The industry's Trustworthy Accountability Group anti-fraud initiative is effective at reducing traffic bots, according to a new study commissioned by the organization.
Mike Zaneis, who heads TAG, says the study shows that combatting fraud requires a "multi-layered" approach that involves agencies, intermediaries and publishers all identifying and filtering out bots. "Any one entity ... can help reduce fraud, but it's still going to be at an unacceptably high level," Zaneis says.
The study, conducted by the 614 Group, examined 6.5 billion display and video impressions served between July and October. The impressions were executed by GroupM, Mediabrands and Horizon Media, and served through channels that were certified by TAG -- meaning that the media agency, platform and/or publisher had been awarded TAG's anti-fraud seal.
Around 97 million of those impressions (1.48%) were classified as invalid, based on analyses by MOAT, DoubleVerify or Integral Ad Science. By contrast, the proportion of invalid traffic in online ads averages 8.83% for display -- which jumps to 12.03% when video is included -- according to the report.
While the report touted the program's effectiveness, study authors acknowledged that some fraud persisted despite the anti-fraud initiative. "The entire industry understands that despite heroic efforts, some amount of (invalid traffic) will appear on every publisher site, given the financial motivation and the technical sophistication of the fraudsters," the report states.
TAG's anti-fraud initiative aims to ensure that online material and ads are seen by people, as opposed to bots. Buyers (including advertisers and agencies), sellers (including publishers) and intermediaries (including ad networks) are eligible to receive a "Certified Against Fraud" seal indicating that they comply with TAG's certification guidelines.
The guides require buyers to have a designated TAG compliance officer and comply with the Media Rating Council's Invalid Traffic Detection and Filtration Guidelines. Publishers and other sellers must comply with the same guidelines as buyers, and also take additional steps, including filtering domains and IP addresses that are considered to pose a high risk of invalid traffic.
The TAG seal has been awarded to 49 companies, and an additional 120 are in the process of becoming certified.