Is this the Sea Change in Programmatic Advertising?

Chase had ads on 400,000 sites, then 5,000…with the same results. Is this the beginning of a massive shift in how big brands advertise?

As brands grapple with the fallout from the YouTube / Google ad scandal, they are getting a real-time lesson in how effective their digital ads are or were. Sapna Maheshwari in the New York Times writes about JP Morgan Chase’s decision to limit their display ads to preapproved sites.

As Maheshwari explains, “As of a few weeks ago, advertisements for JPMorgan Chase were appearing on about 400,000 websites a month. It is the sort of eye-popping number that has become the norm these days for big companies that use automated tools to reach consumers online.”

According to the bank’s CMO Kristin Lemkau, they’ve pulled their programmatic buys and are only appearing on 5,000 preapproved sites now. So what kind of difference are they seeing?

“It’s only been a few days, but we haven’t seen any deterioration on our performance metrics,” Ms. Lemkau said in an interview on Tuesday. Maheshwari notes that Chase has also pulled ads their ads YouTube after reports of other brands having their ads appear on videos promoting hate speech and terrorism.

“JPMorgan aims to restrict its ads on the platform to a ‘human-checked’ list of 1,000 YouTube channels, which it expects to be able to do by the week of April 10,” Maheshwari notes.

Does this mean that humans are going to re-engage in the advertising process? One industry executive believes so.

“While automation has its upsides, this is a time for human intervention,” writes Mark Glaser, founder of MediaShift. “That means brands making more efforts to find safe spaces curated by humans, and YouTube using more human engineering to help match brands to better content. Not to mention users making judgments on what it means when big brands support objectionable content (even if they don’t realize it).”

Programmatic certainly has its appeal, not the least of which is the “hands-off” approach that allows for massive ad scale. But is that scale paying off? Is the risk worth it?

“Before the YouTube thing happened, we were just looking at programmatic,” Lemkau said. “Now the question is, what else is out there that we should be looking at whitelisting?”

It’s early to tell yet, but the Chase move will be interesting to watch.  We echo Lemkaus’ sentiments:  “At some point, a human is going to take a look.”