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After IAB claims ad fraud of just 4%, marketer speaking at their conference cites overseas study’s 80% figure

Minutes after industry body the Interactive Advertising Bureau published a report claiming that only 4% of traffic delivered to ads in Australia was fraudulent, a panel at a conference curated by the organisation was told that the number could be 80%.

This morning, the IAB, which represents publishers carrying and delivering ads such as Google, Yahoo7, Facebook and Nine, released its first report into ad fraud, and claimed more than 96% of ads served to desktop and mobiles are served to real users.

But in a session curated and moderated by the IAB’s CEO Vijay Solanki at today’s Programmatic Summit in Sydney about viewability, ad blocking and ad fraud, Michelle Katz, a former director of acquisition at Optus said ad fraud was a major issue. And the boss of tech provider Rubicon suggested that “self interest” was getting in the way of addressing the problem.

Chris Nolan, Libby Minogue, Michelle Katz and Ricky Mulla at the Programatic Summit

Referencing a global study Katz said: “For me, ad fraud is a real concern, because once again, it’s just an element of ‘Are we really getting what we paid for?’ And I know that the [World] Federation of Advertisers has done some studies and in some cases, the numbers are quite scary – they’re potentially up to 80% of clicks that could be received are actually fraudulent.”

The issues, according to REA Group’s executive GM for media and marketing, Libby Minogue, are “causing so much confusion in the industry and it’s doing such a huge amount of damage to our industry in terms of that next phase of growth”.

The responsibility for this however, may lie with publishers, she said, who have failed to collaborate and provide acceptable standardised metrics.

“From a publisher perspective, it’s really hard to move ahead and really drive substantial revenue growth that we’ve had previously. So there’s pressure coming from the board below. They still expect the growth rates in digital specifically in digital media that’s double digit. Unless you are Facebook or Google, that is so much harder for all of us. And that’s because of the complexity that we’ve placed upon ourselves. And having no clear metrics is what is holding us back.”

Publishers may have created the problem, but creative agencies will play a key part in solving the digital industry’s trust issues with brands, and will need to work hard to do it, she said.

“I think creative agencies are imperative to helping be a part of the solution – only because we all talk about the tech, but no one is talking about the quality of the creative that they’re putting out there in the market. And that speaks to fraudulent ads, it speaks to every level. So it’s strategic thinking and it’s creativity and there’s been a lot around that at the moment.

“So we can blame the technology, but we’ve really got to have a good hard look at ourselves and the creative that we’re putting out in the market.”

The biggest challenge, however will be removing self-interest from the equation, and motivating brands, publishers, platforms and agencies to come together to tackle the issue, Rick Mulla, MD of Rubicon Project Japan and APAC said.

“We love guys like yourself [the IAB] who are trying to put these standards together, but even then – and again not to call you out on it – but it’s hard, there’s still self-interest at play and it’s still kind of heavy hitters there and it’s hard to get an agreement on where these measurements should be,” he told Solanki.

“And those measurements already have a lot of self-interest when you look at the final definition of things. If you look at the definition of viewability, it’s pretty low… I think we can aspire to do better than that, but it’s going to be very hard to get to that point.”

Chris Nolan, COO of Publicis Media ANZ said the solution would lie in media agencies putting competition aside to tackle the viewability issue.

“Unfortunately, I think the media agency landscape is very competitive,” he told the panel. “There’s a lot of us all looking for an edge and all looking for a competitive edge and unfortunately many of these topics [viewability, ad fraud and ad blocking] have landed in the competitive space. And that’s unfortunate, because what it’s done is it’s lead to a lot of confusion in the market.

“So agencies will talk to different standards, will use different technology platforms – and I think that’s made it really difficult for publishers and for clients to understand, ‘Well what should we set as our viewability standard? And when we use the word ‘viewability’, what do we actually mean?’ Because people are using it competitively and using it to create an edge. Some will talk to viewability as a page, and others will talk to viewability as for an ad.”

He said the constant need for clients to read the fine print to understand what publishers are spruiking and how they’re measuring it, was undermining confidence in the industry. Agencies will have to work together to restore the lost trust, he said.

“Let’s just find some common ground around things such as viewability, I think we’ll really be able to build confidence in the medium, confidence in the service we provide – and then we can all go and compete on delivering outcomes for our campaigns which I think is ultimately what you want us to do.”

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