Ethical Digital Advertising – a Q&A with Michael Korsunsky, CEO, MGID North America

Michael Korsunsky, CEO, MGID North America

By R. Larsson, Advertising Week

After two decades working in the entrepreneurial and Fortune 500 space, Michael Korsunsky joined MGID, where he currently serves as Chief Executive Officer of North America. At MGID, Michael oversees the company’s strategy to cement its status as a pioneer in native advertising. We had a chance to sit down with Michael and discuss brand safety, contextual advertising, and more.

Q: Tell us about your role at MGID?

I joined MGID in 2016 as CEO of North America. I oversee the company’s strategy, helping to drive the development of our native advertising product in a way that balances the needs of the publisher and the advertiser, without disrupting the user experience. We want to empower brands and publishers to collaborate transparently and build great consumer experiences that drive campaign results and boost publisher revenue. Our privacy-first targeting technology helps brands deliver relevant, high-quality digital advertising campaigns that are both safe and  effective.

When the war in Ukraine started, our team began to implement strategies to tackle Russian misinformation — a mission that is ongoing. Alongside delivering informational ad campaigns across the US and Europe to spread the truth about Russia’s attack and raise money for Ukraine’s armed forces, we also joined a large group of digital ad experts to deliver accurate information about the war. I am passionate about ethical advertising, and this is something I prioritize in my work at MGID, with a view to enabling transparency and greater collaboration in the industry as a whole.

Q: Brand safety is an ongoing concern across the industry — what are the biggest considerations for advertisers?

To protect their reputation and ensure their budgets are well spent, brands must be selective with their trading partners and choose those committed to providing a brand-safe marketplace advertisers can trust. Trading partners must have independent verification for credibility, boast a list of quality publisher partnerships that value accurate and reliable content, and operate in a way that looks beyond less effective, outdated methods.

While some brand safety strategies such as keyword blocklists have their positives, they tend to be too broad and often eliminate suitable content from advertisers’ radars as well as potentially harmful inventory. Contextual technology is a must for  platforms hoping to achieve a more sophisticated and in-depth analysis of potential ad space. Using semantic analysis and natural language processing (NLP), these tools can determine the meaning of text rather than just the words, allowing for better optimized, relevant placements.

Q: How can contextual targeting help balance brand responsibility in ads?

Advertising should be about brands establishing positive connections with consumers, and the ways in which brands advertise comes into this. For example, it’s distasteful if brands are promoting themselves alongside tragic news involving death and war. So, in helping to identify suitable ad placements, contextual targeting can help brands stay responsible when monetizing content.

Ultimately, it’s all about understanding the content being consumed rather than the person consuming it, which also makes contextual targeting ideal in the privacy-first world. This helps advertisers remain responsible from a consumer data protection perspective, as well as through appropriate associations.

Q: Where does the responsibility for brand safety lie? Do we need more industry collaboration and standards?

Independent bodies such as the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) are so important for reinforcing advertising best practices; they provide rigorous, independent reviews of brand safety standards across the digital advertising ecosystem, allowing buyers to purchase inventory with confidence. We were thrilled to receive recertification from TAG recently in recognition of our brand safety best practices, such as monitoring and detecting ad misplacement and upholding anti-piracy principles.

However, it’s easy for plans and procedures to come unstuck without effective collaboration. To achieve the highest levels of brand safety, we all need to work together. Increasing conversations around brand safety and fraud prevention will promote transparency and best practice in the industry as a whole, while companies should lead by example to actually address fraud and hold bad actors to account.

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