Stepping Up to the Plate on Trust and Transparency

wknapp // April 12, 2017

baseball diamond
It’s time for the industry to get serious about independent anti-fraud certification.

The business of marketing and its sibling advertising have been central to business growth and success for as long as we’ve been a consumer-driven economy; which is to say a really long time.

The Takeaway

Why have so few supply-side participants completed 3rd party anti-fraud audits? Why have so few gone through the certification process? Why aren’t more of the largest online marketers and advertisers voting with their dollars and demanding certification? It’s time for all participants in the advertising supply chain to step up to the plate.

With each wave of new advertising or marketing technology, the opportunity has always existed for some to game, defraud, or simply take advantage of others in order to make a quick buck. Our industry is not immune as Rob Norman recently pointed out:

“Programmatic is flawed if it uses bad data, accesses bad inventory or is deployed without foresight and without rules that keep brands and consumers safe. But programmatic technologies are doing far more good than bad; without it, brands simply cannot find their target audiences. This is true today and will be even truer tomorrow, and history shows that industries cannot resist automation.”

Certain individuals and certain nefarious businesses have clearly enriched themselves by doing bad things. And in the end, they’ve never built anything that endures, much less hit the mark of creating a customer.

The pursuit of authentic consumer attention is what every marketer is after. Our collective efforts to build a trusted and transparent supply chain from the consumer and content through to an intended action have never seen more potential – yet, when we look hard enough, it’s clear that we’re still falling short of the mark. The question is: why? And what can we do about it?

Opportunity: Verified Trust.
Trust is something one earns over time. It starts by being truthful and transparent. And the only way to know if something is truthful is when it’s verified either directly or via an accredited independent 3rd party.

A few years back Tom Phillips and John Battelle brought a concerned group together at the IAB Annual Leadership meeting. That fateful lunch sparked a series of events that would give way to the influential TOGI (Traffic of Good Intent) working groups at the IAB. I was asked to serve as co-chair to the Solutions Group where we laid the groundwork for what eventually would become the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG).

This work accomplished 3 vitally important steps:

  1. We developed a clear set of definitions for what constitutes online advertising fraud.
  2. We documented a set of best practices for identifying and eliminating this traffic.
  3. We outlined a verification process that would require accredited 3rd party audits.

The first two were simply table-stakes. The third step is the real teeth from my perspective.
Shortly after we completed our work at the IAB, TAG was formed as a truly independent entity with deep legal expertise and, importantly, cross-industry support. TAG has built on the IAB’s work and followed through with the critical verification step of 3rd party audits.
Why then, have so few supply-side participants completed these 3rd party audits? Why have so few gone through the certification process? And why aren’t more of the largest online marketers and advertisers voting with their dollars and following the lead of P&G’s Marc Pritchard? He is demanding that “any entity touching digital media must get TAG-certified during 2017 to help ensure they are free from fraud.”
Opportunity: Measurement that Matters.
Clearly, as an industry, we can count. Instead of being fixated on vanity KPIs, let’s finally turn the page on the lowly “impression” and focus on metrics that matter: consumer engagement, context, and the outcome of that consumer attention. Viewability is the first step down this road, but just that, a first step. The next step is Time. Time + Viewability is edging closer. Lastly, we move on to Engagement. Each of these steps can be verified and validated with industry standards, data, and transparent reporting. There is absolutely no reason to not expose the entire supply chain to accredited 3rd party measurement of these metrics.
Step up to the plate:
I’m the CEO of a mid-sized and growing business. We have roughly 250 employees and have been consistently profitable for the past couple of years. More importantly, we work with thousands of professional independent publishers representing tens of thousands of interesting and engaging websites and reaching nearly a billion consumers each month. We made the right decision to tackle multiple independent 3rd party audits and accreditations across our entire network because we know that this is the absolute best way to ensure our publisher partners get the money they deserve for their work.
Any responsible supply-side participant that drags their feet or ignores these industry requirements is doing nothing more than leaching from the common asset of consumer trust. Any marketer or advertiser that doesn’t vote with their wallets is just feeding the problem. This is within our control to solve, so let’s get on with it already.

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