Making a Good Impression: Ad Tech Companies Help Deliver Critical Messages

Making a Good Impression Ad Tech Companies Help Deliver Critical MessagesAOL, AppNexus, Rocket Fuel, and xAd serve consumers ads all day long. But now they’re doing something else, too — something downright laudable.

These ad-tech companies have teamed up with Epsilon-owned Conversant to distribute emergency alert notifications to both desktop and mobile devices.

“I would look at this as an advancement in PSA campaigns,” said Jason Bier, chief privacy officer at Conversant, who helped spearhead the Federation for Internet Alerts initiative in 2013.

“FIA is a collective of ad networks and exchanges that sends out weather warnings and missing-children notifications through Conversant’s hub, which draws in the alert data through several publicly-available feeds from law-enforcement entities,” noted an AdAge story on this development.

Smartphone users are familiar with such messages, which largely arrive as text notifications, often accompanied by a vibration or warning sound. The FIA system sends the same messages through digital and mobile ad units.

“It’s just using technology for good,” said Bier. “Impending tornado in someone’s vicinity? In that case, we’d prefer to serve that person with a tornado warning more than an ad.”

Each partner decides how to approach its giving, through an existing RTB platform with which Conversant may already connect. Each company also determines the number of ad impressions it wants to donate for such alerts.

Why aren’t even more ad networks and exchanges involved?

“None of those that we’ve asked has flatly said they’ll never join,” said Bier. “I think it’s just a matter of time.”

In the meantime, FIA — together with its partners — has been responsible for more than 500 million geo-targeted AMBER alerts sent to more than 100 million devices about 686 abductions. FIA also delivered more than 8.5 million tornado warnings. It’s no surprise, then, that the organization has been named the winner of this year’s Webby for public service and activism in advertising and media.