Commentary

Anti-Fraud Can Only Go As Fast As Adland Allows

First the good news. JICWEBS is redoubling efforts on certifying anti-fraud tech and its vendors through ABC certification that measures whether a deployed solution is having a real effect on quality placements, as opposed to fraudulent ones. The slightly less good news, if you're feeling pessimistic? Fraud costs billions of wasted ad dollars every year, so why is the next step only just being taken? 

How you will react to the news kind of depends on whether you're a glass-half-full or half-empty type of person. I have to admit my first reaction was "that's great news," which soon gave way to "so what took them so long?"

I think many in adland will share the same feeling -- that this is a hugely positive step -- but will be asking themselves why more could not have been done sooner. It has long been established that digital marketing has a problem with converting the budget advertisers pump into digital display leading to ads that are actually seen by a human being. The well-known outspoken critic of the channel, P&G's Marc Pritchard, recently went as far as saying that just 25% of what the FMCG puts in actually ends up in front of consumers. 

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There are several factors involved here, not least the blight of viewability running at levels of around a measly 50% in the UK. In other words, only half an advertiser's inventory will be deemed viewable because it has not rendered properly -- or more likely, is below the fold of the page. Then we have to factor in fraud where ads are typically stuffed into sites that a human will never see.

Let's be clear. Anti-fraud certification already exists, so that is a tick in JICWEB's favour. Eight companies are currently certified, and a further eight are awaiting certification. What this new announcement adds is an independent audit, via ABC, that shows the tech has a notable impact on reducing fraudulent placements in the real world.

Again, to be completely fair to JICWEBS, its Chair, Richard Foan, has put out a statement acknowledging this whole anti-fraud effort may appear a little late to the proverbial game. His reason? Companies involved in ad tech are very reluctant to explain their approach and lift the hood on their technology for fear of losing a competitive advantage. 

I've said it before and I will keep on saying it. When it comes to these debates, my vote of confidence will always go to JICWEBS. It's a cross-industry body with many competitors present. It can only move at the pace its membership will allow. It can only announce a new way of providing assurances to advertisers when there is an agreed-upon way forward and there is a regime in place to monitor it.

So I'm a glass-half-full type of person on this one. We should soon have a dozen anti-fraud companies certified by JICWEBS that can be further verified via an ABC audit, in exactly the same way as JICWEBS uses ABC to rate the companies if has awarded viewability seals to.

Anyone concerned by the pace of change really needs to take the issue up with digital marketing in general, not the referee. 

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