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Julia Smith 

Battling ad fraud: it's up to all of us

Battling ad fraud: it's up to all of us

There are a number of immediate changes senior members of the industry need to make to ensure a safer advertising environment, writes Julia Smith

Ad fraud is currently hitting the headlines with the likes of Google and Facebook taking most of the flak. However, it doesn’t take long to realise that the blame game is not going to get us very far.

Passing the buck when it comes to ad fraud is no longer acceptable; it is an industry wide problem. The scale of ad fraud cannot be ignored and neither can the damaging effects which are felt by brands, agencies, platforms, publishers and ultimately the end users.

We’ve admitted we have a problem but what’s the cure?

Firstly, ad trading businesses need to step back and understand what the specific threats are to their own companies and match these to the best solutions available. Understanding what each prevention tool can deliver is essential.

For example, tools offer pre-bid to filter bad traffic before buying the impression, or post campaign data analytics to help achieve financial adjustments.

There is also a choice of campaign insights which capture digital forensics on each users’ device to measure viewability and identify questionable sources. Then there are tools which focus more on brand safety to protect brands from appearing next to inappropriate content.

Each business needs to prioritise what is crucial for them and then provide clear briefs to the tech providers to ensure they get the right protection is in place.

We need to remember that while we are reliant on technology to do our jobs, there is a human element that also mustn’t be forgotten. Common sense has a role to play. If you are buying inventory cheaply on the open auction, you increase your risk that the inventory might not be seen by human beings. This is where error creeps in.

Serious damage can be done by just one rogue impression. Even if a single impression appears on the wrong website, a consumer’s perception of that brand can be immediately ruined. Given brands are fighting hard to convert impressions into customers, you cannot afford to place all your trust into a fully automated process.

Working with known publishers with quality audiences reduces the risk dramatically. Layering on top a robust fraud prevention tool and a content verification partner will provide brands and agencies with a nearly impenetrable shield of protection.

Much of the ad fraud debate has been led by P&G and its calls for greater transparency. P&G’s proactive approach to the problem has led to it selecting The Trade Desk as its preferred demand-side platform.

Companies like The Trade Desk work with a range of partners and appreciate the importance of brand safety and ad fraud prevention. These work closely with advanced keyword technology partners helping trading desks to make more informed buying decisions. Choosing the right partners who have an ethos of ethical trading is now a must for all businesses.

As we know, the two key goals for the industry are to be transparent and deliver results. Constant communication between agencies and brands is going to be key to ensuring it’s known where the money is going and what the outcomes are going to be.

Success here will be agencies not over promising and brands having more clarity on where their ads are appearing. As part of this, CMOs at brands should not be putting undue pressure on their agency to deliver unrealistic KPIs. The effort required to hit tough targets is what often drives the use of questionable inventory.

David Sendroff, founder of Forensiq, also supports the notion that the fight against fraud is a necessary industry-wide effort:

“Digital advertising is in its twentieth year which means the market is still in an early growth stage. Why is the industry only now addressing the issue of fraud seriously? Because we all realise that ad fraud unchecked can thwart the trajectory of the fastest growing media in history.

"By eroding the trust between digital advertising buyers and sellers we will see less digital media investment. In contrast, by helping to ensure that digital media is bought and sold fraud-free we can help realize the promise of advertising that is targeted, effective and accountable.”

The mainstream notion that Google is the only one to blame for the issues is laughable at best. The search giant certainly deserved to be held to account and had to make several critical changes. Google is not the only problem and the industry needs to stop the finger pointing and start taking responsibility for how it trades and who its trades with.

In doing so, we will hopefully finish 2017 as an industry that is the most efficient, best performing and ultimately, safest environment for ad placement.

Julia Smith is director of communications at Impact Radius and Forensiq

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