Billion-Dollar Con Men Will Be Tackled... Next Year

First the good news. There is going to be a "seal" that publishers, exchanges and tech companies can sign up for to prove they are taking all reasonable steps against ad fraud. The bad news? Not until next year. 

That's the main takeaway behind the headlines from today's publication of the snappily titled "UK Traffic Taxonomy For Digital Display Advertising" from the Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards (JICWEBS). It is made up by representatives of the IAB UK, AOP, News Media Assocation, IPA and ISBA -- in other words, all sides of those involved in digital publishing and advertising. The title of the report might lead a lot to be desired, what about "16 Clues To Know You've Been Conned" or "16 Secrets of the Click Fraudster" or something along those lines. Anyway, the report is actually really worth looking at to get a view of the sixteen different types of ad fraud that JICWEBS is warning the industry to look out for. The publication follows from a June report that listed some best practice guidelines complete with some questions that publishers and advertisers need to be asking one another and the partners in their advertising supply chain.

There is already a brand safety "seal" on offer for those publishers, ad exchanges and technology platforms that abide by a best practice guide to ensure that brands' messages don't end up on inappropriate sites. Not a minute too soon, it will be joined next by the JICWEBS anti-fraud seal that is currently under development.

I can't quite keep myself off the topic of time, however. Ad fraud has been a serious issue at the top of the ad industry's agenda for several years, so it just strikes me as a little remiss that we're only just getting round to a "seal" or "kitemark" that industry partners can quality for to ensure they are doing all they can to not send advertising and money to bogus sites visited by robots rather than humans. It's not a question leveled at the UK, because it's not exactly lagging behind the rest of the world, but is instead at the forefront of educating on fraud and devising a scheme to combating them. It's also worth pointing out that JICWEBS is a cross-industry body and so can only work at the speed the industry can move at, so there's absolutely no blame apportioned in its direction.

But if criminals were stealing a billion dollars a year from a few simple con tricks out in the open, you can bet your life that measures would be taken, ringleaders would be hauled in front of judges and measures would be put in place to prevent con men from taking so much money so easily.

For it to be rapidly approaching 2016 and we're still only talking about an understanding of ad fraud with a promise of an industry "seal" next year, it just strikes me that this has not been treated as the emergency situation it truly is. This is a billion-dollar haemorrhage, not a graze -- and it has taken years for the industry to move toward best practices, let alone proof that those practices have been adhered to. When a seal is launched next year it will be very welcome, but I can't be the only thinking it will be met with a certain amount of "what too you so long," can I?

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