What does “quality” mean when it comes to online advertising?

In September 2021, IAB Europe released its ‘Guide to Quality’ to help and support all stakeholders in the supply chain on being accountable and responsible for the quality and transparency of digital advertising.


In what has been a tough year or so for the adtech industry, dealing with the heavy dual-impact of a catastrophic hit to advertising budgets in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the looming deprecation of third party cookies across all major browsers; ensuring transparency and, crucially, “quality” across the supply chain has never been more important.

But what does quality mean in this context? Well, it depends on which side of the supply chain you’re coming from.

If you’re a brand advertiser:

  • You want your ads appearing next to high quality publisher content – why? – because fundamentally research has shown consumers are more likely to have a positive reaction to your brand as a result, and importantly are more likely to click through the ad to make a purchase. Equally, from a brand association perspective, you are undoubtedly going to be keen for your brands to be linked with respected journalism or high quality media output, rather than a poor or disreputable content.
  • But what about other quality metrics? What does quality ad inventory look like for the brand, beyond the content of the page on which it appears? – consider the time of day your ad appears, the geographic region it is displayed to, or the prominence of its location on the webpage.
  • It goes without saying that “quality” ad inventory will also be free from ad fraud – which can skew and inflate any metrics and measurements the brand is trying to gather on the effectiveness of their ads – an issue which must be guarded against contractually.

If you’re a publisher…

  • …you of course want to ensure the ads appearing on your page are for quality, respectable, lawful products that align with your content and values.
  • But also, you will want to ensure – among other things – that the actual media of the ad itself is of a good quality, meaning that it meets technical specs, loads quickly, isn’t flashing/annoying, is hi-res, well produced and generally doesn’t negatively impact on your users’ enjoyment of the site.

This drive from both sides for ad quality often leads to this issue becoming a very common and well-worn negotiation point in adtech contracts, particularly at the premium end of the market – with both parties keen to ensure quality for both ads and ad inventory respectively.

Realistically, there is a lot of shared interest on these issues and where parties can sensibly align (and are genuinely committed to upholding high standards of quality and transparency), both can achieve an outcome that ensures the relationship is effective, beneficial and crucially cost-efficient at both ends of the supply chain. With that in mind, industry-wide efforts like those pushed by IAB Europe in this report to align all parties on this issue, are a welcome step for the industry.