The Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) is going to help the ad industry check IDs at the door.
On Thursday, the fraud-fighting coalition announced the launch of a verification program designed to enable legit companies to demonstrate that they are, in fact, legit.
Agencies, advertisers, ad platforms and publishers will be able to apply to the TAG Registry to get verified as a trusted party. In order to get TAG’ed, as TAG playfully calls it, applicants will have to submit to a background check and pony up proof to show that they are who they say they are, including business info like tax ID and certificate of incorporation.
Participating companies will also have to appoint an internal compliance officer to own the relationship with TAG, which will, in turn, provide training to keep everyone up to speed on what will be expected of them.
The process will cost around $10,000 a year, although the fee will be waived for small businesses and long-tail publishers.
AppNexus, AOL, Google, Index Exchange and Rubicon Project, as well as all the major holding companies – IPG, Omnicom, Publicis, WPP and Dentsu Aegis – have all expressed their intention to get verified.
“Quality is an area that Google takes very seriously and has always invested in,” said Vegard Johnsen, a product manager on Google’s ad traffic quality team. “However, this is a fight we can only win if all of us in the industry work together to make the industry more transparent and accountable.”
TAG CEO Mike Zaneis said he expects to have at least 50 companies registered by the end of the year, with a universe of several hundred on board by the close of 2016.
The goal is to make it harder to spoof domains and to stop the flow of ad dollars into criminal coffers.
“This is about proving that you’re not a fly-by-night company based in the Ukraine that opened a PO box in the US to receive checks, which happens more often than you would think,” Zaneis said. “It’s about making sure that legitimate companies can transact in a trusted marketplace.”
Which is where the second part of TAG’s verification initiative comes into play. The group is also working on devising a payment system by the end of the year that will track exactly who is receiving payment for what inventory. Consider it a sort of anti-fraud Deal ID.
The hope is that a two-step verification system – the TAG-issued identifier coupled with the payment ID – will cause enough friction to kill the fraudsters’ profit motive. In order to conduct business and, more importantly, get paid, companies will need to supply both IDs.
Zaneis said he expects the program to start to reach scale as early as Q1 2016, after which TAG will begin to measure the level of fraudulent transactions among TAG-compliant companies versus “the less reputable part of the industry.”
“I can’t predict exactly what the impact will be, but I foresee a pretty wide discrepancy in terms of fraud rate,” Zaneis said.
The verification announcement comes roughly one month after GroupM said it would start requiring all of its media partners to either get certified according to TAG’s antipiracy guidelines themselves or work with someone who is.
“For this to take hold, the entire industry needs to get on board to make sure these guys don’t earn any money,” said GroupM Connect, North America Chairman John Montgomery at the time.
From anti-piracy to anti-malware to anti-fraud, it all boils down to TAG’s overarching raison d’être: “We will no longer be the easy mark,” Zaneis said.