Smadex’s best practices & guidelines for programmatic brand safety

Brand safety is a growing worry and constantly in the news as a hot topic, more often than not for the wrong reasons. There has been a seismic shift towards digital marketing: digital budgets have increased and media buying has moved to programmatic as consumer attention has shifted from the traditional media of print and TV to mobile, OTT, DOOH and desktop. But the rapid transition has caused some growing pains.

Only last year brands pulled ads from Youtube after finding their messages placed alongside extremist content. CMOs like Marc Pritchard of Proctor & Gamble have been vocal advocates for using increased transparency to address the issues of brand safety and viewability. The big internet giants reacted and implemented change, because after all, big budgets were at stake.

Programmatic advertising gives advertisers many options to reach large audiences at scale. It’s exactly for that reason that DSPs must implement ways to protect brands. At Smadex we have developed processes, integrated third parties, and added features that contribute to providing brand safety anywhere ads appear.

Smadex’s Brand Safety Best Practices

Certifications with industry trade bodies

One of the main growing pains in the programmatic media buying industry has been the lag in regulation and oversight. The industry has matured and there are now many ways to demonstrate compliance and cooperate with regulating bodies. Working with trade bodies and achieving certification via an audit provides concrete evidence that a company is committed to achieving a goal and supporting industry initiatives.

Smadex is a registered member of TAG (The Trustworthy Accountability Group) in the US and in the UK we are going through the process of verification with DTSG (Digital Trading Standards Group) and JICWEBS for brand safety. Smadex is also registered and on the path to achieving IAB Gold Standard which aims to reduce ad fraud, to improve the digital advertising experience, and to increase brand safety.

Third party solutions

Smadex has integrated the two leading brand safety solutions used by large media agencies and advertisers; IAS (Integral Ad Science) and MOAT. This means that Smadex can trade on a guaranteed viewability basis and support the leading industry solutions for brand safety. Smadex can also run Double Verify blocking tags..

Brand Safety Platform Options

-Transparency: The Smadex platform is real-time and delivers full campaign transparency. Advertisers can see where every impression lands and detailed performance data for optimisation.

-Algorithms: Smadex algorithms will trigger alerts if performance thresholds are exceeded, for example, high CTRs.

-Whitelists and blacklists: Advertisers can create or reuse whitelists for mobile websites or apps. This ensures ads only appear on specified publishers. They can also use their own blacklists, create new blacklists or use Smadex’s global blacklist to stop ads from appearing on specific websites and apps. Whitelists and blacklists can be specific by publisher and exchange or across all exchanges by using domain and bundle IDs.

-PMPs: Private Marketplaces (PMPs) allow advertisers to negotiate directly with publishers and agree on prices, volume, ad format, and placements. Working with controlled environments turns the focus on quality and reaching specific audiences. PMPs aleviate some of the concerns of Open Marketplaces (OMPs) and some advertisers now only operate in this model.

-Ads.txt: Ads.txt has cleaned up fake sites and significantly reduced reselling. It should be made into standard practice for all buy-side platforms enacting mobile site trades, as it verifies that all buys are legitimate or approved. But until then, Smadex voluntarily has adopted ads.txt as standard.

-High-quality publishers:  It goes without saying that using high-quality publishers helps to minimise the risk of ads appearing in low quality or non-brand safe environments. Which is why Smadex provides access to the highest quality publishers in the leading exchanges.

What’s clear is that brands need trust and reasurance that the platforms they are using to buy digital media will adopt best practices and utilize the best available tools to remove the risk of their ads appearing in the wrong environments. We believe that Smadex has succeeded in establishing a solid foundation of best practices and we are actively working with third parties to protect brands. When the industry moves in the same direction we will be able to collectively eliminate the bad actors and clean up the ecosystem that has been plagued with ad fraud and scams.


Smadex partners with MOAT to guarantee brand safety and viewability

We are excited to announce our new partnership with MOAT, to drive higher viewability standards and brand safety for mobile advertising campaigns. By using the MOAT SaaS platform, Smadex gains access to in-depth analytics and insights in order to maximize the value of campaigns for advertisers.

The digital advertising market now demands high standards for viewability from ad tech platforms. Working with MOAT, Smadex will be able to deliver and guarantee that ads are being seen by real human audiences and are always viewable.

For video advertising, this partnership now enables agencies and brands to trade using Smadex’s Cost Per Completed View (CPCV). The video trading model guarantees that each ad is seen by a human person and certifies each view as viewable by MOAT.

In addition to viewability thresholds, MOAT offers many “ATTENTION” metrics, such as dwell time, which go beyond measuring whether an ad is simply seen or not. These attention metrics improve digital advertisers’ ability to optimize towards engagement and more philosophically, take us one step closer towards creating some link yet to be determined between the industry and sales.

The MOAT partnership aligns with Smadex’s commitment to innovating towards 100% brand safety and will act as another layer to the platform’s existing brand safety efforts. Some of which are Smadex’s use of ads.txt as standard practice in all campaigns and working with whitelists and PMPs from the leading ad exchanges.

Smadex has already integrated Integral Ad Science’s (IAS) pre-bid and post-bid solutions, adding MOAT now gives Smadex users access to the top two leading independent platforms for viewability and brand safety.

Brand safety and ad fraud improvements using Ads.txt

Ads.txt was one of the key buzzwords in programmatic advertising last year. After slow adoption, take up accelerated during the second half of 2017 fuelled by support from Google and better understanding from publishers of the benefits to them. With scale, it enabled DSPs to start trading programmatically using Ads.txt only buys. The Ads.txt specification an IAB Tech Lab supported initiative.

What problem does Ads.txt solve?

Ads.txt stands for Authorised Digital Seller and it’s a simple way for publishers to publicly state the SSPs that are authorised to sell their ad inventory.

The problem Ads.txt solves is twofold: supply platforms offering access to publisher inventory that had not approved and domain spoofing: fake domains masquerading as publishers.

And Ads.txt is the solution; by providing transparency in the market place via public authorisation that an SSP is allowed to sell that publisher’s ad inventory.

What is the benefit to advertisers?

Ads.txt makes it harder for bad intermediaries to profit from unauthorised selling or domain spoofing because advertisers can now identify authorised digital sellers for a publisher, and bid only on legitimate impressions. In doing so, Ads.txt provides a layer of trust and confidence that advertiser’s are buying legitimate ad inventory. In doing so, Ads.txt can potentially open up more scale to advertisers who have brand safety concerns.

Ads.txt buys should increase the value of programmatic trading because of the benefits of brand safety and ad fraud; advertisers should see improved KPIs as a result.


What exactly is Ads.txt?

As the name suggests, Ads.txt is a file created by DSPs by crawling publisher websites. For every combination of publisher domain and SSP (for example,, Rubicon;, Teads;, SpotX), the crawler records whether the domain and SSP relationship is either “direct” or “reseller”. Where the publisher has not yet adopted ads.txt, it is flagged as “not verified”.

The file can be regularly updated by DSPs so that campaigns can access the most recent version of events.

Are there any limitations to campaign delivery?

Scale: While Ads.txt is gaining traction, there are still publishers that do not support it. For now, scale may limit some inventory options.

Ad fraud: Ads.txt alone does not solve the industry challenge of ad fraud. However, it does provide a solution whereby advertisers can be confident that their ads will appear on the sites they have selected.

Ad formats: Ads.txt does not specify every ad format that an authorized SSP is allowed to sell.

Using Ads.txt for campaigns

Smadex fully supports Ads.txt programmatic trading for mobile site buys. This can be easily enabled at line level at zero additional cost from Smadex.

Pre-bid for brand safety and viewability

Smadex takes brand safety very seriously: this is reflected in our platform, by giving advertisers full transparency into bid-stream level data via real-time reporting and with our partnership with Integral Ad Science (IAS).

We are excited to announce our pre-bid solution using IAS for viewability, brand safety and fraud. Pre-bid is an industry best practice approach that’s now widely accepted. For example, it predicts viewability in real-time before spending on an ad placement. The technology for pre-bid is provided by independent third party vendors like IAS, that make sure an ad is seen or placed in a safe environment.

Benefits of pre-bid

An important point to note is that the benefits of pre-bid are maximised when combined with programmatic; real-time decisioning, transparency of placements, more viewable ads, increased campaign performance, efficiency and effectiveness and overall higher quality campaigns.

Give the current industry concerns about viewabilty, brand safety and fraud, pre-bid provides a level of guarantee about ad placements. Ad spaces are only bid on and served if the ad inventory meets the specific conditions set by the advertisers in the pre-bid filtering.

How does pre-bid work

Advertisers must specify their pre-bid requirements upfront: viewability thresholds up to 70%, brand safety exclusions, suspicious activity levels, contextual targeting and languages. Some of these filters can be combined together such as viewability plus brand safety.

Advertisers can play with the IAS pre-bid solution by clicking on the Audiences > Prebid audiences in the global navigation. Reports are generated and available via the Smadex IAS account and our operations team will be able to send advertisers regular reports on campaign activity.

One of the recognised downsides and trade-offs that advertisers need to make when considering using pre-bid is the impact on campaign delivery. This trade-off can be managed by changing thresholds such as viewability levels. Another point to note is that there are limitations with pre-bid and in-app advertising; the in-app versus mobile web pre-bid options are visible in the platform and advertisers.

Screenshot of the pre-bid interface in the Smadex platform



For more information about running your campaigns using pre-bid contact sales[at]smadex[dot]com.

Smadex integrates IAS for brand safety and viewability

The message is clear given the vast amount of noise in the industry about the topic; marketers now expect ad tech players to work with independent third party reporting platforms. This goes beyond counting impressions and clicks, it now stretches into ad quality for all ad formats and brand safety. We are pleased to announce our partnership with Integral Ad Science (IAS) for post-bid and pre-bid solutions that address viewability and brand safety.

We receive regular daily reports on the previous day’s performance for the post-bid solution; we take an IAS pixel from the agency and add this to the ad tag. For video, the ad tag must be VPAID compliant and can only run on mobile sites and ad exchanges that support VPAID. Smadex use the daily reports to optimise the campaigns towards viewability, brand safety and other metrics.

For the pre-bid solution, we only bid on impressions that meet the pre-defined brand safety thresholds and pre-bid targeting for viewability. In addition, we utilise IAS’ technology to block suspicious activity and fraudulent impressions. The pre-bid solution will use Smadex’s IAS account to give us granular insights for optimisation purposes.

This provides advertisers with a level of trust; that ads can be verified as viewable, landing on brand safe media that is fraud free. Furthermore, working with an independent third party platform like IAS will allow advertisers to compare all their ad tech providers like-for-like against each other and industry benchmarks. It’s these common metrics that now enable advertisers to set thresholds for all ad tech providers. This helps to provide transparency and create a level playing field around which numbers are being measured and more importantly, how these numbers are being calculated.

Integral dashboard

Integral dashboard

For more information about using IAS and Smadex