Google Move Requiring Advertisers To Verify Identity Provides Safety For Brand Non-Disclosure Agreements

Google plans to close loopholes that help to create ad fraud by requiring all advertisers running ads across its platforms to verify their identity, as the company continues to make sweeping changes to prevent advertisers from misrepresenting themselves.

Agency owners applaud Google for making the move, but at least one is concerned that it could allow marketers to gain a list of their competitors' clients -- specifically those running in-house campaigns with brands when it is required to hold non-disclosure agreements.

Many brands don't want the general public to know the identity of the agency supporting their campaigns. Google Ads requires the name of the person or company placing the ad.

"Disclosures will show the trademarked or legal name of the end advertiser behind the ad," a Google spokesperson said. "It will not show the agency representing an advertiser. We will allow agencies to verify an advertisers’ identity on behalf of their clients, however, they will need to do so on an individual client basis." 

All marketers agree that it's much too easy to buy media on Google’s and Microsoft’s advertising networks without going through a stringent verification process similar to the one created for political advertisers in 2018.

“We were waiting for this, and it’s an overwhelmingly positive move and long overdue,” says Marty Weintraub, founder at marketing agency Aimclear.

Still, he says, although it won’t stop the majority of extremely bad actors, it will stop a fair percentage of moderately bad ones and it will stop casual provocateurs. There’s still plenty of room to abuse the process, but Google’s decision is a very welcome start. Companies have been hiring spies for years.

“If you work for governments in China, Iran, Moscow, or Saint Petersburg this won’t prevent you from hiring an out-of-work disgruntled marketer and paying them large amounts of money to buy ads,” he said. “It just means the U.S. government can catch them if they wish, because it will leave a trail.”

The move will require all media buyers — search, programmatic, display, video on YouTube — and not just their companies to go through the verification process.

Agencies are hopeful that Google’s decision will curtail fraud. Without a verification process it is easier for someone to start a fraudulent ad campaign that looks like a well-known restaurant chain and divert traffic to another restaurant, for example.

“There’s no barrier to keep one business from buying media and impersonating another business,” said David Szetela, owner and CEO at FMB Media. “It’s not unusual for an affiliate to advertise an offer and depict themselves as the owner of the company to steal business from another.”

There is no word yet on whether Microsoft Advertising plans to establish the same type of verification process. Search Marketing Daily has reached out to Microsoft Advertising and will update the story if details are provided.

Google’s phased-in approach will begin in the U.S. and continue to expand globally. The company expects it will take a few years to complete.

Advertisers will need to submit personal identification, business incorporation documents or other information that prove who they are and the country in which they operate, explains John Canfield, director of product management of ads integrity at Google, in a blog post published Thursday.

Beginning this summer, users will begin to see disclosures that list this information about the advertiser behind the ads they see.

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