The quality of the digital advertising supply chain has come under increased scrutiny in recent years. Between non-human traffic, brand safety issues, and now fake news, publishers and platforms are facing increased pushback from advertisers.
Fake news, with its tangible effect on our society and overall worldview, poses some particularly interesting questions about ad tech's role. RTBlog tapped Marc Goldberg, CEO of Trust Metrics, to weigh in on this landscape.
RTBlog: Why should the supply side be wary of fake news even if it's serving ads to humans and helping partners hit their KPIs?
Marc Goldberg: We need to take the long view here and work on providing a cleaner ad supply.
The political implications of elections and influencing voters is a ubiquitous problem. This is not just an American problem, it is a major concern in the U.K. and Germany in their recent and upcoming elections.
There are fake news sites that are designed to drive the public conversation, but there are also sites that are simply trying to make a quick ”buck” -- and they often succeed.
All these dollars can go away, however, as advertisers become more frustrated with the digital supply. Fake news is in the cross-hairs because of the damage it is doing in the world, not just to the media supply.
RTBlog: So, what role do Facebook and Google play in this conversation, and what are they doing to combat fake news?
Goldberg: Some try to blame Google and Facebook for the dissemination of fake news.
It was not Facebook, however, that claimed Hillary Clinton was having an affair with a gentleman named Benjamin Ghazi. Should we ask Facebook to prevent someone from uploading this “news” article?
Facebook has been working on the issues and can continue to help. Platforms can control group and client pages, advertisers, and extended networks' ability to prevent ad dollars and distribution going toward fake news.
Google, on the other hand, has been working on cutting off ad revenue [to offenders]. The tricky part is distribution, as the creators of these sites are not just using social tactics but black-hat SEO tactics trying to game their algorithms.
On the distribution side, we need more involvement from Twitter and other companies that host social earned-media channels. The number of nefarious and fake profiles on Twitter trying to get a topic to trend is a huge problem.
RTBlog: You have been clear that advertisers need to care about the overall state of the supply. Why should agencies?
Goldberg: This tension continues to exist between agencies and clients and has now been magnified and multiplied as clients continue to learn about non-human traffic, transparency, and brand-safety issues. If agencies and CMOs are reluctant to shine light on the supply problem, it won’t get better.
Agencies can help if clients let them. Clients are pushing agencies, asking for more services and guarantees for less [fees] and [more] resources -- hence the exponential growth of programmatic advertising.
Why not let agencies make money? The rush to save a penny will ultimately hurt brands in the age of fake news.
RTBlog: So why do agencies and clients remain largely in the dark?
Goldberg: While we’d like to think that the world of advertising is not rocket science, it’s not simple, either.
We consider our industry to be only the companies that are within the IAB [Interactive Advertising Bureau], DCN (Digital Content Next], 4A’s [American Association of Advertising Agencies[, and the ANA [Association of National Advertisers], but that only scratches the surface of companies transacting in the space. Brands and agencies are not exposed to all that is out there.
Our attempt to educate clients has somewhat backfired, as the bad guys have reverse-engineered industry KPIs. We need to slow down and explain processes to clients rather than simply hiding behind numbers that do not tell a story.
Advertisers are expecting agencies to clean up the ecosystem by laying out expectations and following best practices as a collective buy-side responsibility. Once that happens, the supply side will have to figure it out.
Repairing the agency/advertiser relationship needs to happen so that we can all do the right thing to move digital in the right direction.