Despite Range Of Tools, It's Not Easy To Clean Up Supply Chain

Keeping the advertising supply chain fraud-free and ensuring that ads have been seen by actual people is a huge challenge. Participants on a panel called “Tackling the Supply Chain” discussed the issue at AdExchanger’s Clean Ads I/O conference on Tuesday.

From a buy-side perspective, the issue is fraught with complexity, as the shift to quality is largely a technical challenge for buyers.

Allstate Insurance Co., which handles media buying in-house, attempts to combat fraud by thoroughly vetting the capabilities of its platform partners: two or three different ones to analyze inventory pre-bid and post-buy, looking for inventory that it’s already bought that’s likely to be fraudulent, according to Keary Phillips, director, digital marketing, Allstate.

Rosetta Stone relies on DoubleClick Campaign Manager and Active View, which tracks the viewability of ads served via Google Publisher Tags, said Caitlin Romig, global digital marketing manager, Rosetta Stone.



“We have a fiduciary responsibility to invest our clients’ media spend as well as we possibly can,” said Keith Johnson, EVP, strategic data solutions, Wunderman. “We have to be responsible for CPMs, viewability, ROI, return on ad spend, cost per sale and more,” he added.

“It’s incumbent upon suppliers to vet the inventory. We are the next line of defense,” said Rick Greenberg, CEO, Kepler Group. Kepler has built its own algorithms to help vet so-called “bad actors.”  “Our role is to drive business impact for our clients. Even when there’s fraud, we’re constantly monitoring to the level of incrementality that it’s delivering. We’re never going to be able to get rid of all of it [fraud],” said Greenberg.

Allstate’s Phillips said that 85% of his digital plan is programmatic, and 75% of that is private marketplace (PMP) deals. He believes the PMP marketplace has higher quality inventory vs. the open RTB marketplace.

“We are very DR [direct-response] focused. We’ve been investing in tools and trying to figure out how to go about this. We buy 100% programmatically now. It’s about making sure that we have tools in place to help us monitor quality,” said Rosetta Stone’s Romig.

Wunderman’s Johnson took a cynical view, arguing that some of those tools are merely “bandaids” because the entire industry is plagued by fraud. “One way other than whitelists and blacklists is, focus on audience-based buying. We are trying to help clients use their own data with known cookies. Then we can eliminate the bot traffic,” he said. Still, Johnson added, the question is: “How do we combat this as an industry?”

Romig said Rosetta is in the process of investing in more tools as it segues from merely looking at ROI. For example, Rosetta is investing in viewability tools via a data management platform (DMP). The company is  currently reviewing whether it will go with a full-stack solution or will work with multiple partners on viewability.

Allstate tests new platforms on an ongoing basis.  “We’re evaluating different players in the spaces to help us and testing different solutions to get the best capabilities," said Phillips. "It seems that everyone has a different method for calculating fraud.”

Among the panelists, there was a perception that Facebook and other so-called “walled gardens” have cleaner inventory and more control over the quality.

“We’re confident that Facebook inventory is clean. But it’s hard to measure it with the same measuring stick as we use for other inventory sources,” Allstate’s Phillips said. “Facebook doesn’t accept the same ad tags. …It’s a pain in the ass, to be honest with you,” he said, alluding to performing close-looped studies to reconcile data.

Still, one can’t argue with Facebook’s massive audience. “We had to find a way to make it work,”  Phillips said of Facebook’s large store of inventory. “We do a lot of first-party data on-boarding, integrating it into different platforms. We have a process for it, but it’s a lot of work.”

Phillips said that Facebook would say that fraud doesn’t exist in its ecosystem, because it’s a “people-based system.”

Wunderman’s Johnson measures ROI and links that data back to actual sales. Johnson finds that social media inventory performs better than display inventory because you can go beyond the cookie and reach individuals  across all devices.

Kepler’s Greenberg said his agency is measuring every tactic and using client data based on human actions. “We’re modifying our tactics for fraud and viewablity.”  He argued that fraud is a worse problem than viewability. “There’s going to be waste in advertising. It’s endemic to advertising. The tools for managing viewability are good.”

Allstate’s Phillips is concerned about mobile because you can’t use cookies there to evaluate viewabiility and fraud. “Cookies are not the common currency. How will we evaluate inventory quality in the mobile world?”

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