We see a great deal of momentum in our partnerships with Facebook & Google: Stephen Dolan

Stephen Dolan, MD-APAC, IAS, talks about the importance of ad verification in an increasingly complex digital world and the impact of a brand's ad environment on consumer perceptions

e4m by Shikha Paliwal
Updated: Nov 21, 2019 2:58 PM
Stephen Dolan, MD-APAC of IAS

Earlier this year, biometric research released by Integral Ad Science (IAS) stated that an ad's environment has a dramatic impact on how people react to it. Based on neurological evidence, the report revealed how consumers react negatively to inappropriate ad placements.

We caught up with Stephen Dolan, MD, APAC of IAS to understand how the company is helping advertisers and publishers protect their advertising investments from fraud and unsafe environments and how brands in India can benefit from their expertise.  

How has the growth journey been for IAS globally and in India?

We are the global leader in verification and we have been growing our business internationally, strongly over the last six years, and that's off the back, for the most part, supporting our global customers. We have customers that use us in, I think over 30 markets across the world. We have seen significant growth in the Asia Pacific. We have offices in Sydney, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

We see a great deal of momentum in our partnerships with Facebook and Google. We are excited about the Indian market, we have been working here for a little over two years.  Many of our clients are multinationals that operate here in India, who use a global standard for verification that apply wherever they buy media. It's been quite a positive experience in India.

What value does verification bring and how IAS is helping businesses become more efficient in a digital ecosystem?

As a verification technology, we allow our customers to apply standards for quality that are relevant today as a brand. While some customers might be a little bit more lenient on the type of content that they will appear on, some have very strict guidelines and we are able to give our customers the flexibility to choose depending on what their brand standards are. When you are able to define quality and have standards around the media that you are buying, we have that as an acceptable way of trading for everyone who buys media within your organization. It means immediate benefits, particularly from a cost perspective. Because straight away, you are choosing not to buy the bad media or the media that is not actually valuable to you.

In India, the digital landscape has changed drastically? What potential does a market like India hold?

We are really excited by India because particularly in the last two or three years it has been an enormous step-change in the digital market. Internet usage has exploded and the devices which consumers are using to access the internet have got significantly cheaper. It provides advertisers the ability to reach consumers at scale. That's an environment where we can assist advertisers to be able to make smart decisions about the ads that they're buying, how impactful they are, and how it contributes to their return on investment. Everything that we do ultimately comes down to a very simple business case. 

For the biggest advertisers in the world, this business case has become very simple and it's been proven out on a significant scale. Some of them report savings of up to 30 per cent, just by buying smarter. What is interesting for me is that, we all do it every single day, we will make conscious decisions about buying the right product. It is not always the cheapest product, it is not always the most expensive product but we all make decisions about what is the best product for this particular use case. That is exactly where we can help our customers do for their digital media buys.

How seriously should businesses look at ad verification?

I think there is a number of different levels. There is a level, in which all companies have brand equity as an incredibly important part of the value of their company. So, ensuring that their advertising buys appear against content that is complementary to their brand is really critical, and if they are able to do that in a very consistent and methodical way, then it really does contribute to their success. And that is outside the success of the campaign. This is appearing in great content that really shows that they are being thoughtful about how they advertise. 

It has become clear now, not so sure about India, but what we have seen in the rest of the world is that consumers notice, and there is an impact. We have recently done a study to show that there is a negative kind of impact when ads are seen on poor content. And of course, on the flip side, there is a very positive impact when it is on great content. What is also interesting is that we have seen the impetus or the drive for media verification, not necessarily come out of marketing, it's actually coming from the C suite.

Sometimes CEOs, sometimes the CFO and definitely procurement are using verification to establish a baseline of quality or baseline of how they buy. Very often now, for clients who are buying directly, in their buying conditions, they will stipulate that the media must have a viewable average of 75% otherwise there are goods that the publisher has to supply. These standards are coming in the trading terms between the buyer and the seller. That expectation about how they buy media is being set in black and white.

Ad spends on social media has been increasing. How important is brand safety when we talk about social media?

I would say it is equally important as any content you know, but there are challenges with user-generated content in social. Brands should be talking to their social media company providers and asking them what they have as tools to be able to protect them in that environment. We work quite closely with Facebook and Google. We're doing some fantastic integrations and work with them on brand safety, viewability, and ad fraud as well. There are small companies, there are big companies, and we do our best to work as collaboratively as possible to try and allay those fears.

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