute limiting someone’s freedom of speech and expression? Can it even be considered censorship?

    Entertainment vs. Fake News

    Again, if a site contains a disclaimer that their content is meant to be satirical or for entertainment purposes, then can they be considered fake news? Even if it’s readers do not read this disclaimer and believe the stories to be true, the site itself is not claiming that their content is factual.

    Satirical sites, such as The Onion, have been around for years and the main difference is that sites such as these were well-known to be spoof before the issue of fake news arose, whereas newer sites do not have this reputation and so are painted as deceptive.

    What Next?

    There are some that would group all sites that have been mentioned as Fake News sites, and others who would only include sites that purposefully distribute inaccurate content as news or imitate real news sites. Whose responsibility is it to decide what constitutes fake news? Without a clear agreement of where to draw the line, it is difficult to come up with a solution.


    fake news sites - newspapersWhat Are The Implications?

    Regardless of the argument over what counts of fake news, there is convincing evidence that this issue of fake news has big implications for lots of people.

    The Public

    Many members of the general public are angry about fake news and are actively fighting against it, campaigning for brands and advertisers to stop their ads running on fake news sites and calling for more to be done by companies such as Google and Facebook.

    There is also mounting evidence that there is “a marked decrease in the trust of mainstream media in the UK as a result of widespread misreporting and false information, which not only damages the media outlets themselves but could have an impact on the brands that choose to advertise with them”.


    One of the most important things to almost any company is their brand. And so, if trust in their brand is affected by the appearance of their ads on fake news sites, this is a big issue for them.

    No brand wants their consumers to feel mistrustful of them or associate them with negative sites, and so this could mean that brands become warier of using ad networks in order to preserve brand safety.


    If fewer companies utilise Ad Networks, then Advertising Agencies may see a decline in business and trust in what they do.

    Although a portion of responsibility lies with advertisers to stop their clients’ ads being shown somewhere that may affect the client’s brand negatively, with the way that Ad Networks work, it is difficult to stop this entirely without a pre-prepared list of placements the clients do not want their ads to show on, or without Ad Networks creating an new option of stopping ads showing on fake news sites.

    Ad Networks

    An immense amount of pressure is being put on ad networks to eradicate fake news sites from their networks altogether. However, as mentioned before, it is proving difficult to reach consensus on what constitutes fake news.

    And so, whilst ad networks such a Google Ad Sense have targeted sites that imitate real news sites or publish hateful or harmful fake content, it has not taken aim at other sites that people believe should be removed from their network.


    What’s Being Done?

    So, what’s being done to combat the issue of fake nfake news sites - censorshipews?

    Ad Networks Removing Fake News Sites

    Many Ad Networks are clamping down on some forms of fake news. For example, Google’s Misrepresentative Content Policy states: “Users don’t want to be misled by the content they engage with online. For this reason, Google ads may not be placed on pages that misrepresent, misstate, or conceal information about [the publisher], [its] content or the primary purpose of [the] web property”.

    And so, there is evidence that Ad Networks are doing something and have removed fake news sites. However, “often when a fake news site is kicked off one network, it simply moves to another and continues to earn money”. But, as mentioned previously, this does not include targeting the slightly less obvious forms of fake news that can be protected due to claims of being satirical or personal opinion.

    Excluding Fake News Sites Manually

    As Fake News sites are becoming more publicised, advertisers are taking extra precautions and excluding the more well-known sites manually to try and avoid the controversy surrounding the issue.

    However, with new fake news sites popping up all the time, it’s impossible to keep up and exclude all possible sites at all times. Some will inevitably slip through the net and potentially put the advertisers and brands reputation at risk.


    What Now?

    Until a consensus is reached on what fake news is, there is not a cohesive solution to solve the issue of ads appearing on fake news sites.

    But if advertisers continue to stay vigilant and Ad Networks continue to take tough action on the issue of fake news, it will certainly reduce the likelihood of ads appearing on those sites and make it more difficult for fake news sites to earn money. And the more difficult it becomes, the less incentive there is for people to create fake new in the first place.

    Until the issue can be resolved altogether, we’re continuing to try and stay one step ahead. We have a list of specific sites that we always exclude from our client’s Display Campaigns, on top of excluding sensitive content, in order to protect our clients brand image. Furthermore, we’re keeping up to date with development with fake news and Google policy so that we can adapt and improve our current methods.


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      YouTube Nonprofits Programme – New Opportunities

      YouTube Nonprofits programme

      YouTube for Non-profits

      As we posted recently, Google Ad Grants have now become part of a larger programme called Google for Nonprofits. As part of this development, Google have also rolled out their YouTube for Nonprofits Programme to UK shores, which had previously only been available to users in the US.


      New YouTube Donation Cards

      As we all know, video is a growing and incredibly engaging medium. This very exciting development means charities can now add ‘donation cards’ to their own YouTube videos so viewers can donate directly from a video by clicking on a ‘card’ that appears as an overlay.


      YouTube Nonprofits Programme


      Even better, charities’ own supporters can also use the card on their own content to drive donations. This is especially good news for charities given the strength of fundraising when it comes from supporters to their own networks.

      This functionality, for any YouTube user to add a donation card has only been available in the US since January 2016 so is relatively new even there. To see the cards in action watch Google’s own YouTube video.


      How to Sign Up

      Firstly you need to enrol for the Google Nonprofits Programme. Once approved you have the option to enrol in YouTube for Nonprofits, alongside other tools including G Suite for Nonprofits  (previously Google Apps for Nonprofits) and Google Earth Outreach.

      All you will need to provide is your YouTube Channel ID and if you don’t already have a YouTube channel you can very quickly and easily set one up.


      How It Works

      All donations are made via the UK charity: Charitable Giving, who then distribute the funds with Google whilst covering any processing fees (in the US donations are distributed on a monthly basis). At the moment, donations made this way aren’t eligible for Gift Aid but Google states it hopes to enable that very soon.

      Although we’ve not tested it yet, it should be possible (and indeed in Google’s benefit) to keep these donation cards in place on videos which are also used for YouTube TrueView Video Ads (the skippable video ads that appear before monetised content). This would drive donations without trying to take the viewer away to your website and could have excellent potential to boost results of video advertising for charities using paid AdWords accounts.


      Things to Consider

      As with everything there will be downsides and the major one will be that charities won’t be able to harvest the donor’s valuable details if they donate via a YouTube card. This aside, we do recommend eligible non-profits sign up to the YouTube Nonprofits Programme, if only to allow others to use the charity’s donation card in their own video content.

      This is all very new and not without glitches! When I tried to add a donation card to my own YouTube video very recently (as a general YouTube user) the donation card was not an option, but given a little time this could be a very useful development to harness and we look forward to trying it out.

      If you are interested in finding out more about YouTube advertising or applying for Google Nonprofits we’d be delighted to hear from you. Do get in touch at hello@upriseup.co.uk or give us a call.

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        Ads Appearing On Fake News Sites – Should You Be Concerned?

        Fake News

        Ads Appearing on Fake News Sites


        The Times & The Sun’s leading story two days in a row have been all about how ads from charities and government funded programmes are being shown on fake news websites. This has obviously caused outrage and shock, with newspapers claiming that this is costing the public money, as well as arguing that ads appearing on fake news sites are funding and promoting those sites.

        Whilst we have stringent checks in place and are vigilant when it comes to where our client’s ads are show, it is an almighty task to prevent ads appearing on fake news sites, especially when new sites are popping up all the time, and so it is a valid concern. So how can something like this happen? Is it as disturbing as it seems at first glance? How can you prevent this?


        How This Can Happen

        There have been accusations of digital marketing agencies purposefully promoting ads on fake news sites, as it is often cheaper and so gives them lower cost inventory (although this would cause contextual harm). However, we believe that the more likely reason for ads appearing on fake news sites is rather less scandalous and is all about how ad targeting methods work.

        When you use broad targeting methods it means that your ads may show up in unexpected place. In AdWords, there are five main approaches to targeting and any of them can land you in hot water if you don’t keep a close eye on them:



        This involves showing ads to audiences that have already visited your website or performed an action on your website. However, if a person who visited your site then visits a fake news page (whether intentionally or by accident), then your ad could follow them to that page if there is space to advertise on it. And so, with this targeting method, the placement of your ad is directly affected by where on the web your target user is going.



        This method is very similar in that your ad will follow the person (this time based on their age, gender or whether they are a parent or not) and so if you target men between the ages of 35-44 and one of them happens to be viewing a fake news website, then the ad targeting that person could show up on that site.



        You can input keywords which then can target either webpages or people with interests that are relevant to those keywords. If you include a keyword that is in anyway related to content on a fake news site (and fake news sites include a wide variety of content, so it is not unlikely that this could happen), then that ad could show on that fake news site.



        This will target any webpages that contain content about a specific subject of your choosing. If you choose the Politics topic, then it is possible that your ad will show up on fake news sites concerning politics.



        This is the one targeting method that would not be affected by this because if you are choosing specific webpages for your ad to show, then the only way it can show on a fake news site is if you add that site yourself.


        Just by looking at the targeting methods, you can see how easy it is for ads to show up on webpages you might not expect or want them to show. But does this mean that advertisers are not responsible for where their ads are showing? Certainly not. There are things that an advertiser can do to avoid, or at least minimise to risk of, ads appearing on fake news sites or other undesirable sites.


        What Advertisers Can Doadwords site category options

        One way in AdWords to prevent your ads appearing on fake news sites and other questionable websites is with Site Category Options. These allow you to exclude sites, content or ad placements where you don’t want to show your ads.

        It is easy to forget to utilise these if you are new or unfamiliar with AdWords because you must manually select them after you create your Campaign. Also, they appear at the bottom of the page and the phrase Site Category Option does not make it immediately obvious what its purpose is.

        However, once you know about them, they are essential for many advertisers, especially those working with charities and government funded programmes, to make use of. The most important Site Category to consider excluding is Sensitive Content. Excluding options in this category means that your ads should not show on sexually suggestive sites or sites relating to death, crime, profanity, etc.

        Whilst this may not specifically help stop ads showing on all fake news sites, it certainly would stop them showing on the more extreme ones or from general sites that you, as an advertiser, wouldn’t want your ads to show on.

        Another way to stop your ads showing on unwanted sites is with more specific exclusions based on the targeting methods I mentioned earlier. For example, you can exclude keywords that could relate to fake new, or you could exclude the topic News.  However, it becomes difficult in the case of fake news as excluding topics and keywords relating to news can limit your audience and stop the targeting of relevant people and websites (e.g. BBC or Daily Mail).

        Advertisers can also check all their placements to ensure that fake news sites are not appearing. Again though, it is problematic, especially with bigger companies with lots of media spend (which means their ads could be showing on thousands of placements). It seems unfeasible to check every single placement to make sure it is acceptable.

        And so, if advertisers can’t 100% guarantee that they can stop ads appearing on fake news sites and other websites, then what can be done? Who is responsible for preventing ads showing on these sorts of sites?


        Are Ad Networks At Fault?

        This isn’t the first time issues have been raised about ads showing on fake news sites and fake news showing up on other sites. In November of last year, Facebook & Google faced mounting criticism on this, with Google promising “we will restrict ad serving on pages that misrepresent, mis-state, or conceal information about the publisher, the publisher’s content, or the primary purpose of the web property”.

        This has been an ongoing problem and one that companies, like Google, have been trying to resolve. Ad networks have a responsibility to continue to improve their restrictions on immoral and unsavoury websites. With these systems in place, the problem is solved at its source and advertisers can feel more reassured.


        Our Commentary

        Very few companies or advertisers would purposefully want their ads appearing on fake news sites or any sites that are untrustworthy or potentially damaging to their brand image, it just doesn’t make sense. It is much more likely a case of companies not restricting or double checking where their ads go, as well as advertising platforms not restricting, or being able to fully restrict, ads from appearing on fake news sites.

        However Government funded programmes forget to select ad restrictions or Google finding it difficult to stop ads appearing on fake news sites doesn’t have as much of a ring to it as the newspaper headlines we are seeing at the moment, such as Public cash paying for growth of fake news and Taxpayer cash used to fund fake news as we reveal government adverts appear on dodgy American websites and Are big brands funding terrorism fake news.

        Accusations of brands or digital marketing companies purposefully wasting money (even taxpayer’s money) in media spend seem unfair and unsubstantiated. Why would they want to waste money, deceive their employer and damage their brand? For every unethical ad agency that has tried to do this, there are so many others that are doing their job properly, which is to show ads to the most relevant audience.

        In order to uphold and protect your brand and image, you must be vigilant and check your targeting to ensure, as much as you are able, that your ads are going where you want them to go, and restricting them from going where you don’t want them to go.


        Sites To Watch Out For

        After doing some research, we have compiled a list of fake news sites that you may want to exclude from your Display activity. There are lots of these sorts of sites around, and more are popping up all the time, so it’s good to constantly keep an eye on your placements. However, this list should help give you a head-start and stop your ads appearing on some of the more prominent fake news sites:

        • drudgereport.comfake news unidentified source
        • breitbart.com
        • celebtricity.com
        • trueactivist.com
        • americannews.com
        • disclose.tv
        • mediamass.net
        • news33.eu
        • worldtruth.tv


        If you have any concerns about this or would like some help with your display ads, then please get in touch.

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