Some $8 billion lost in fraud. Another $20 billion lost in ad blocking. There are four key challenges -- viewability, fraud, transparency, and ad blocking -- that undermine advertisers trust in the digital industry. To make matters worse but they are often erroneously mashed up as one big Adland mess, causing confusion about the most effective tactics to tackle each individually.
A session Wednesday at the 4As Transformation Conference in Miami featured four industry mavens who offered thoughts on how the industry is addressing these critical matters.
First up was George Ivie, head of the Media Rating Council, who discussed how the organization is battling so-called “ghost” impressions by developing processes to track ads similar to TV spots. Up to 60% of digital impressions are non-viewable.
Two years ago, said Ivie, “the digital ecosystem served ad impressions but the webpage ads were served on page regardless of whether you would see them or [not]. Then technology brought forward ads that were monetized [only] when the user of a browser or an app could see it.
After all, "it doesn't make sense to pay for ad that can't be seen," says Ivie. Still there is a lot of work that needs to be made. Mobile requires a unique approach. "Viewability is just the beginning of an opportunity to see an ad. We still don't know how long the ad was up, the effectiveness of an ad, how long they viewed.”
Sixteen months ago, the industry created the Trustworthy Accountability Group to fight digital fraud in the supply chain. This problem is only solved by collaboration across the entire chain, says TAG's Michael Zaneis. His group has created a program to effectively identify and filter out computer bots. It also developed a fraud threat list to collect known sources of traffic that criminals are operating. Information is tracked at both the company and campaign level and intelligence is shared across industry. "Just think of criminal activity like a balloon and when you squeeze one part, they just got to another platform. But we will squeeze them out of dark corners of the industry," says Zaneis.
The goal is to introduce a better system to know who you are doing business with, he says. "Know your partner and track the money through the supply chain." With that approach, the money flow can be shut off if need be.
The ultimate goal: put the bad guys behind bars. TAG recently announced a partnership with federal law enforcement to help share resources to prosecute offenders.
Those who use ad blockers cost the industry $20 billion last year, with 34% of blockers used through Web browsers. "This is a unique challenge since it impacts so many players," says Horizon Media's Donnie Williams. The problem is that the digital industry got too excited about its targeting capabilities and didn't take into account how consumers feel about it, says Williams. There are legitimate privacy concerns. The good news is that change is on-going. All players agree that the end goal is a better user experience, said Williams. The challenge now is finding cross-industry solutions that work for everyone.
The transparency/rebate issue has been a hot one for that past year. "We have worked to put together guiding principles for the entire ad community," said OMD's Kathleen Brookbanks, who was a member of the 4As working group that did the heavy lifting in researching the issue and coming up with the guidelines that the 4As issued earlier this year.
And though they may be intended to guide the entire industry the Association of National Advertisers has declined to endorse the 4As work and is waiting for its own study to be completed before supporting principles on the subject.
Still, said Brookbanks, "We have made a lot of progress," and the guiding principles issued earlier are just the first phase of an effort that will grow and evolve as the discussion over transparency becomes more "transparent."