A pre-roll ad for your personal injury law firm runs before a music video compilation of fatal car wrecks on YouTube.
An ad featuring your top attorney pops up on a conspiracy theory website maintaining that all attorneys are lizard-people.
Who’s to blame for this? What impact will this have on these law firm’s brands? What can we do anyway with the robots in control?
Digital advertising and the computer-driven ad networks that deliver it to publishing sites and consumers are running into brand-safety issues like the ones mentioned above, and worse. Huge names like Disney, P&G, and others are starting to question their use of programmatic advertising.
Our goal here is not to bemoan the state of digital advertising for law firms, but to explain it, and thusly make smarter legal marketers.
So let’s first talk about what programmatic digital advertising is, go more in-depth to the concept of brand safety, and then we’ll offer ways you can protect your law firm’s digital assets out there on the Wild Wild Web.
First off …
What is programmatic advertising anyway?
Back in the day, law firms wishing to advertise would first have to find an advertising agency that could help create or supply the ad. Media buyers, either in the agency or outside, would spend days finding the right placement for the ad, working with publishers and mediums that could reach the intended audience. Money would change hands, and then the calls or traffic would pick up, or not, with the efficacy and performance of the campaign being hard to define.
Now things are a little more complicated.
Simply put, programmatic advertising is the automated buying and selling of digital ads through computer-driven ad exchanges, databases, publishers, and management platforms.
With programmatic taking the place of the old ad placement cycles, advertisers are able to:
- Save money by not creating ads for traditional ad real estate destinations
- Skip over the extant middlemen of the Mad Men era
- Get far greater exposure for far less expense
And it all happens within the blink of an eye.
Within seconds, ads are created/exchanged/tested, matched with consumer data, paired with publishing sites, distributed to audiences, and minutes later, you can begin tracking the results of your campaign on a fancy Google Analytics dashboard.
Money is exchanged in lightning bursts throughout the whole programmatic process, fractions of total ad budgets being leeched along the way as the ad travels from business to consumer. How much money?
As an industry, digital advertising topped over $15 billion in 2018.
With more advertisers joining more intermediary companies, all vying for a piece of the programmatic action, sitting down at the digital advertising table has never been easier, but playing your cards right has never been more difficult.
Digital ads and brand safety
To see real success in any advertising endeavor, there has to be an appreciation for context.
Where will people see your ad, when will they see it, how will they see it, and what mitigating or contributing factors need to be weighed to properly utilize and leverage the context in which your messaging interfaces with your audience?
With programmatic, the context baby is thrown out of the window, along with the advertising bathwater.
Take the below example from the Chicago Tribune. A banner ad for the smart-home security company, SimpliSafe, is paired with an article about hackers using that same technology to digitally invade a home. Our very own LAWsome podcast here calls them out on Twitter…
How can you protect your law firm’s digital advertising?
A good marketing agency will help your digital advertising succeed by establishing guidelines, dialing in the targeting, monitoring the budget, and linking activity to call tracking and a CRM that shows actual cases signed – all while ensuring your brand’s digital assets are where they’re supposed to be.
Here are some ways you can work toward a safer digital advertising environment for your law firm:
Use direct media buys with trusted publishers.
A private marketplace offers you more control over ad placement because you work with publishers directly. However, this does not mean it is free from obstacles. You will have to get all your ads designed – in all the sizes required. So there will be a considerable time and cost involved in developing creative.
Also, direct buys are typically done on a CPM (cost-per-thousand-impressions) basis, as opposed to cost-per-click like Google Ads, so you could run a campaign that cost you advertising dollars and got ZERO clicks.
Consider managed placements.
This is one of the most important, yet simple, methods for protecting your brand online. When setting up a campaign, there is an option to specify a list of websites or YouTube channels your content appears on – as well as an option to exclude properties.
This option involves some legwork. You will need to research where your intended audience will be so your ads can be targeted properly, and this is not always a clear path. A good digital marketing agency should be able to analyze various data points to determine your best targeting options.
Remember that these aren’t necessarily “set-and-forget,” as the Internet changes a million times every second. There needs to be constant evaluation and maintenance to ensure your list of placements and exclusions remains valid, as well as is updated to reflect changes in user behavior and traffic patterns.
If you are using programmatic, hold them accountable.
The draw to programmatic advertising is that it’s so dirt cheap. And the drawback is that it is ripe for click fraud, impression fraud, and ad placements that can be irrelevant or, worse, damaging to your brand. Voice your concerns to your media buyers, ask them what steps they are taking to ensure your brand is safe and your impressions are not wasted.
Consultwebs believes that a truly successful digital advertising campaign is measured by the right clicks from the right people, not the most clicks from whomever.
In conclusion …
When it comes to digital advertising, you can’t just set campaigns to autopilot. As more businesses turn to digital advertising, especially those who venture into programmatic, brand safety online is going to become more of an issue, and personally, we can’t wait.
When law firms seriously question and seek out the metrics that explain where their ads are being shown on the Web, and who is seeing them, and they decide to do something about it, these legal marketers are both boldly advancing into the future and smartly retreating into the past.
Monitoring for brand safety is exactly the function media buyers and ad agencies used to perform. In this way, we bring accountability to our assets. And we advance into the future by combining this truly awesome digital advertising technology with high-quality ads that build a brand with our intended audience.
Digital advertising is a vital component of your legal marketing strategy. The law firm marketing experts at Consultwebs can help you take full advantage of legal PPC opportunities – especially targeting niche areas for lawyers, with a high rate of return – while also working to create distinct and brand-safe advertising.