Google Lets Brands Audit Some GSP Ads After Check My Ads Pressure Campaign: Transparency Takes a Step Forward

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    albert somlith

    Co-Founder of PPC Ad Editor. I am a leader in digital marketing, specializing in strategic planning, implementation, and optimization.
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    Google’s recent decision to enable brand audits for GSP ads, following the ‘Check My Ads’ campaign’s advocacy, marks a dramatic turn towards ad transparency. This move, known as “Google lets brands audit some GSP ads after Check My Ads pressure campaign,” has spurred significant development in redefining brand safety for advertisers. Our analysis unpacks this pivot, offering insights into the changing tide of digital ad governance.

    Key Takeaways

     

    • Google has acceded to the Check My Ads Institute’s pressure campaign, permitting advertisers to audit ad placements within the GSP network, thereby increasing transparency and empowering brands to safeguard against their ads appearing next to undesirable content.

    • The new auditing capabilities allow for impression level placement reporting within PMax campaigns on the Search Partner Network, granting advertisers better insights and control over ad placements, with persistent issues around policy disapprovals being investigated by Google.

    • While the transparency policy change has definitively impacted the industry, bringing about more brand safety and allowing advertisers to leverage tools for auditing and placement exclusions, ongoing challenges such as flawed audit methodologies and resistance from ad agencies persist.

    Brand Safety Audit Breakthrough

     

    A group of advertisers discussing brand safety audit

    Google’s recent decision to increase transparency in the adtech industry is being hailed as a breakthrough. This policy change enables brands to audit their ad placements within the GSP network, a feature that was previously unavailable. The push for this change came from the Check My Ads Institute, an organization dedicated to increasing transparency and control in digital advertising. This shift in policy has been met with applause from big brands and advertisers, who now have a newfound ability to ensure their ads are not placed alongside unsavoury content.

    The Check My Ads Institute is making waves in the adtech industry by challenging conventions and promoting safe, transparent practices. Founded by Claudia Jammi and Nandini Jammi, the institute has persistently lobbied for the rights of brands and advertisers, pushing for the ability to audit ad placements and ensure brand safety. This recent policy change by Google is a testament to the institute’s relentless efforts and the impact they’ve had on the industry.

    The Pressure Campaign’s Impact

     

    The campaign led by the Check My Ads Institute played a significant role in effecting this policy change. With a focus on challenging advertisers and adtech companies, the institute has been at the forefront of the fight against funding publishers that disseminate fake news, extremist content, and conspiracy theories. The pressure exerted by the institute has finally borne fruit, with Google altering its policies to allow advertisers the ability to audit their ad placements on the Search Partner Network.

    Google’s concession indicates a noteworthy advancement in the pursuit of brand safety. The ability to vet ad placements is of critical importance to prevent brands from being associated with disreputable content. The Check My Ads Institute’s campaign has underscored this necessity, leading to an increased emphasis on transparency within the adtech industry.

    Scope of Auditing Capabilities

     

    Google has announced new auditing capabilities for advertisers, catering to calls for greater transparency. These capabilities are designed to provide brands with a clearer picture of where their ads are placed within the Search Partner Network. With this change, advertisers now have the ability to access impression level placement reporting for Search Partner Network sites within Performance Max (PMax) campaigns, marking a significant step towards transparency.

    Google’s decision furnishes brands with a much-needed ability to control their ad placements. The ability to audit ad placements at an impression level within PMax campaigns ensures that brands can effectively monitor their advertising efforts and ensure that their ads are not placed alongside undesirable content.

    Limitations and Ongoing Concerns

     

    Despite the policy change being well-received, it has also raised concerns and limitations for advertisers. Notably, a number of advertisers have experienced widespread disapprovals on ads, specifically voicing concerns with policies surrounding consumer financial products and services. These disapprovals have brought to light the overarching approach of the policy, which has inadvertently caused complications for advertisers not directly linked to the consumer finance sector.

    In response to the concerns raised, Google Ads liaison has confirmed that the company is aware of these issues and is actively investigating to address and resolve the unintended impacts of the recent policy update. Meanwhile, Check My Ads continues to highlight various ad industry issues, including keyword blocklists that inadvertently reduce funding for important reporting and the existence of ‘dark pool sales houses’ that enable publishers to bypass ad exchange blocks.

    Understanding the GSP Network

     

    Google Search Partner Network illustration

    The Google Search Partner GSP network, comprising a spectrum of publishers from small blogs to renowned sites, is a significant entity in the adtech industry. These publishers have partnered with Google to display search ads, thereby creating a vast network for advertisers to tap into. Advertisements on the GSP network appear alongside search results that are triggered by users’ search terms, which match an advertiser’s chosen keywords.

    The GSP network boasts an extensive reach, encompassing numerous vetted non-Google websites and YouTube channels. This extensive reach offers advertisers opportunities to connect with a broader audience, thereby enhancing their advertising efforts.

    The Role of Performance Max

     

    Performance Max (PMax) campaigns are integral to the GSP network. Powered by Google’s AI technology, PMax campaigns are designed to help advertisers engage with consumers across Google’s ad inventory. These campaigns optimize ad performance across all of Google’s channels, including:

    • YouTube

    • Display

    • Search

    • Discover

    • Gmail

    • Maps

    In addition to the search network, search partner gsp network is also an important aspect to consider.

    Advertisers using PMax campaigns will have access to the following features:

    • Impression level placement reporting for Search Partner Network sites

    • More detailed understanding of where their ads are placed

    • Enhanced control over ad placements

    However, big brands may need to reassess their ad strategies and budgets due to the data and budget requirements of PMax campaigns for optimal performance.

    Transparency Issues in the Past

     

    In the past, the GSP network has faced several transparency issues. Ads from reputable brands and government agency ads were found on websites with pirated content, adult themes, pornographic sites, and sanctioned Iranian sites, potentially violating U.S. sanctions. Furthermore, a research study by Adalytics unveiled vulnerabilities within the GSP network, highlighting a risk of ads appearing alongside non-brand-safe content.

    Google’s initial response to these issues was to provide temporary opt-out options and limited reporting tools, which proved to be inadequate. The lack of detailed information about GSP ad placements left marketers clueless about where their ads were shown and how their budgets were used among the sites. These transparency issues have sparked industry-wide conversations about the need for ad networks to enforce brand safety and implement stricter ad placement controls.

    The Advertiser’s Toolkit

     

    Ad placement auditing tools

    Brands and advertisers can use a variety of tools, including the adalytics report, to increase transparency and understand their ad placements better, ultimately boosting their ad revenue. Google’s Advertiser Pages, for instance, displays all ads run by an advertiser over the past 30 days, promoting transparency and providing competitive insights within the ad industry. Another tool, the Confirming Gross Revenue tool by Google, is designed to enhance transparency in media buying, validating that there are no hidden fees in digital ad transactions, ensuring a fair ad product.

    Agencies that embrace ad audits have leveraged them to:

    How to Audit Your Ad Placements

     

    Auditing ad placements plays a vital role in safeguarding brand safety. Brands can audit their ad locations by checking ad placement reports on the Google Display Ads platform regularly. This allows them to ensure that their ads are not shown in undesirable contexts.

    In addition, brand safety in ad placements can be further ensured by utilizing features like SafeSearch filtering, third-party verification, and tailored digital content labels. These features provide an additional level of control over ad placements, ensuring that brands can effectively monitor their advertising efforts and maintain their reputation.

    Implementing Account Level Placement Exclusions

     

    Advertisers now have more control over where their ads are placed, thanks to the extension of account-level brand safety preferences to the Search Partner Network. Advertisers can define placement exclusion lists in their manager account to exclude up to 250,000 placements per list, which can be applied across multiple client accounts.

    Placement exclusion lists are applied at an account level through the Sub-account settings tab in the manager account for selected accounts. Any adjustments to a placement exclusion list automatically propagate to all associated accounts, thereby ensuring a consistent application across campaigns.

    The enhanced capabilities of account-level placement exclusions mark a significant step towards advertisers having finer control over their ad placements, aligning with their brand safety strategies.

    The Ripple Effect on the Ad Industry

     

    Industry-wide conversation on brand safety

    Transparency issues in the GSP network have triggered discussions in the ad industry about the need for stricter ad placement controls and enforcement of brand safety by ad networks. The industry’s response has been largely positive, with publishers applauding Google Ad Manager for its advanced integrations, continuous technological updates, and accessibility to the AdX demand pool.

    In the landscape of ad tech platforms, Google Ad Manager emerges as a dominant partner for 60% of publishers, far outpacing competitors like Amazon Publisher Services. This dominance highlights the significant role that Google plays in shaping industry standards and influencing the direction of the adtech industry.

    Big Brands’ Responses

     

    Big brands have responded positively to the policy change, considering it as big news. They have applauded Google’s efforts towards transparency and appreciate the increased control they now have over their ad placements. With Google Ad Manager emerging as a dominant partner for publishers, it provides brands with advanced integrations, continuous technological updates, and accessibility to the AdX demand pool, making it an ideal platform for global ads.

    This increased control over ad placements has led to a shift in brand strategy, with big brands reassessing their advertising efforts and budgets. The policy change has provided them with a clearer picture of where their ads are placed, leading to more effective and targeted advertising campaigns.

    Will Other Networks Follow?

     

    Google’s policy change has established a benchmark for other advertising networks. However, it remains uncertain whether other networks will follow suit and implement similar measures of transparency. While industry organizations such as the IAB Tech Lab are involved in standardizing transparency measures, indicating a movement towards industry-wide adoption, networks like Microsoft Advertising opt for individual strategies, as they expanded Similar Audience solutions coinciding with Google’s discontinuation of the feature.

    The lack of clear indicators of whether other advertising networks plan to implement similar measures of transparency illustrates the prevailing uncertainty within the industry. This uncertainty underscores the importance of continued advocacy for transparency and control in the adtech industry.

    Case Studies: Before and After the Change

     

    Google’s new audit features have considerably affected ad placements. Brands have reported a significant improvement in ensuring their ads do not appear on harmful websites following the implementation of these new audit features. However, despite these improvements, there are still ongoing challenges within the industry, with resistance from ad agencies and potential conflicts of interest persisting.

    The shift towards transparency has been met with resistance from some quarters within the industry. Critics argue that audit methodologies can be flawed, allowing agencies to manipulate data, which casts doubt on the accuracy and efficacy of the audits. Moreover, issues of potential conflicts of interest arise when consulting firms conducting the audits are also competing for the same agency clients they audit.

    Success Stories

     

    Brands can now better control their ad placements within the traditionally opaque Google Search Partner network, thanks to the new audit features. Brand representatives have expressed appreciation for the increased transparency, noting that it builds trust in the digital advertising ecosystem.

    Case studies have shown that brands using the new features have seen a measureable decline in their ads being placed alongside controversial content, as compared to before the policy change. These success stories underscore the effectiveness of the new audit features in enhancing the ability to protect their brand’s reputation.

    Continuing Challenges

     

    Despite the positive impact of the new policy, the industry still faces continuous challenges. Resistance from ad agencies driven by fear of exposing non-neutral business practices continues to persist. Critics argue that audit methodologies can be flawed, allowing agencies to manipulate data, casting doubt on the accuracy and efficacy of the audits.

    These challenges underscore the complexity of the adtech industry and the need for continued efforts towards transparency and control. Some of the challenges include:

    A lack of incentive for advertisers to change the status quo poses an ongoing challenge to improving transparency in programmatic advertising.

    The Voices Behind the Movement

     

    Founders of Check My Ads Institute advocating for transparency

    The Check My Ads Institute is leading the charge towards transparency and control as the adtech industry’s only watchdog. This independent watchdog was founded with the aim of reshaping the digital adtech industry towards transparency, efficiency, and privacy. Founded by Nandini Jammi and Claire Atkin, Check My Ads is focused on holding the surveillance adtech industry accountable for abuses against advertisers and consumers.

    The institute tackles the global disinformation problem, underlining the role of the opaque adtech industry fueled by advertisement dollars. They highlight the significant lack of oversight and consequences in the $400 billion surveillance advertising industry, showing how it destabilizes the information ecosystem. The founders, with their unique perspectives and experiences, bring a wealth of knowledge and insight to the table, pushing for changes within the industry.

    Summary

     

    As we’ve explored, the recent policy change by Google marks a significant step towards transparency and control in the adtech industry. The ability for brands to audit their ad placements within the GSP network, spurred by the relentless campaigning of the Check My Ads Institute, is a major victory for brands and advertisers. However, the journey towards complete transparency is far from over, with ongoing challenges and resistance within the industry.

    In conclusion, the quest for transparency and control in the adtech industry is a continuous journey. As we navigate through this evolving landscape, it’s important to remember the voices behind the movement, like the Check My Ads Institute, advocating for change. As advertisers and brands, it’s our responsibility to support these efforts and strive for a future where transparency and control are the norm, not the exception.

    Frequently Asked Questions

     

    What is the Google Search Partner Network?

    The Google Search Partner Network includes a variety of publishers, from small blogs to major websites, that have partnered with Google to show search ads.

    What is Performance Max?

    Performance Max (PMax) campaigns are Google’s AI-powered ad products used to help engage with consumers across Google’s ad inventory. This helps advertisers reach their target audience effectively.

    How can brands audit their ad placements?

    To audit their ad placements, brands should regularly review ad placement reports on the Google Display Ads platform and use tools like SafeSearch filtering, third-party verification, and tailored digital content labels to ensure brand safety and relevance.

    What is the role of Check My Ads Institute?

    Check My Ads Institute works to reshape the digital adtech industry and hold it accountable for any abuses against advertisers and consumers. Their main role is to promote transparency, efficiency, and privacy in the industry.

    What are the ongoing challenges in the adtech industry?

    The ongoing challenges in the adtech industry include resistance from ad agencies due to fear of exposing non-neutral business practices and potential conflicts of interest, as well as a lack of incentive for advertisers to change the status quo. These challenges hinder the improvement of transparency in programmatic advertising.

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