Programmatic media trading is much maligned – why do we persist?


On 22nd Sep 1955 ITV was launched and Britain’s first TV commercial was broadcast at 8:12pm. Institutional sentiment was clear: advertisements on TV would never last. ITV and commercial television were doomed.

Well, in 2017, the old adage remains true, “He who laughs loudest laughs longest”. Over 62 years later, ITV is delivering record numbers and is still laughing.

So, what is the current institutional sentiment towards programmatic media trading?

Much has been written to malign the perceived dangers and drawbacks – as this little gem from the Evening Standard amply illustrates. Apparently the world of digital advertising is facing a ‘crisis of trust’ thanks to programmatic trading.

Yes, where buyers fail to exercise full diligence and quality control, Ads promoting carefully nurtured and highly protected brands may well appear on inappropriate sites or content. And there is no doubt that left unchecked, programmatic trading of digital inventory increases the chance of Ads appearing in the wrong environment.

Unchecked, there is no doubt that programmatic trading could lead to a real crisis of trust.

But does that mean programmatic trading is facing a crisis of trust?

In a word, No! The industry is vigorous in its efforts to marshal the errant forces.

Firstly, the industry supports an army of specialist audit services briefed to police and eradicate malpractice (see ‘online trading protocols’ below).

Secondly savvy buyers run their campaigns through exchanges and platforms that apply the strictest trading protocols and audit processes; ours are listed at the end of this blog.


In an online framework, programmatic trading is a no brainer! It mops up billions and billions of Ad impressions that publishers would otherwise never sell; it makes these available to highly defined relevant audiences, delivered with the best content, at the right time in the users’ purchase funnel, and at minimum costs.

The tech involved is light years ahead of techniques in the trading of any other medium, and tracking systems mean campaign optimisation is progressively powered by customer behaviour in the purchase funnel. Never before have learnings and levels of accountability been so rich in the media world!

As the industry develops programmatic trading beyond the digital divide (into broadcast, press and outdoor) standards and practices will become increasingly exacting.

In a nutshell it’s clear that advances in programmatic trading of online campaigns are of direct benefit to digital client and digital media owner alike. However, for the wider world there is an even greater benefit: the systems and protocols being built to safeguard online campaigns now are in effect tomorrow’s guinea-pig. Going forward, as the traditional media platforms become ever more digitalised and in turn embrace programmatic opportunities, the advances being made through the programmatic trading of online campaigns will lead to new and unparalleled levels of protection for all.


At TMS12 we ensure that the platforms we access have top accreditation. Namely EDAA trust seal for adherence to their online behavioural advertising policies. They must be a signatory to the JICWEBS/DTSG UK Good Practice Principles. They must adhere to the Digital Trading Standards Group Good Practice Principles. Lastly they must work with Pipcu (Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit), which provides access to the Infringing Website List.

Trading Exchange – Standard

  1. Firstly, we only buy advertising space through our platforms audited inventory, which undergoes a visual human check for brand safety when it is on-boarded.
  2. Secondly, we access a dedicated analytics and publishing team who constantly review our delivery to ensure that brand safety is upheld. The team analyses all metrics to flag anything suspicious and, in the event that anything is flagged, action is taken to remove or monitor the inventory source.
  3. Finally, we insist that our platforms license third party brand safety companies including Integral Ad Science, DoubleVerify and Peer39 to further ensure brand safety at a pre and post bid level. This validates the work we do and ensures that our internal measures are up to date.

Whitelists and Blacklists

Blacklists are used at placement, website, publisher and seller level. Blacklists assist us to remove unsuitable websites from our inventory pool. We ensure that all of these blacklists are monitored and updated on a regular basis. The exchanges are constantly growing with the addition of new inventory, so we ensure our blacklists are constantly evolving and reacting to such growth.

Additionally, our clients can provide us with bespoke blacklists to run across all our activity, or we can run a whitelist of approved sites to guarantee your brand safety.

Takedown policy

In the highly unlikely event that one of our ads is published on a website that is deemed inappropriate, we will make every reasonable effort to take it down immediately. All takedown requests received within UK business hours (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5.30pm GMT) are actioned within 1 business day of confirmed receipt.

The next time you are asked about sites where your online Ads are running, you might begin by checking your buying agency’s programmatic trading credentials!


– written by Richard Huglin

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