Did TAG Just Kill Ad Fraud? Even In-App?

it always sounded like a good idea for the body that regulates advertising industry standards in the UK, JICWEBS, to adopt the Trustworthy Accountability Group's Certified Against Fraud standard.

One can sometimes find that turf wars erupt over standards, but with digital marketing not knowing any borders, it always seemed to make sense that a common standard was adopted in the US and the EU.

And my, what a difference it has made on desktop, mobile -- and, MAD London can exclusively reveal, in mobile apps too.

Although JICWEBS only officially adopted the Certified Against Fraud system since January 1st of this year, it has been used for a while by many advertising platforms. This has enabled TAG to conduct research into four billion impressions placed via Omnicom, WPP and Publicis Groupe in the first eight months of the year in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and The Netherlands.

The published results, it must be said, are outstanding. They are surely timed to coincide with the official adoption of Certified Against Fraud, but there is no harm in using research to draw attention to an initiative.

And what an initiative. The headline figure is that without the TAG system in place, the base rate for fraud averaged out across the countries involved was around 9%. With the technology fully adopted, it shrank more than 90%.

This means that with Certified Against Fraud in place, ad fraud rates plummet to just 0.53%. Let's face it -- at that rate, fraud is barely noticeable. It's less than a rounding error on an accountant's spreadsheet.

MAD London chased up TAG to find out a little more about in-app advertising, which has sadly become synonymous with mobile ad fraud in the past couple of years. Although the figure has not been published, we can reveal that in-app invalid traffic rates have declined to just 0.17%. We don't have a "before" figure here, but it  arguably will be at least as high as desktop and mobile web, one would assume?

Regardless, to get fraud down to such a tiny proportion is an incredible result. So, how is it done?

Well, the starting point is a certificate -- hence the name of the programme. Companies throughout the digital advertising supply chain can earn and then display to show they are operating as a legitimate business. If certified people work with one another, the hope is that fraud is all but eradicated.

To make sure, though, ads.txt is used so that advertisers can be assured a third party has the right to sell the inventory it claims to provide access to. In addition, publishers need to disclose where there traffic is coming from -- particularly how much of it is bought -- and there is an IP list for sources of invalid traffic that is updated every month.

I blogged about the TAG standard becoming the UK standard as soon as the news was outlined last year and it seemed a good idea then. It seems an even better idea now.

To reduce fraud to 0.53% is an outstanding achievement that all involved deserve a hearty round of applause for. I suspect they will get another pat on the back when the in-app fraud rate of just 0.17% is made more public. Apparently, it will be communicated in future iterations of the research but wasn't included with the initial figures.

So this is a very welcome piece of good news for digital marketers on both desktop on mobile. 

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