GroupM partners with Jounce Media to mitigate ads served on MFA websites

—The world’s largest media buyer is doubling down on protecting clients from low-quality websites with high ad loads that have sprung up across the internet—

By Alison Weissbrot

Back in December, Ebiquity and Scope3 published a report that identified what would become known in the industry as Made for Advertising (MFA) websites.

These low-quality sites, which were further investigated by the Association of National Advertisers in a June study, attract traffic with click-bait headlines and then stuff the page with ads, bombarding the end user with a poor experience while underperforming for advertisers.

On Monday, GroupM, the world’s largest media buyer, partnered with publisher-side ad tech company Jounce Media in an effort to protect clients from wasting their media budgets on these subpar investments.

GroupM will integrate Jounce’s MFA tracking technology, which uses advanced detection and domain tracking to score and identify MFA sites, into its planning processes to help advertisers avoid media wastage. All GroupM clients buying on the open web will have access to the added protections.

The partnership comes as MFA websites have come to represent 21% of programmatic impressions on the open web, according to the ANA’s report.

Chris Kane, CEO and founder of Jounce Media, said that MFA websites have exploded in recent years because they are good at achieving “vanity metrics” that demand-side platforms (DSPs) reward, but ultimately don’t drive sales for the advertiser.

“There is no evidence that people are choosing to buy certain products because those products are being advertised on Made for Advertising sites,” he said. “The lack of ability to drive sales is not recognized by many DSP campaigns, and DSPs really reward this supply, fuelling its growth.”

While MFA sites are not classified as invalid or fraudulent traffic (IVT), that has arguably made them more difficult for advertisers to avoid.

“Part of what has allowed this to grow is that there is no MRC accredited vendor that is saying, ‘you shouldn’t buy this,’” Kane said. “This is not IVT. This has high viewability, this has high video completion rates and this passes all of the brand suitability checks. This is real inventory that just happens to have been manufactured in a way to soak up a lot of DSP budgets in a way that probably isn’t productive for marketers.”

According to Rory Latham, senior director, global investment, GroupM, the prevalence of MFA websites has “hit a tipping point” where it made sense to add it to the media buyer’s set of tools focused on curating the most premium inventory for clients.

“We always want to make sure we’re creating the best possible access to the open web for our clients to drive long term outcomes, and we don’t think made for advertising does that,” he said. “So we want to make sure that we can exclude it.”

Jounce’s technology identifies MFA sites against six KPIs, including a high dependence on paid traffic, a “very aggressive” monetization strategy, and evidence that ads served on the domain rarely lead to business outcomes for the brand, Kane said.

“All publishers do all these things, but we’re looking for major outliers,” he explained.

The partnership with Jounce is the latest premium supply initiative from GroupM. In February 2022, the media buyer launched a premium marketplace in an effort to increase the transparency and suitability of programmatic buys while locking in efficiencies for clients, building on relationships directly with publishers as well as supply partners like SpotX.

“It’s about making sure that we can curate the best possible content of global, regional, local diverse media owners, to make sure that we’re basically creating the best version of the open web for our clients,” Latham said.

The partnership also plays into GroupM’s Responsible Investment framework, which focuses on directing client investments toward publishers that are brand safe, diverse, ethical, sustainable and support responsible journalism. For instance, MFA sites make significantly more ad calls than premium publishers, leading to higher carbon emissions.

“We’re looking for the most efficient supply chain possible,” Latham said. “If we can help direct client investment more accurately into media owners through a smaller number of pipes… then we can try to guide investment to cut down on any extra supply partners and try to limit the number of ad calls.”

As for the issue of MFA sites, the industry is working toward creating a standard definition for identifying such players. According to Kane, the underlying work that has gone into classifying supply chain transparency standards, such as sellers.json, has been “the lynchpin” to making identifying MFA websites possible.

As Latham put it, “it’s quite hard to figure out an industry-wide solution to a problem that doesn’t have an industry-wide kind of definition.

“As long as we’re working towards one or a set of standards, I think that will help the DSPs and other technology partners police this a bit better,” he added.

And as more influential buyers like GroupM start to push traffic away from these sites, DSPs will stop incentivizing them.

“If more buyers start to vote with their wallets, that really changes the incentives,” Kane said. “The supply landscape will shift if major buyers start to steer away from made for advertising inventory and start to reward other kinds of more genuine publishers.”

Top Image: Getty Images

This article was originally published at Campaign US.