Defining Whitelists & Blacklists: Programmatic Advertising

Defining Whitelists & Blacklists: Programmatic Advertising

Since the dawn of programmatic, the industry has seen exponential growth, alongside constant change and complexity. With programmatic now fully implemented into most media strategies, programmatic ad platforms provide their customers with more optimization tools and algorithms to satisfy clients' business goals.

In the programmatic world, both buyers and sellers are always striving to seek deeper efficiencies to maximize digital revenue. The success of digital advertising efforts is often reinforced by different kinds of tools and optimizers provided by technology platform providers. 

And here we are. In this article, we'll talk about one of the must-have tools: blacklist and whitelist. We'll define how they work, why both publishers and advertisers need them, and how profitable they can become for companies.

Ad Fraud Reduction, Brand Safety & Viewability

Ad fraud, poor viewability, and brand safety control are the most significant programmatic advertising problems. Fraudsters are constantly developing sophisticated new tactics for "stealing" digital marketing dollars. So fraud prevention methods must keep up with the constant evolution of scammers. 

Poor ad viewability in programmatic advertising is another hot topic. The viewability of ads is a challenge for programmatic advertising because inventory is, for the most part, bought per impression. 

A common practice for experienced players is to use whitelists and blacklists. This toolset is usually core platform functions, so considering them as indispensable tools at your disposal will be a great idea. Actively managed blacklists and whitelists are a good way to manage and control ad activity. 

The downside to managing whitelists and blacklists is that it’s a reactive, manual process. Despite some platforms providing automation of Blacklists and Whitelists (including and excluding sources based on if/else rules(algorithms)) it's critically important to keep your eye on the ball.

Since some "bad actors" can spoof their impressions to evade such tactics. Regardless, you should still use them - especially since they provide a competitive advantage against other, less-diligent advertisers. Whitelists and blacklists play a significant role in programmatic advertising for both publishers and advertisers.

Whitelists and blacklists: Buy-side

For advertisers, a blacklist is a tool that identifies sites, domains, apps, publisher subids, on which the advertiser doesn't allow to show his advertisement. This will help to reduce the risk of ad misplacement (placing ads next to inappropriate content) and save the brand’s reputation unharmed. 

In its turn, whitelisting identifies only those resources on which the advertiser wants his advertisement to appear. 

There is an inverse relationship between inventory scale and the level of security that can be guaranteed to buyers. A blacklist approach will enable a maximum scale, whereas a whitelist approach can significantly impact scale. Whitelist limit scale affords buyers more control over the supply and the ability to dictate where the ads will specifically be placed.

But experience shows that using a combination of blacklists and whitelists is the best and most flexible solution for each brand’s unique parameters.

Whitelists and blacklists: Sell-side

For publishers, the same rules apply, but from the backside of the process. Publishers have whitelists indicating which advertisers, creatives they want to host on their sites. Blacklists are used to block advertisers or creatives. 

For sellers, quality assurance is as important as maintaining the fair value of their ad inventory. Using blacklists and whitelists allows preventing price/competitor conflicts and ensures ad quality. 

A blacklist approach enables an efficient security system and drives liquidity at scale. These are two of the most important components in driving a successful seller’s strategy. At the same time, a whitelist approach works well when supply is scarce and specialized business rules must apply.

Final thoughts

Both whitelists and blacklists are used by advertisers and publishers with the same goal to regulate, control and secure their RTB activity. Blacklists and whitelists is one of the possible means to filter traffic and optimize ad spend. The difference is only in blocking or permission. 

It's surprising that some of the tools are still not used by advertisers and publishers. That's why it is essential to use Blacklists and Whitelists for programmatic advertising to be successful and solve one of its biggest criticisms and strive for 100% ad performance.

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