As featured in Digiday, read full article here.

A study from Adalytics Research explores the intricacies of Google’s Search Partner (GSP) network and asks marketers, “Does a lack of transparency create brand safety concerns for search advertisers?”

The report suggests marketers booking ads via GSP — a network of thousands of sites that use its content-discovery and monetization tools — run the risk of their ads appearing alongside content few would deem brand-safe.

Researchers behind the report, which was published earlier today (Nov. 28), observed how these included websites containing pirated content, explicit adult content, and hundreds of putative Iranian websites, which may potentially be under U.S. Treasury Office of Foreign Assets (OFAC) sanctions.

Ruben Schreurs, chief strategy officer at Ebiquity, noted how brands often overlook search advertising when exploring brand safety concerns. For example, Google Ads’ documentation indicates that it “doesn’t provide any information detailing the website where your ad was shown on the search network.”

For Ebiquity, this is a level of risk the media consultancy outfit was uncomfortable with, and it has advised its clients against using it since 2020. “It was similar to what Facebook did with its audience network, whereby it’s just [an] extension [of campaign reach] beyond their own real estate, and that’s risky by its very nature,” he added.

Ruben Schreurs, reviewed an advanced copy of the report and further commented:

In its relentless pursuit of growth, Google seems to have made some highly questionable decisions that put their customers, brand advertisers, at significant risk.
At Ebiquity, we have been advising our clients to avoid spending on the Google Search Partners network for years, as this activity on third party environments cannot be independently reviewed.
Until this Adalytics report, however, we had no direct evidence of specific issues with the GSP network. The revelations in the report validate our concerns with real-life proof of risk exposure that is potentially far more damaging than our original suspicions.
We believe that Google has no valid reason to continue blocking the ability to report on sites that ads were delivered on through the GSP. Additionally, we feel strongly that it must make this reporting available for historical activity, so that brands can assess their exposure to date. Furthermore, Google should vet and strictly police the external inventory partners it works with, in line with their statements made in their own documentation. These kinds of issues are simply unacceptable.

Ruben Schreurs, Chief Strategy Officer of Ebiquity

Adalytics full report:

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