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Understanding MFA



The dialogue around Made For Advertising (MFA) websites has garnered significant attention in programmatic advertising. These sites, typically recognized for their ad-centric content and strategies to maximize page views and revenue, are at the center of an industry-wide discussion on transparency and value in programmatic media buying.


Programmatic Media and the Rise of MFA


It's no secret that programmatic advertising has been a game-changer for the industry. However, as revealed in ANA's June 2023 report, the proliferation of MFA sites has led to concerns over wasteful ad spending. This report and other recent analyses have estimated that a sizeable portion of advertising budgets may end up on these low-value sites.


MFAs cleverly mimic high performance on paper, boasting robust metrics that often pass initial screenings. This camouflage has made the MFA topic a hot news item, with industry leaders calling for a more nuanced approach to assessing site value beyond surface-level metrics.


More recently, the discussion has turned towards defining the "A" in MFA as Arbitrage instead of Advertising. This is an important determination but does not (yet) quell industry concern.


A Shift in Strategy: Inclusion Over Exclusion


The traditional method of creating exclusion lists to avoid undesirable ad placements is falling out of favor. In its place, the industry gravitates towards inclusion lists—actively choosing quality domains that align with brand values. This shift in approach is echoed by thought leaders and media experts who stress the importance of curating a controlled environment for ad placements. However, using short inclusion lists works against the benefits of open web programmatic media buying. Partners like Jounce Media curate exclusion lists that are constantly updated.


Connected TV: A Quality-Centric Arena


Connected TV (CTV) advertising, which often features premium content, is inherently aligned with the principle of quality over quantity. Therefore, it is less susceptible to the pitfalls of MFA sites. The focus on direct inventory supply paths in CTV advertising ensures a level of transparency and brand safety often sought by digital marketers.


Data-Driven Decisions: The Heart of Programmatic


Utilizing log-level data is essential in today's programmatic ecosystem. This granular data allows advertisers to track the effectiveness of each ad placement, ensuring their campaigns are reaching intended audiences rather than getting lost in the MFA maze. Recent discussions on ad verification and performance analysis highlight the necessity of such data-driven insights.


Collaboration and Transparency: Pillars of Progress


The programmatic media landscape is collectively moving towards a more transparent future. Initiatives such as Newsguard's launch of an MFA site identification service exemplify the efforts to provide clarity for advertisers. It's about identifying where ad dollars are wasted and cultivating a more accountable ecosystem.


Engagement and collective action are paramount as we navigate these challenges. As part of the broader media community, agencies actively participate in industry-wide efforts, drive conversations, and develop frameworks to mitigate the impact of MFAs.


Sustainability and Ethical Implications


Beyond performance metrics, the ethical and environmental implications of programmatic media spending have also been scrutinized. The call for sustainability in ad tech is growing louder as advocates like Scope3 urge agencies, brands, and publishers to consider the carbon footprint of their digital campaigns. The focus on reducing wasteful spending goes hand in hand with the need for a more eco-conscious approach to programmatic buying.


Why does this matter when thinking about MFA? If we consider the Arbitrage point above, moving spend from MFA sites to those more focused on quality, that would eliminate all of the computing power being spent on generating those clicks in the first place.


Looking Ahead


As programmatic media evolves, so do the strategies and technologies used to optimize ad spending and maximize campaign effectiveness. The industry's journey towards a more responsible and effective programmatic landscape is ongoing, with a commitment to transparency and sustainability at its core.


The recent emphasis on MFAs has highlighted the need for continued vigilance in programmatic media. Through informed decision-making, collaboration, and a commitment to quality, the industry strives to ensure that programmatic advertising delivers value for all stakeholders involved.


What to learn more? Contact us to discover how SpotlightIQ can immediately impact your CTV & video campaigns.

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