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How ad networks can regain our trust

Online advertisers deserve better protection from the likes of Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, according to a leading academic.

Benjamen Edelman, assistant professor in the negotiation, organisations and marketing unit of Harvard Business School, outlined five rights that he would like given to clients to improve their experience with major ad networks. Writing on his personal website BenEdelman.org, Mr Edelman focused on issues with Google AdWords, although he also considered Yahoo Search Marketing and Microsoft adCenter.

Transparency

Firstly, he called for greater transparency from networks when it comes to telling clients where ads will appear. This would make it much easier to detect problems such as accidental ad placement on adult content websites or those with fraudulent intentions.

Accountability

Secondly, networks should offer greater accountability in the form of comprehensive itemised billing. By scrutinising details such as who clicked on an ad – in addition to where and when the impression took place – advertisers would be better placed to spot suspect accounting practices.


Accessibility

Thirdly, it was suggested that advertisers should be given greater access to their campaign configuration details. Mr Edelman said it was an abuse of power for networks to block data portability by, for example, drafting contracts that prohibit copying keyword lists between PPC platforms.

Exclusivity

Fourthly, he expressed concern that behavioural targeting tools indirectly enable competitors to benefit from a client's advertising strategy. This is happening because networks employ software to record click-throughs and then use that data to suggest ads from rival companies that may interest the browser.

Equity

Finally, he said clients should have the right to fairer treatment when making complaints. This would counter the trend for networks to draft contracts weighted in their favour that incorporate catch-all disclaimers and complicated dispute resolution procedures.


Ad networks and the recession

"In this time of plummeting ad prices, networks are increasingly anxious to attract advertisers," he concluded. "With increased negotiating power, advertisers can and should demand more."

Change in the air at Google AdWords

AdWords offers the largest audience for content-related PPC ads thanks to Google's dominant position in the UK search market. Earlier this year, the platform announced a comprehensive revamp to enhance transparency and improve accessibility. Among the changes, Google added more detailed account statistics and simplified the keyword editing process.

Richard Frost
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