Adfraud is like media industry ‘having enormous amounts of unprotected sex’ says US IAB chief

Australian ad tech vendors could be asked to register contact details and a physical address with the Interactive Advertising Bureau in a bid to help stamp out ad fraud locally.

IAB US CEO Randall Rothenberg spoke about the success it had had in clamping down on fraud with the registration scheme, with IAB Australia CEO Alice Manners telling Mumbrella it was looking at following the example of its US counterpart.

“In what other industry do you routinely have companies contracting or engaged in the acquisition of critical supplies with other companies that they don’t know, have never met, don’t know any of the names of, don’t know where they are located and yet they are paying out money to them?” Rothenberg said in a podcast interview.

“Viewed from any normal logical framework that’s just nuts.”
Manners added: “We had a meeting of the Brand Safety Council the other week and we have decided we are going to follow a similar model. The principles they have (in the US) around self regulation apply to all and this is a global issue.”

Rothenberg noted that globally ad fraud is costing billions of dollars but can be easily addressed if the industry comes together.

“When you add it all up it looks like it is between US$5.5bn and $9.5bn all up in lost money going out to fraudulent advertising,” he said. “We think that you can intervene and recapture most of that.

“What we have is a very open supply chain in which any company can participate if they can find one way or another to find to get their tags on to your site and that creates enormous risks through things like malware and bots etc.

“The analogy I use is an industry having enormous amounts of unprotected sex. It’s not mature and it will get you into trouble.”

Randall Rothenberg

Randall Rothenberg

The IAB US chief, who is speaking today at the IAB leadership summit, said the requirement to register and be involved with the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) by providing human contact details and an office had been very effective in cutting down on dodgy digital operators and building “a more bullet proof supply chain.”

“Registry where any company that wants to be involved in the digital supply chain has to provide a human contact and a real physical address,” said Rothenberg.

“That way if you are contracting with a company that is involved in any way space or form of your digital advertising then you have a way of verifying it’s a real company and not Joe Blogs operating in a basement in Laos or Bucharest.”

Local IAB boss Manners emphasised previous comments that ad fraud was not a prevalent in Australia as other markets.

“Ad fraud is really dodgy and Randall is actually working with Interpol,” said Manners. “It’s not (a big issue here) but I would like to do a study – a stake in the ground and assess it – the reason it is not as big here is because we know the key premium players and hence we don’t have the same issue of unknown suppliers to the same degree.”

The pair also discussed the topic of viewability, the online advertising metric that aims to track only impressions that can actually be seen by users and the US’s leadership in the space.

Alice Manners

Alice Manners

“Absolutely we can learn from this,” said Manners. “The good thing is that the US has done all the heavy lifting for us and for this market the challenge is around the technology vendors.

“In terms of the principles we are completely supportive and it is the way we need to move forward and a lot of the principles we have come out with are consistent with the US.”

Manners flagged that IAB Australia would look to a do a test on viewability in this market before looking at moving to a place where media agencies can trade on the metric.

“Viewability isn’t something we can trade on in this market until we have a better understanding of the technology,” she said. “The problem we have at the moment is there are discrepancies between the technology vendors that you use.

“We will get there and are looking to do a test in market just to put a stake in the landscape and to say this is what the Australian marketplace looks like,” she added.

That will guide the market and what we have seen is as a result of a higher quality of impression we have seen higher CPMs and an increase in the investment going towards it.”

Rothenberg noted: “Australia is smart to do this stepped process. All of us in the US who were involved realise that we started trading on viewable impressions too early.

“At the same time there was enormous pressure on the agencies and from the agencies to begin trading and in a way there is an argument that we had to start trading to allow for the volume of data.

“Someone had to go first but the past year has been a difficult of battling and fighting and trying to understand the discrepancies.”

Nic Christensen 

Timeline of discussion: 

0.30 – The challenges of tackling the issue of adfraud globally

9.30 – Global developments in viewability and how the Australian market is preparing itself to implement viewability

16.00 – The landrush globally into video

21.00 – The IAB Newfronts in the US and how that is changing the media landscape particularly on video

25.30 – How the trade press is grappling with the issues around digital convergence


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