‘Marketers are getting their money stolen’: ANA highlights the major media risks for 2016

Bob Liodice

Liodice: “Marketers are getting their money stolen”

The CEO of the US leading marketer association has told a forum that media transparency, ad fraud, viewability and adblocking needed to be top priorities for marketers globally.

Speaking at the ANA Advertising Financial Management Conference in Boca Raton, Florida, ANA CEO Bob Liodice told a forum of top clients and agency executives that in key global areas such as ad fraud, many “marketers are getting their money stolen”.

Liodice also signalled that the much-awaited ANA report on media transparency would be released in the coming weeks and discussed how the findings would be across two reports: one by K2, revealing media agency practices on rebates, credits and value banks; and the other by Firm Decisions, which will provide ways for clients to increase transparency across these areas. 

“Media transparency is an issue that has come to the forefront,” said Liodice. “It has been accelerated by conversations in the industry about what is the real issue? There are many points of view.”

Liodice went on to reveal that the report, which many had hoped would be delivered at the conference would be published in the coming weeks.

K2“In the relatively near term we are committed to doing a release in late spring,” he said.

“We have two reports that will come out. The first is by K2 which will focus in on the facts – what is real, what is not. And you should know this is a study that is being done through the interviews with major industry executives out there.

“Firm Decisions will also produce a companion report which will be focused on what marketers need to do in order to be able to minimise and mitigate the risks from (a lack of) media transparency.”

The head of the US advertiser association told the room consisting of many global clients of brands including Mondelez, Nestle, Pfizer and others, that he believed the K2 report would be the definitive work on rebates and other controversial agency practices.

“They are securing the documentation to prove what those facts might be,” he said. “It is done confidentially; we don’t even know who the people are who are being interviewed.”

Transparency 1“This is a black and white report that for us will be unassailable documentation of what truth is.”

Liodice said the Firm Decisions report would be a tool to help marketers address those areas but urged marketers to take responsibility for some of these issues themselves.

“(The Firm Decisions report) will be processes, principles, approaches in order to combat the situation. It will feed off the K2 report… and will help supplement it with a guide to what the market should do.

“But marketers must take responsibility for their own future. They need to ensure their financial mechanisms are in place. They need to understand everything in their contract.

Transparency 2
“We have found an uneven playing field for the marketers and a lot of this has come down to how the digital world has changed so quickly (and) a lot of marketers were not prepared for how quickly things changed (or) how to structure their contracts optimally.”

Liodice said marketers need the ability to track their supply chain on controversial areas such as programmatic.

“It is incumbent on them to get training, to understand the digital landscape, to understand how that all flows into their overall contracts and then make sure you have the ability to follow the money,” he said. “It’s really as simply as that.”

“If we do overcome these challenges there is opportunity, and more, to be enthused about the digital supply chain.”

Outside of media transparency, Liodice broke down his comments on key global priorities of ad fraud, adblocking and viewability:

Ad fraud 

Liodice urged all marketers globally to download the ANA White opps report which exposed how US marketers were losing US$6-$7bn – the amount having increased by $1bn in one year.

Adfraud 1
“That’s a lot of money,” he told the room. “We are starting to figure out how to filter out the bots from true human traffic but there are a lot of problems.

“Source traffic is still a problem and we have concerns about the high bot rates in programmatic. Adfraud awareness has improved but effective action is rare.

The ANA boss argued that even when marketers wanted to fix the area they were often unsuccessful.

Ad block 2
“In the White Ops Study we had 15 brand participants but only nine improved their ad fraud rates,” he explained. “That means that even though we may be aware we are not necessarily taking the decisive actions that are leading us to being better at addressing this.”

He also told the room marketers should demand more of agencies and partners in this space and look at third party verification options.

Ad Fraud 3
“Give agencies targets,” he said. “Marketers need to require transparency about source traffic. Source traffic is very complex but we need to be fundamentally aware of the risks involved.

“At the core, digital is now a key part of media plans. You shouldn’t be paying for this. Let all your supplier sin the supply chain know about your policies. Make them aware that you have an incredible focus on reducing fraud and leverage specific ad fraud technology.”

Ad Fraud 4
“Our recommendations are to authorise third party verification technology, specifically fraud prevention blocking bots, particularly in programmatic media.”


On the topic of adblocking, Liodice told the room: “This an area where we have shot ourselves in the foot.

“We have a substantial increase in adblocking activity and the trajectory is only increasing. The amount of global downloads of adblocking software continues to grow well beyond our capabilities right now.”

Ad block 1
Liodice went on to talk about the impact financially and in terms of reach. “The impact is quite substantial,” he said. “It was estimated in 2015 about $22bn of investments did not reach their intended targets (in the US) and that is expected to rise to $41bn.

“In 2015, the adblocking rate in the US is 15% and in Europe it is even higher, approaching 30%. It is extreme and it is growing.”

The ANA boss expressed concerns about the breakdown in the relationship between consumers and advertisers.

“This is a complicated issue. There are no easy answers to this,” he said. “Consumers are saying they do not want this relationship with advertisers and marketers.”

Ad block 2
“Pages filled (with ads), long load times, battery usage issues – we have made this issue for ourselves and now we are trying to unravel it.”

Ad block 3
The ANA is currently working on solutions to this and Liodice said he was pleased to see some publishers were taking the initiative. “First we are trying to figure out how to create a better user experience and share that with all the publishers,” he said.

“Publishers are also starting to effectively push back. They are trying to get consumers to understand that times have changed and that content is not free.

“If you want the content you have to pay for it. Either through advertising or through subscription. This is another global issue.”


Liodice noted that the US was leading the way in this space but added he believed many marketers were still paying for ads that were not seen by anyone.

“The important message here is that no one should be paying for ads that have zero opportunity to be seen,” said Liodice.

“When we are on a served ads capacity then marketers are paying for a third of ads that have zero opportunity to be seen. Zero. Nothing. No return on that investment.”

The US is already trading on a viewability standard and Liodice argued that he believed that they would soon get to a point where all ads paid for were guaranteed to have been seen by a consumer.

“Viewability is the currency by which we do business,” he said. Prior to 2014 it was based on served impressions but we are moving increasingly to a viewable impression that goes through filtration methods for inbound traffic.

“Hopefully then we will move, very soon, to this currency of human traffic that is completely viewable. A lot of work is being done in this area and it is a core priority for our industry.

“If you are buying ads based on served impressions you have the risk of buying ads that can’t be seen.”

Nic Christensen in Boca Raton


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