That was the agreement at Ad Week Europe yesterday, and it's a conclusion that has been voiced time and time again. Now, I'm not going to say that nobody has any responsibility in combating any type of crime when we will clearly should all do the equivalent of bolting doors and putting lawn mowers and bicycles in locked sheds. If that's the spirit of Ad Week Europe's conclusion, then it would be hard to argue against it.
It's just that I have a lingering doubt that more hasn't been done sooner against click fraud because it wasn't in the interests of the huge trading desks to start lifting stones for fear of what might crawl out. I was chatting to a pal the other day who has left a major agency group that has a very well-known trading desk, and he confirmed that when ISBA claims as much as half of what a brand pays goes in bills and click fraud is just about on the money. So just to get it straight, it is not unusual for clients to have a bill that isn't broken down transparently, but which sees half of the total amount spend on fees and robots rather than media seen by humans.
Pretty scary stuff -- and that's why I just can't believe that brands haven't been more vocal on this. Or at least, I'm surprised they are not more publicly vocal. From what I hear, the issues over click fraud and fees can be explosive, but they are nearly always private.
It's probably a good time to remind ourselves that although we have an IAB definition of viewability, which can now be measured so vendors can be certified, the fraud equivalent is unlikely to surface for another year. This hardly sounds like an industry rushing to deal with a problem, does it? This is not me taking issue with the IAB because they're an industry body that can only go at the pace the industry wants to move at. It's more a case of pointing out the obvious -- why would agencies and their trading desks break their necks to combat a problem they could put down to fraudsters, rather than anything they have done wrong themselves?
The trouble is that although the cat is out of the bag and a lot of brands are building their data management platforms -- which, among many uses, will almost certainly be utilised for buying display programmatically without being completely reliant on a major agency's trading desk.
This is why I find it all the more surprising that fraud is apparently everyone's responsibility. Okay -- so we all have a part to play, but we all know what happens if we don't put up a rota for cleaning the office kitchen but instead leave it as everyone's job.
Agencies and their trading desks will have to step up to the plate and stop saying that everyone has a role, unless they are prepared to say, in the same breath, that they are taking the lead. Ultimately it's the ad exchanges they link into through their trading desks that have to be clean. If the agencies rounded on them, it is difficult to see how they could resist the demands to install the best anti fraud measures possible. You can throw technology around throughout the buying process but surely it makes sense to insist that any add exchanges has the best measures possible. Checking media where it is bought and sold has to be the best way of ensuring that it comes from a quality site. The quickest way to make this happen is for the agencies to only work with exchanges that have taken all the required anti-fraud measures required for advertisers to be as assured as possible they are paying for good quality media.
There may well be an argument that it's everyone's role to combat fraud -- but until someone has the courage to say "we're in it together, but we're taking the lead on this" then brands will surely continue to pay double the price of their media to run a campaign.
If that doesn't constitute a broken model, then it's hard to imagine what would.