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The digital ad fraud challenge – it's time for action

Date posted: 20 February 2015   |   Posted in: Blog

Over the last 12 months we have seen some big, scary fraud numbers in the trade and mainstream press, with headlines quoting as much as 60 per cent of impressions being delivered to fraudsters. Isn’t it about time to move beyond the headlines, and start to look at what action is being taken to address this problem in the UK?

The good news is that progress is well underway. JICWEBS and the IAB chaired a meeting in December, bringing together for the first time its members and fraud technology vendors, in order to identify the extent of online fraud in the UK. This has quickly been followed up by a second meeting in January and the formation of an anti-fraud working group that will work under the JICWEBS banner.

These are the first important steps towards tackling the UK online ad fraud challenge. As fraud impacts the advertising industry as a whole, from quality publishers, right across the industry to DSPs and exchanges, it is important that all relevant voices are engaged in the discussion, so that we build a broad consensus for dealing with this issue. 

What can the newly formed working group achieve? I think that we can expect to see recommended best practice for both buyers and sellers of digital media in how best to address fraud. As the group’s remit is to advise companies from different parts of the digital ecosystem, these guidelines should be realistic and sensitive to the needs of the various businesses.

Like with the DTSG (Digital Trading Standards Group, advising the industry on brand safety and viewability guidelines), I think that companies on both the sell side and buy side will be asked to prove that they can minimise the effects of advertising fraud via an audit. For the DTSG, this is done via a light touch audit, where companies demonstrate that they have technology tools in place to deal with ad misplacement.

But is online ad fraud different? Do we need a stricter audit that demonstrates to advertisers that companies have dealt with the issue? In return these companies could have an industry recognised accreditation to show that they have met minimum anti-fraud requirements, and therefore win the confidence of the broader advertising industry.  I would foresee the accreditation being delivered by the ABC, which is already doing a very good job verifying brand safety and viewability vendors.

As digital ad fraud is a relatively new topic for us all to grasp, I am sure that education will also need to be a key feature in the working group’s discussions. I think that we need to see more research and guidance on how to tackle fraud, and the experiences of this diverse working group will hopefully be able to provide that needed actionable advice. For our part, we have just announced our investment in an anti-fraud lab to conduct comprehensive research and development that will help advance anti-fraud solutions in the advertising industry.

The digital advertising industry in the UK has learnt a valuable lesson since the issues around viewability were thrown into sharp relief. The subject has been hotly debated over the last two years, and I always got the impression that only the buy side were quick to grasp the benefits of viewable impressions. Even today, media agencies are defining the viewability market, as we see buyers moving towards customisable metrics that optimise individual campaigns. With the fraud debate, it does not feel the same way: the conversation feels much more joined up. Our trade bodies have been quick to react to the fraud problem and have responded by working together to try and address the problem head on. 

We still have some way to go, but this is a positive step forward in addressing ad fraud and educating advertisers and publishers, and showing them that industry trade bodies and ad tech vendors can work effectively and collaboratively to address the issues that affect us all.  

Niall Hogan is UK managing director of Integral Ad Science – sponsor of The Drum’s Digital Trading Awards

Source: Drum


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