By Abbey Thomas, CMO, Tremor Video DSP
Marketers should not accept fraud as an inescapable cost of digital advertising. Yes, it is a real problem. Yes, eradicating it completely is difficult and won’t happen overnight. But marketers should not be the ones liable for the dollars wasted on fraudulent views and clicks.
Only 18 percent of US digital marketers have a zero-tolerance policy for ad fraud, according to research from ExchangeWire and OpenX. Instead, half of respondents believe five percent fraud is an acceptable level. The rest will tolerate even higher amounts. We can do better. It takes commitment and financial investments from platforms, SSPs and publishers, but a fraud-free guarantee is possible, and more aptly put, imperative if we are to ensure the continued growth of digital marketing, specifically digital video advertising, which will grow by double-digit percentages annually between now and 2021.
Brands should not be financially responsible for fraud. Platforms are in a unique position to make this happen. If platforms refuse to accept fraudulent inventory and make this position known to their partners, they could drive significant change. If platforms won’t pay for fraudulent inventory, SSPs will take a closer look at their publisher partners and reconsider working with ones that have high volumes of invalid traffic. SSPs could even opt to make publishers financially liable for any fraudulent impressions that do sneak through. It is not easy to take a stance like this. It takes contract negotiations, changes to billing processes and sometimes, new verification tools. It also requires organizations to rethink the walled garden approach so they can integrate with third-party measurement and verification tools.
There are a lot of ways companies can protect buyers, from becoming TAG-certified, to implementing ads.txt to curb the reselling of inventory, to investing in fraud filters. But the truth is, not all players are doing everything they can. Financial repercussion—i.e., ensuring publishers, SSPs and platforms are the ones who eat the cost of fraud—will incentivize everyone to step it up and fight harder.
Platforms should turn on their fraud filters whether or not a brand demands it. By 2019, 80 percent of the world’s internet traffic will be video, according to a study by Cisco. Implementing fraud-free guarantees in the digital video advertising space is particularly important if brand advertisers are to keep up with user behavior. This will be an ongoing battle. Digital criminals continually try to develop tactics that will go undetected by existing anti-fraud solutions. As an industry, we have to work even harder to stay one step ahead by developing and implementing the technology tools needed to stay protected. “Implementing” is the keyword. It is one thing for a platform to forge a partnership with a verification solution. It is another for the platform to actually use it to vet every single impression they bid on.
Of course, marketers have a role to play, too. Brands need to ask partners about their fraud-related policies and demand that they are not held accountable for fraudulent inventory. No more accepting five percent fraud levels. Brands should also ask platforms and supply-side players about the means they are taking to measure and eliminate fraud. It is fairly easy for a platform to tell an advertiser it will never pay for fraud, but it is not a meaningful promise unless the platform is using an effective tool for identifying that fraud in the first place. Brands need to ask partners point-blankly about the tools they are actually using, not just the ones they are affiliated with.
The enemy is not each other. The enemy is the fraudsters. Inevitably, there will be holes in our defense, which makes it all the more pressing that platforms and supply-side players take financial responsibility for fraud. Platforms are well-positioned to spearhead a concerted effort to protect brands from fraud-related financial loss. Doing so will create brand trust and motivate SSPs and publishers to do whatever it takes to eliminate fraud, as failure to do so will cost them money in the long run.
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