To Regulate Or Not To Regulate, That Is The Programmatic Question

The afternoon panel at OMMA RTB in LA tackled perhaps the most important topics of the day: fraud, trust and the potential for regulation in the programmatic marketplace. Moderator Dan Chen, managing director at Siemer & Associates, asked the panelists whether or not they believe the industry is evolving in such a way that regulatory organizations would be required to play a larger role.

The question sparked quite the conversation, and varying opinions arose. Dick Bennett, founder and CEO of ImServices/AAM, said organizations such as the IAB, ANA and 4As are “talk[ing] a lot,” but he’s “not seeing them take any real strong action to control” fraud issues.

Jeremy Leonard, IMM’s chief operating officer, was quick to disagree with Bennett, noting that IMM has worked with some “great” auditing firms. He doesn’t take issue with regulatory organizations so much as the legitimacy of their regulations.

He said his clients laugh at the MRC’s definitions of viewability, which say that 50% of a display ad needs to be in-view for at least one second to count as viewable. Driving his point home, Leonard said the viewability standard is akin to calling a glass of cold water a sentient being.

Mark Torrence, CTO of Rocket Fuel, one of the largest programmatic ad platforms in the industry, believes new laws and regulations aren’t needed and that the industry could go "a long way" if it instead focuses on identifying and outing companies that are participating in fraud.

The gravity of the discussion was felt when the suggestion was made that fraudsters should do time “behind bars,” but Chen pointed out that most of the fraudulent activity is happening overseas, making prosecution easier said than done.

The panelists all seemed to agree on one thing, however: The industry is moving so fast that, at this stage, regulations would be more hindrance than help.

“The thing that worries me about regulation at this time is that the industry is moving very quickly, and I see regulation [being more applicable] to industries that aren’t moving as quickly,” noted Torrance. ”[The industry] is in amazing, amazing flux -- every month. The idea that we can come in and figure out what those regulations ought to be … it feels like we are some years away.”

Andy Terentjev, senior director, enterprise West at comScore, agreed with Torrance, although Terentjev is a proponent of regulation and believes more enforcement and perhaps new regulations will be needed to “attract all those brand dollars into digital that we’ve been talking about for years.”

An audience member (from Accordant Media, a trading desk) pointed out another major flaw in potential industry regulation: inconsistencies in media measurement, even from vendors who have been accredited by the organizations leading regulatory efforts.

“Integral Ad Science versus DoubleVerify versus comScore -- whose right?” the audience member asked. She said the trading desk gets different results from different vendors and has even seen vacuous suggestions such as blocking the New York Times Web site from its supply list.

Terentjev pointed out that the measurements vary because of different methodologies and technologies -- something a different group of panelists at OMMA RTB ripped on earlier in the day.

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

"Glass of water" image from Shutterstock.
1 comment about "To Regulate Or Not To Regulate, That Is The Programmatic Question".
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  1. Augustine Fou from FouAnalytics, October 9, 2014 at 2:35 a.m.

    Nice summary of both the opportunities and challenges of solving ad fraud.

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