Confessions Of A Brand Safety Analyst

I can’t un-see some of the sites we have come across at Trust Metrics. I have seen sites so egregiously vulgar and hate-filled that saying they are not brand-safe would be an enormous understatement. However, it’s not just the worst of the worst we are after. We also recognize issues on sites that help identify bad intent and nefarious practices that might not be so obvious to the untrained eye.
If you look at your post-campaign reports, you will notice sites you never heard of earning a lot of impressions. Look at those sites — don't stop at surface level.
Take for example Contact Us, Privacy Policy and Terms of Service pages. They are almost stitched into the fabric of the internet and most of us don’t even notice them.

These pages generally don’t contain any substantive content, but rather generic legalese, terms and contact info. Even the biggest sites on the web don’t have a lot of traffic to these pages, since the content is only relevant to the few users who might need the information.

Besides, publishers being lazy with their templates, why do some sites have dozens of ads on these masthead pages?

Bad guys take advantage of these less-monitored pages to hide ad fraud.
Since few legitimate human users will notice ad clutter on these pages, some publishers take advantage by littering them with ads and send bot traffic there. As we’ve learned from Methbot, 3ve, and other exposures of Big Fraud, bots can be designed to trick vendors into believing they are human.

They take actions on pages — like scrolling up and down and “clicking” on pages — that mimic the activity of a human just enough to occasionally sneak past detection services. These descriptive masthead pages are easy targets; they have predictable layouts and are usually clickable from a site’s homepage. When a bot comes in, it will go to these pages to generate a lot of ad views.
Publishers with bad intent use these pages to game the system to monetize “safe” pages that are devoid of substance.

Usually, there are a few layers of safeguards that would protect your brand from fraudulent activity. However, these pages usually get past safety vendors, as there are no swears or other indications of unsavory content on these pages, just benign legalese. It’s important in these cases to remember that quality matters, even when a page is “safe.”

There might not be anything particularly “wrong” with a page, but there isn’t anything particularly “right” about this environment either. These pages do not have unique editorial content (or sometimes any content) that would warrant a legitimate human audience. So why would you want to serve your ads here in the first place?

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