I am an optimist at heart. I wouldn’t be an entrepreneur if I weren’t. I try to see the glass as half-full. I want to believe what I’m told and what I read, even when my several decades of business experience sometimes brings out appropriate skepticism.
That’s why it’s hard to read through the announcements in our industry every day and not run into at least one that makes me pause and ponder its validity.
While companies in the advertising, marketing and media worlds are entitled to a certain degree of boosterism, the claims for technology solutions often reflected in the press are sometimes a bit extreme.
Here’s what I try to keep in mind as I review what seem to be inflated claims:
When it seems too good to be true, it very well might be. Remember the explosion in search clicks in the early aughts? Yes, both Google and Yahoo settled search-click-fraud class-action lawsuits in 2005 and 2006.
Remember the explosion in low-priced digital video ad inventory? But then, DoubleVerify found 50% more fraud in video ads than in display.
Remember when the exchanges offered large volumes of premium content websites at pretty low prices? Well, in 2016, FT.com found 23 exchanges spoofing its ad inventory.
Remember when Facebook claimed to reach 101 million 18- to 34-year-olds in the U.S.? Wasn’t true. The census reported that there were only 71 million 18- to 34-year-olds in America.
Remember all that “digital-like” programmatic TV advertising that was all the rage a couple of years ago? Most of its purveyors are gone or in other businesses today.
What might be next in the too-good-to-be-true vein? Over the past two months, I’ve read a lot of headlines trumpeting an explosion of buying and selling of video ad inventory on connected TVs. The numbers in these stories seem really, really big and growing really, really fast.
Now, there’s no question that a lot of people are watching a lot of streaming video on connected televisions today. However, as far as I know, the vast majority of streaming video providers and enablers today either have no ads -- Netlix, Amazon Prime, HBO -- or few ads, of which little or none is made available to third-party sales organizations: Hulu, ESPN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Sling and DirecTV.
Could fraud be lurking in the big numbers? Just over six months ago, eMarketer reported that 20% of DTV/OTT ad traffic was fraudulent, twice the rate of fraud found in desktop and mobile ads. The year earlier, fraud detection firm Pixalate estimated that 44% of total connected TV & OTT user traffic was fraudulent, apparently from bots and torrents running within some of the apps that have been downloaded to the screens.
To their credit, some companies are trying to get in front of this fraud. Just yesterday, video ad supply-side platform Telaria announced a deal with White Ops to monitor for fraud on connected TV inventory.
The key is to keep a healthy skepticism when reading stories based primarily on company announcements. Everyone can be forgiven a little exaggeration here and there, but rare is the reporter who goes back and compares what a company announces and what has unfolded since then. Many of the "promises" made in industry announcements are not held to accountability when third-party research starts to find dings in the armor.
With the increased number of announcements about the advanced TV market, I hope that ad buyers, agencies and platforms exercise real scrutiny — something that hasn't always happened for bright shiny objects in the past. What do you think?