A huge initiative has taken place in the tech advertising world as the murky waters of digital advertising have become so muddied that the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) has stepped in and taken control. The IAB has introduced a ‘Gold Standard’ programme which launched on the 18th October aims to clean up digital advertising after ad fraud becomes poisonous to the digital world, with the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) stating shocking figures that the practice is “second only to the drugs trade” in terms of organised crime and amount of income accrued as a result. Ad fraud has consumed the tech world in the past several years, and costs brands millions each year, and according to the security company White Ops, costs the global advertising industry approximately $7 billion annually.
It works by tricking advertisers, or the brands, into paying for a service that becomes worthless to them such as fake leads, fake traffic, or misrepresented and ineffective ad placement. As an example of how it works, the oldest and most common type of ad fraud is ‘click fraud’ which creates false traffic through automated clicking programmes which essentially lead advertisers to believe people are clicking through to their site or product, and results in them paying for nothing. The fraudsters accrue the money by setting up false services (for example) that promise to generate leads for brands advertisements and then deploy technology to simulate site visitors, causing advertisers to pay their scammers for each individual click-through. Fraudsters can also create false sites that appear to have the right audience to place ads on, covering up an advert’s real URL and also hiding adverts at the bottom of pages or in minute amounts of pixels. These are all genuine ways in which scammers dupe advertisers out of millions every year – and business is booming.
The ‘Gold Standard’ aims to destroy this type of behaviour by signing up 23 IAB UK board members including Facebook, Google and Twitter to take three key actions to prevent it occurring in the future. As described by Marketing Week, these actions are as follows:
1. Reduce ad fraud by implementing the ‘ads.txt’ initiative on all sites carrying ads. This means publishers and distributors are forced to declare who is authorised to sell their inventory, thereby improving transparency for programmatic buyers.
2. Improve the digital advertising experience for consumers by adhering to the LEAN principles, the Coalition for Better Advertising standards and never using the 12 “bad” ads. In short, ads have to be light, encrypted and non-invasive.
3. Increase brand safety by working with UK body JICWEBS, which benchmarks best practice for online trading, with a view to become certified or maintain certification.
IAB’s chief digital officer Tim Elkington stated, “Everyone agrees that digital advertising standards need to improve to keep this industry sustainable and thriving. The IAB Gold Standard is a practical measure that demonstrates media owner commitment to making this happen.”
When discussing the seriousness of the issue and regarding getting law enforcement involved, Elkington commented, “At the moment, this is about getting companies to adhere to industry best practices. That’s not something that we need law enforcement to help with, it’s something we can proactively do ourselves,” he said, adding: “Further down the line, perhaps we might get to that point but at the moment it’s about trying to make sure we implement the basic things that really help.”
Huge companies such as Google and Facebook have allowed third-party verification to occur in previous months in order to verify ads and ascertain what is false and what isn’t, which should start to crack down on the fraud problem and begin to eliminate the fraudsters from.
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