Cynthia Young from The Globe and Mail on Brand Safety

February 22, 2016

Cynthia Young, head of audience for the Globe and Mail, explains how an organizational commitment to maintain premium quality standards led to investments in measurement.

Kammi Altig, Communications Manager

Cynthia Young, The Globe and Mail

AAM: Of all the issues facing the media industry—fraud, ad blocking, measurement, automation—which is the most concerning for your organization?

CY: We made the strategic decision not to be part of the open network so we have a lower probability of being impacted by areas like fraud and automation and that really impacts our role and opinion on those topics. From our perspective, we are diligent about prohibiting fraud on a daily basis but do see this as one of the biggest industry challenges. Ad blocking is something we are very aware of in the evaluation of our audience and our site. But we are more concerned about it from an industry perspective of where digital advertising is going and how ad blocking is affecting that. Automation is something we’re interested in and its ability to service our clients in a more efficient manner. At the same time, as media entities we must be very cognizant of the many technologies and networks that we allow to access our inventory in order to serve that automation.

There isn’t necessarily one single issue that I would say that is deeply concerning for our site, but we do believe that measurement is the most important element of these topics. We believe that is where we have the most control and ultimately the most transparency in the goal to share success with our advertisers. Because of this belief, we’ve made significant investments in the areas of measurement, especially those that are associated with fraud, ad blocking and automation. We believe that the investments we’ve made are very future-forward looking because measurement is a very integral part of all these issues.


AAM: What was the reason behind The Globe and Mail’s decision not to be part of the open network?

CY: It's 100 percent about the quality. Just as much as we care deeply about the quality of our content, we care deeply about the quality of our audience and the content they receive. We want to ensure that the ads placed on our site are from quality brands that have specifically selected our site. There are many different ways in which a lot of nonpublisher content and ads can appear on publisher sites, we just don’t allow those open networks access to our inventory. It’s a promise we make to our readers.



AAM: How do you position yourself as a safe, premium place to advertise?

CY: As a publisher there's integrity in practicing what you preach that promotes you as a safe and premium place to advertise. When you look at who advertises on The Globe and Mail, it is important to note that we don’t allow a lot of the lower level CPMs coming in that would allow us to make a couple of extra dollars here and there off the many, many networks and exchanges. And we have quite a stringent protocol on our homepage advertising specs. Again, all of this is to maintain as high a quality site for our audiences as much as it is for our advertisers.

Part of the positioning of being a safe and premium place to advertise is no different than the position The Globe and Mail has always had. The fact that it's digital is just the mechanism of how we're delivering it. We’ve always stood behind audited reports on circulation delivery and we stand on the same kind of principles with digital. The auditing tools have changed and continue to change.


AAM: How do you train your ad sales staff to have conversations about transparency?

CY: So much machine-to-machine is happening that we have to train our staff to know what machines are connected to what areas. This understanding of the open networks and how they function is new and extremely important for our teams to know and understand. We’ve moved from a conversation about what they want to buy from us to a conversation around what they expect to get from us. This means that the questions have changed:

  • How will you be measuring the success of this campaign?
  • How will you validate the effectiveness of your media buy? Can we help in that area?
  • How are you measuring the spend against other media’s on the plan?
  • How will you be measuring the return on investment for your client?

It turns the question around. When we are able to focus on the results they want we can effectively give them what they expect. Transparency in measurement and expectations is what drives that.


AAM: Do you feel it is important for the industry to establish a set of guidelines to ensure brand safety?

CY: With things like fraud and unsafe technologies, our publisher says it best, “Choose your dance partners wisely.” If we allow anyone access to our site or advertising inventory we open our audience up to that as well. That has a correlative effect on the safety of our site for our readers and all our advertisers. Established clear guidelines on how brands can be safe, which environments are safe and what kinds of measurements are associated with brands being safe are the meaningful and deeply fascinating metrics we should be embracing as an industry. What is encouraging for us is that this isn’t about measuring us against them, it’s about embracing news ways to make advertising better in the 21st century. These guidelines and this discussion should shape the future of advertising for the better.

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