Last year, the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) said that ad fraud could be the second biggest organised crime enterprise behind the drug trade. What’s even more concerning is that there is still no hard-and-fast rule as to who is accountable for this issue.  

Recently, some light was shed on certain supply-side platforms (SSPs) which were reselling inventory or misstating which publishers they represented. This sort of activity makes the supply chain more opaque and creates another ad tech tax for buyers.

The WFA claimed the total cost of fraud – if left unchecked – could exceed $50 billion by 2025. While this figure may seem too big to be accurate, it simply reflects the hard truth that fraud will continue to grow unless there is an industry-wide response to the issue.

In order to clear the murky waters of the advertising ecosystem, stakeholders must join forces to demand greater accountability, transparency and standardisation across the industry to combat the costly, and sometimes reputational, damages bad practice is causing organisations.

Routine check-ups

The advertising space is well overdue a check-up and everyone in the industry can contribute in identifying and fixing any issues that have arisen.

The exchanges, for instance, with the most access and control of all, should monitor new publishers signing up. Sandals Resorts and Marie Curie recently joined Jaguar Land Rover in withdrawing all online ad campaigns following the revelation that they had inadvertently advertised by publishers alongside inappropriate content.

In order to solve these problems, publishers must be clear in contracts about how vendors utilise their inventory. In addition, it’s imperative that publishers set rules and regulations, similar to that of the finance industry, to prevent and monitor fraud levels and sneaky bot activity.

Controlling the buying side

In addition to improvements being made on the supply side, demand-side platforms (DSPs) need to be certain they are representing quality advertisers who actually serve the ad they say they have.

DSPs must take on the responsibility to check that ads from their clients don’t contain malware that could result in an annoying, and potentially security-threatening, downloads. They must be sure they deliver the ad creative as requested by the publisher, and that they deliver the advertiser identified, not a redirect to some unknown advertiser. Besides, DSPs should always share information such as abnormal click activity that links back to a specific publisher with their exchange partners, to add yet another layer of protection.

Advertisers also must be held responsible for ensuring that they’re building and managing reputable ad creative. In order to combat fraud, it’s essential they monitor post-campaign data, focusing on where they’re serving ads and looking at the price points. And they must demand accountability and ROI from every vendor and everyone in their supply chain.

Breaking eggs

Navigating the programmatic landscape requires careful mapping and monitoring. Bridges must be burned if it comes to your attention that a particular exchange continues to do business with a bad actor, even though you’ve previously notified them and shown them evidence. Turn has stood its ground with this value and paused or even terminated exchanges where the level of quality has been drawn into question.

This kind of due diligence requires a helping hand. For most of the industry, and as Marc Pritchard recently emphasised, accredited third-party verification must become an expectation placed upon every media supplier including publishers. Independent verification technologies, such as DoubleVerify’s, give brands assurance that blacklist strategies take bad actors into account through advanced fraud solutions.

Back to school

Education of the rights and wrongs, dos and don’ts plays a big role in making advertising a more transparent place. Training, monitoring and reporting give marketers a clear view of ad safety and context.

Sandals Resorts, Marie Curie and Jaguar Land Rover had one concern. Tomorrow there may be a new one, so it’s key that advertisers work with ad tech partners who are committed to ensuring they are operating in a quality and transparent space and are quick to raise any red flags.