“Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by Tod Sacerdoti, vice president of display and video ad products at Yahoo.
Ad fraud in video and display is nothing new – it’s an issue that has plagued the industry for the past 20 years.
And while we’ve seen various anti-fraud initiatives and developments come to fruition in the past decade, 2015 was especially significant.
Last year, the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) launched the TAG Fraud Threat List, a database of domains that have been identified as sources of fraudulent bot traffic for digital ads. TAG also debuted a program to block illegitimate and nonhuman ad traffic originating from data centers in conjunction with the industry’s biggest leaders.
But despite these efforts to tackle the problem, fraud is still a pervasive issue, requiring collective action from publishers, advertisers and technology companies. The IAB estimates that ad fraud costs the US marketing and media industry $8.2 billion each year. And as the advertising industry continues to evolve and expand – especially with the increased demand for programmatic, mobile and video – we’re no longer dealing with a static issue that is confined only to desktops.
Who’s to blame? The industry has been quick to point fingers. Over the years, we’ve seen advertisers and media companies make claims against some of the largest players in the industry. But what many seem to forget is that ad fraud affects everyone. From advertisers and publishers to technology providers, everyone has something at stake, and there’s a tremendous amount of energy and resources going into the fight.
With that in mind, it’s crucial that the industry come together to tackle this growing issue.
Say Yes To Third-Party Verification
To increase transparency in the industry, both advertisers and media sellers should be open to third-party verification. Advertisers should commit to only working with partners that allow accredited, third-party measurement services to complement the tools they develop in-house.
Look for a neutral partner that is neither a buyer nor a seller, and be on the lookout for discrepancies in the numbers being reported by your third-party service versus your media seller. If a media seller’s numbers can’t be verified, this may be a sign of fraudulent activity.
Since different measurement providers use varying methodologies for measuring fraud, results can vary. Therefore, its important advertisers test and measure multiple third-party verification vendors and choose their preferred partner based on results.
We are the company we keep, especially when it comes to the media properties on which our ads are running. For site-specific buys, marketers should review all URLs before ads go live, and be sure their third-party verifier is perpetually testing them for legitimacy. For broader programmatic buys, review URL and site logs to the extent possible.
Establish A Plan Of Recourse For Fraudulently Served Impressions
In the event that an advertiser is exposed to fraud, advertisers and suppliers should agree upon a mutual plan of recourse prior to beginning their work together, such as only paying for ads that are measured as viewable by their third-party verification vendor. This will foster a more transparent relationship between both partners and eventually increase trust in the industry.
Stay In The Know
As the industry continues to evolve and new ad formats and technologies surface, it is crucial that we continue to look for new ways to detect ad fraud and maintain transparency. Keeping up with advances in the industry will ensure that we stay on top of how best to fight one of the industry’s biggest threats.
It’s clear that ad fraud is an industrywide threat, and while we’ve developed several measures to contain it, fragmentation among key players is slowing down the fight. So what’s the answer?
The industry’s leading organizations (ANA, IAB, TAG, etc.) have been hard at work establishing various initiatives to tackle fraud, and agencies, brands, publishers and tech providers alike should be working together to help drive forward their efforts. The time to act is now.
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