You Might Be Wasting Your Media Budget

The latest research estimates more than $68 billion will be lost globally to digital advertising fraud in 2022. If your CFO asks whether your current efforts protect your company against ad fraud, how confident are you in your answer?

Whether you buy media internally or with an outside agency, it’s incredibly important to understand the risks and safeguards to protect your media spend and the best gameplan to ensure your media buys are efficient and effective.

Today’s Gameplan to Protect Against Fraud

Marketers use a mix of technology and manual steps to protect against fraud. They often build inclusion lists with the goal of running ads that are viewable, brand-safe, not fraudulent and reach their audience at the lowest possible price. To do so, marketers may:

• Find brand-safe sites through contextual targeting tools, or visit the sites themselves

• Check for transparent sellers by using tools like ads.txt or TAG certifications

• Detect invalid traffic with MRC-accredited ad verification

• Monitor performance to continue cultivating and refining the list

These steps for building a safe inclusion list are all based on what can be seen from the advertiser’s perspective. This makes sense because advertisers are concerned about valid, targeted ad placements. These tools, however, don’t necessarily provide a full view of publisher transparency. 

Gaps in Publisher Quality

Using vendors for anti-fraud and brand safety are helpful, but there may be issues related to publisher quality that go undetected. Advertiser-side capabilities only see one side of the equation and might not consider the quality of a publisher’s business practices, audience or content. There are examples of marketers’ ads running in unintended places, even when some of these tools are used.

• A CNBC reporter ran an experiment in which she created a site, copied her own content, plugged into SSPs and ran ads. The experiment demonstrates how easy it is for a site to earn advertising revenue off scraped content.

• Clickbait or “made-for-advertising” sites typically buy their traffic through sponsored posts on other publishers’ sites. They aim to earn more in ad revenue than what they pay for traffic. These sites are typically heavy on ads and light in quality content. Their content and experience are often not suitable for blue-chip advertisers that frequently appear on these sites.

• Publishers can also look high quality but may be sourcing undetected, invalid traffic. In 2017 Buzzfeed News reported that Ozy Media bought fraudulent traffic. In 2021, The New York Times reported on widespread issues in the media company, including inflating audience size. For years, advertisers using fraud detection solutions invested in Ozy Media and likely spent money on invalid traffic.

While these are just three examples of sites where advertisers might not want their ads, they represent a larger issue: publishers need to be vetted further to ensure they have quality business practices, audiences and content. There are other signals to identify quality publishers for your inclusion list.

Evolve the Gameplan to Work with the Highest-Quality Media

In addition to the steps you’ve taken from the advertiser view, it is important to update your framework to minimize your risk of fraud from the publishers’ view. Expand the scope of publisher quality and build your inclusion list from what you can see on the advertisers’ and publishers’ sides. Together, using industry tools available from both perspectives, it’s possible to separate the universe of publishers that invest in high-quality advertising environments from those that don’t.

Here is a checklist of steps:

View

Area

Question

Advertiser

Business Practices

Do the publishers have an ads.txt file? Are your partners actively using it?

Advertiser

Business Practices

What TAG certifications do your partners have?

Publisher

Business Practices

Are the publishers using Trust.txt?

Advertiser

Audience

Are you using MRC-accredited ad fraud detection?

Publisher

Audience

Is the publisher audited by the Alliance for Audited Media (AAM)?

Advertiser

Content

Did you visit the site?

Publisher

Content

Does the content meet industry standards (e.g., GARM, Journalism Trust Initiative)?

Publisher

Content

What is their rating on news rating services (e.g., NewsGuard, Ad Fontes)?

To learn more about solutions to build a safer inclusion list, register for our upcoming webinar on Thursday, June 23 at 1 pm ET. It’s free for IHAF members and non-members to attend. A unique opportunity to learn and pose questions to the experts at the Alliance for Audited Media (AAM).

Recent Posts

Roundtable Recap: The More You Know

June 27, 2022

  • by IHAF Staff

While not all in-house agencies are alike, they certainly have a lot in common! In fact, this year’s IHAF discussion group series—held weekly from May through early June—had us sharing common issues and some uncommon solutions, with members gaining insights from one another.

Each virtual …

Read Moreright arrow

SAG-AFTRA Contract Changes—What You Need to Know

June 13, 2022

If you’re a producer, advertiser or keep up with industry news, you likely heard that a few months ago, SAG-AFTRA and the Joint Policy Committee (JPC) came to an agreement on a new Commercials Contract—and even though it’s good news for actors, it means even more costs for advertisers. 

It goes …

Read Moreright arrow