Can we resolve online ad fraud?

01/22 By Niall Hogan
Locked blue door

In my last ISBA blog post, I entitled the piece “Don’t believe the hype”, as we had seen some big scary fraud numbers in the trade and mainstream press, quoting as much as 60% of impressions being delivered to fraudsters. I wanted to inject some realism and perspective into the debate in the UK backed up by our data here at Integral Ad Science. On average we see 13% ad fraud in display and 18% in video. In that same post however, I argued that even these numbers are unacceptable, and that we need to work hard to remove this wastage from digital campaigns and mitigate the risk of advertising fraud.

So what is the industry doing to tackle online ad fraud? The good news is that progress is 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 is the first step towards forming a working group tasked with tackling the UK fraud challenge, and is likely to be made up of JICWEBS members (from ISBA and IPA, through to AOP and the IAB, among others). Ad fraud impacts the advertising industry as a whole, from quality publishers, right across the ecosystem to DSPs and exchanges. It is, therefore, important that we engage as many relevant voices as possible and build a broad consensus for dealing with this issue.

What can we expect from the newly formed working group? Well firstly, if we look at the recent brand safety work from the DTSG, I think that we can expect to see recommended best practices for both the buy and sell side for dealing with fraud. As the group 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.

Secondly, 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. A recent piece of AdExchanger research aimed at marketers set out to provide practical guidance for dealing with fraud. I think that we need to see more research and guidance of this kind, and the experiences of this working group will hopefully be able to provide that needed actionable advice.

Finally, to win the confidence of the broader advertising industry, I think that vendors in the fraud space will need to be accredited for the claims that they are making on behalf of their technologies’ ability to detect and deal with digital ad fraud. I foresee this accreditation process being managed by ABC, who is already doing a very good job verifying brand safety and viewability vendors.

I think that the UK digital advertising industry has learnt a valuable lesson since viewability came to the forefront of market discussions. Over the last two years I have attended meetings to debate the subject, and I always got the impression that the viewability horse had already bolted. The buy side were very quick to grasp the benefits of viewability, and in many cases left everyone lagging as they rode ahead. Even today, media agencies are defining the viewability market, as we see buyers moving towards customisable viewability metrics that optimise individual campaigns. It does not feel the same way with fraud; it 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 issue head on.

The second meeting for the newly formed working group is taking place in January; Integral Ad Science will be part of these discussions and contributing to the efforts to tackle ad fraud in the UK and outline some best practices.

We are under no illusions that there is still some way to go, but this is a positive step forward in addressing the issue and educating the advertising industry.  Online fraud presents a real challenge to the ecosystem, and is an issue we need to resolve today.

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