Policing Digital Advertising Is a Shared Responsibility

29 Oct

digital media fraudIn a recent article in AdAge, author Ari Bluman addressed a handful of thought provoking questions regarding the challenges facing digital advertisers.  Entitled; “Is the IAB Doing Enough?” the challenges cited by Mr. Bluman range from the determination of relevant performance metrics to content piracy and fraud prevention.

The direct response with regard to the question on the IAB is that addressing the issues referenced in the article is an industry responsibility.  That includes first and foremost advertisers who are fuelling increases in digital spending, ad agencies who are responsible for placing and monitoring those investments and publishers who are selling inventory either directly and or indirectly to advertisers.

Beyond the “frontline” players, the IAB, ANA, AAAA’s, Media Ratings Council, Association of American Publishers and the Federal Communications Commission all have a responsibility in addressing the issues which plague one of the world’s fastest growing business segments… digital media advertising.  According to PQ Media, digital media spending “accounted for 58.7% of worldwide expenditures on overall digital and traditional media content & technology in 2012.”  In terms of the size of this market, analysts have projected that total digital spending could top $1 Trillion in spending in 2013 and will continue to grow at a 10.8% CAGR over the next five years.

One could argue that the industry is clearly “chasing its tail” on these issues, which should have been at the forefront of every stakeholder’s agenda when advertising investment began to flow into this fast growing media sector.  Yet, there have been a number of recent articles which suggest that not only does the industry not have a handle on the issues, but that too many participants actually profit from the reporting of fraudulent impressions and clicks.  It should be noted that many of these firms are members of the IAB and AAP, which is why relying solely on one or more of the industry associations would likely prove fruitless.

So just how pervasive are these issues?  Wenda Millard, President of MediaLink recently made the claim that a quarter of the online ad market is fraudulent.  Looking at just one segment of the digital marketplace, U.S. digital ad revenues, this would equate to $9.5 billion per year in “stolen [ad revenue]” according to Millard. 

Being responsive to shifts in consumer media consumption behavior is a good thing.  However, rushing headlong into an emerging media sector such as digital, without the regulatory oversight, controls, transparency and or technological safety nets is clearly not without its risks.

The key for the industry to work its way through the challenges embedded within the digital media marketplace can be summed up in one word, “accountability.”  Importantly, this must begin with advertisers and their willingness to link media investment levels to quantifiable audience delivery metrics and verification that what was planned, is aligned with the inventory that was purchased and that the value (qualitative and quantitative) of the media delivered is consistent with the amount being invoiced.  It is the advertiser community that must task agencies and publishers with fulfilling their fiduciary responsibilities and stewarding their media investments at each phase of the media investment cycle, from planning and placement to monitoring and auditing delivery.  In turn, agencies and publishers will place equal emphasis on accountability with their personnel and partners to insure the accuracy and efficacy of the digital media industry’s audience delivery claims. 

While there are clearly reasons to be concerned, there is also a significant opportunity to be realized by embracing digital media.  Perhaps In the words of Henry Tweedy, noted Congregationalist minister and professor; “Fear is the father of courage and the mother of safety.”  Let’s hope that the industry has the courage to address these issues in a unified manner, rather than simply passing the buck to one sector of the advertising supply chain.

Interested in learning more about safeguarding your digital marketing investment?  Contact Cliff Campeau, Principal at AARM at ccampeau@aarmusa.com for a complimentary consultation on the topic.

 

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