Brand-Safety Firms See a Big Opening in Streaming TV

DoubleVerify Inc., a measurement and ad-verification company that makes brand-safety software for digital media, is introducing a tool that lets advertisers target or avoid specific streaming TV apps by creating inclusion and exclusion lists. Such lists are common in digital media, but aren’t widely available on internet-connected TV. The tool can also tell marketers which streaming-TV apps ran their ads, a trail that can be hard to pin down in certain situations.

Other ad-tech companies offering some type of brand-safety or fraud management tools for streaming TV include MadHive Inc., White Ops Inc. and Integral Ad Science Inc.

Marketers are calling for more transparency and control in streaming TV, a fast-rising advertising channel as consumers spend more time streaming movies and shows through connected TV sets. Ad spending on connected TV, while still a fraction of traditional TV, will reach almost $8 billion in the U.S. this year and is likely to total $15.6 billion in 2023, according to research firm eMarketer.

Without better tools, however, marketers are afraid they are spending more money than necessary and finding their ads running in places they would rather they didn’t.

“Our brands cannot appear in areas that would not align with our brand values,” said David Spencer, assistant manager of audience buying strategy for General Motors Co. , which has been increasing its media spend on connected TVs while also calling on ad sellers and tech intermediaries to be more transparent.

Part of the problem, though, is that marketers increasingly buy ads in streaming TV through automated marketplaces that draw inventory from multiple apps—and not everyone follows the same conventions in identifying apps or the ad impressions available in them.

Just 23% of ad auctions in connected TV use app identifiers that adhere to standards recommended by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, a digital advertising industry-trade group, DoubleVerify said.

“Today, it’s relatively ungoverned in the connected TV space,” said Dan Slivjanovski, chief marketing officer of DoubleVerify.

More on Connected TV

To remove ambiguity, DoubleVerify said it has mapped more than 6,000 apps by their real-world names, and can trace ad impressions back to the apps’ unique identifiers across app stores from connected-TV platforms including Amazon.com’s Fire TV, Apple TV and various smart TVs and set-top boxes.

Scammers also create their own connected-TV apps, releasing them in TV app stores and receiving few downloads, but luring ad money with simulated ad impressions.

More streaming-TV advertisers are shifting their automated buys into private marketplaces partly to avoid ad fraud, said one ad-agency buyer who plans to spend $15 million this year on streaming-TV advertising, more than double what he spent last year. About two-thirds of his streaming-TV buys are now direct deals, which include such invite-only marketplaces, versus open auctions.

But even private marketplaces don’t always give buyers enough control to ensure their brands show up only in programming appropriate for them, the buyer said.

This is partially because different ad sellers—whether operating-system platforms such as Roku Inc. or Amazon Fire TV, media owners of individual apps, or a galaxy of intermediaries between sellers and buyers—report back very different information, said Dave Morgan, chief executive of ad-tech firm Simulmedia Inc.

Some apps, for instance, will provide detailed information on the programs in which ads ran, while some device platforms only disclose how successfully ads reached their intended audiences across many apps.

Platforms can be limited on what data they can share under the terms of their contracts with media partners, ad executives said. It can also seem in the platforms’ best interests to avoid identifying the individual apps and programs where ads run, lest buyers take their business directly to those apps.

But the chance to pull ad money away from traditional TV, where companies spend roughly $70 billion a year in the U.S., is a big incentive to open up.

The industry will come along, said Mark Zagorski, chief executive of DoubleVerify, which next wants to get streaming-TV advertisers more information about the various apps’ content, user ratings and age-appropriateness.

“Until there’s better measurement and confidence in the space, that $70 billion in U.S. TV ad spend isn’t going to make it there,” he said.

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