TV Should Bring Digital Approach To Advertising -- But Avoid Digital's Pollutants

  • by , Featured Contributor, September 12, 2019
On Tuesday of this week, I was in Toronto participating in the Future of TV Advertising Forum Canada, a conference about the future of our business. I attend a lot of industry events -- and I can tell you that this one had a pretty unusual opening.

So many conferences like to start you off with happy stories and grand visions -- but at this one, we learned about how big fraud is in digital advertising, how it operates, and why everyone in the TV and video ad ecosystem should be worried.

For example, Internet Protocol-connected “smart” TVs are being used to pipe TV-like ads into TV-like content in ad-supported video on demand and — latest buzzword —  CTV (Connected TV) environments, and fraud similar to what we see in digital advertising could invade this space.

For sure, the world of television needs to take a much more digital approach to how it approaches advertising, especially in audience measurement, supplementing (or replacing) Gross Rating Points and age/sex demographics with person-level impression counts and reporting. Reporting needs to be provided on an ongoing basis, ideally in real time, but at least within days of campaign completion, not weeks or months. And sales and lead-based attribution should be table stakes in TV campaign offerings.



However, there are some areas of digital that television needs to completely avoid: the many pollutants in the digital ad ecosystem.

We all know well the problems of fraud, bots and unviewable impressions in the digital ad world. Virtually all of us have heard about it, and experienced it for years.

Well, as many of us in the audience learned Tuesday from Craig Silverman, media editor at BuzzFeed News, fraud has already established a beachhead on TV. Over 22% of programmatic OTT/CTV video advertising today is invalid, according to fraud management company Pixelate -- and the OTT business is just getting started.

Silverman has studied digital ad fraud extensively, spent a lot of time explaining exactly how it happens and how and why folks miss it. Most are either asleep at the switch or don’t want to know, he said.

Fortunately, however, he didn’t just leave us hanging, wondering whether the 22% of fraud on OTT/CTV ads today was going to inevitably mushroom into a multi-billion-dollar cesspool on TV as it has on pure digital formats like banners and digital video.

Nope. Providing glimmers of hope to the assembled masses, he offered up a prescription to help stop the fraud from leaching into the TV ad world. I’ll paraphrase some of his bullets here:

-- Recognize this is a problem and stop it while OTT and CTV are still new.
-- Educate everyone in your organizations, particularly the leaders.
-- Don’t be complacent. Fraudsters are very motivated (by all the money they are taking).
--  Paying for detection verification is not enough. Have someone take responsibility for  stamping it out.
-- Stop accepting make-goods and credits without asking questions -- difficult, uncomfortable questions.
-- Call out the bad actors publicly -- don’t just take the make-goods and credits and let them keep doing it.

I was so happy to hear Silverman talk about these steps. For once, it wasn’t just about someone calling out a problem with no solution. He gave lots of color to each of his bullets. It gave me real hope.

Of course, the real question is whether folks who can prevent this digital ad fraud from getting to the TV will follow his instructions. For many, it might require calling attention to the fact that they were fooled -- which may be too much for many. But I hope not.

What do you think? Can TV adopt digital ad approaches without being infected by digital ad pollutants like fraud?

9 comments about "TV Should Bring Digital Approach To Advertising -- But Avoid Digital's Pollutants".
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  1. Jason Pratt from Kenshoo, September 12, 2019 at 6:08 p.m.

    Programmatic display and programmatic video have the same problems of fraud and viewability because they both are trying to target programmatically. Simply put, if TV publishers take an API approach (as Google, Amazon, Pinterest, and Facebook have done) and offer a clean, non-intermediated approach to accessing their inventory, fraud will not be something we even have to talk about. How big is Facebook’s viewability problem? Not very. 

  2. Chris Williams from ACA, September 13, 2019 at 12:12 a.m.

    Yes if... Review the mistakes made by the print industry. There are hard lessons to be learned about the value of cooperation at the industry level and forget defending the past. 

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 13, 2019 at 8:43 a.m.

    Dave, the root problem that plagues digital media regarding fraud and other issues concerning ad placement is the fact that most of it ----buying and selling as well as placement is done by computers. Which means that the crooks can always find a way to beat the system. If TV follows the digital model and goes colputer happy---thinking this will save money on person power---it will repeat digital's mistake and be riddled with fraud.

  4. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia replied, September 13, 2019 at 9:20 a.m.

    Ed, while I agree that the less human approach to digital buying and trading makes it easier to hide fraud, I don't think that this is a case where you can blame the computers for the fraud. This is about bad incentives and bad actors, folks that control buying, sellinng, trading, enabling digital ads who make more money on the more ads that are transacted and don't mind not diggig too deeply into how numbers are generated, probably not unlike what happened in radio in the 1960's with diary fraud.

  5. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 13, 2019 at 10:31 a.m.

    Dave, this is the first time I have heard about diary fraud. I assume that you are referring to the finding of the PPMs that the radio diaries significantly overstated average quarter hour listening levels while understating station reach. That's true but it was not fraud. The entire industry--including advertisers and the agencies--- bought into the diaries as an economical way to get lots of data and include out-of-home listening. What happened, not only in the 1960s but more and more in the following decades, was rapidly declining cooperation rates which probably swelled the percentage of heavy listeners in the diary samples, plus Arbitron's understandable inability to force its diary-keepers follow instructions----filling out their information as soon after listening took place. Instead, most  made their listening claims all at once or on certain days based on what they "usually" did, creating a vast overstatement of what really happened.As a result of the inherent heavy listener bias in the samples and Arbitron's understandable inability to force proper cooperation by its diary keepers, the ratings were way off base. But it was not fraud, merely a flawed system. Interestingly, it was Arbitron, itself, which created the passive PPMs as a means to become a player in TV ratings again, that showed everyone how bad the radio diaries had been.

  6. John Grono from GAP Research replied, September 14, 2019 at 4:49 a.m.

    Then they uncovered the carry-rate issue with PPMs.   Same still applies today with smartphone apps (as well as over-crediting for background sound).

    I have tested various electronic devices while also completing a diary in parallel.   Most days the data was virtually identical (caveat - I am a light radio listener).   But there were two instances when I went out to music events and simply forget to wear/carry the device (must to the shock of the others in the test-group).   The issue is that once you have not carried the device the data are lost forever.   We can use 'back-fill' methods with electronic diaries (PC or app) ... a mode we use for traditional diaries today.

    Learnings were that devices tend to under-report due to carry-rate but can also over-report 'background listening' with no respondent cognition.   Headphone listening is also problematic.   But app-based collection does provide good data for longitudinal measurement.   So devices tend to provide really good granular data for a sub-set of the listening population.   Measurement need to use both (and other) methods and use a hybrid system - diary for 'how much listening', device for 'how listened'.

  7. Gary milner from The Simpler Way, September 17, 2019 at 9:41 a.m.

    I thought most of the inventory on ott was non rtb and still transacted directly. hulu, cbs all access to name two. So how do they get to 22 per cent fraud? Seems just wrong.

  8. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia replied, September 17, 2019 at 10:25 a.m.

    Gary, no question that the most visible" OTT inventory out there comes from companies in the TV business or owned by them, such as Hulu and CBS Now, and yes, those companies sell all or most of their inventory directly. However, there are hundreds of apps on smart TV's and alternative set-top boxes now, including big pools of inventory from YouTube. Most of them are trying to build ad businesses and the vast majority of them, particularly the smaller ones, sell most of their inventory programmatically. That is the where the fraud is happening, not on Hulu or CBS Now.

  9. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 17, 2019 at 10:35 a.m.

    So, if the fraud rate is, say 20%overall, imagine what it must be for the small players ---unlike the big guys who handle placements manually? As a guess 50%.???

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