More than two years into the global ad fraud scandal, how successfully is the industry solving the problem? And how can we make progress in today’s volatile environment given the significant shifts in priorities, budgets – and perspectives?
Two years ago, an Association of National Advertisers’ report shone a light on critical issues holding the digital media industry back globally. Its Media Transparency Initiative revealed a system of agency kickbacks and rebates stealing efficiency from digital ad buyers, while ad-tech platforms also stood accused of charging excess fees and giving poor control.
While the report was US-based, the issues have been global in scale. The last two years have been transformative for those involved in the digital media supply chain. Fraud, backhanders, data misuse, and loss of trust have been in the headlines, and leading players have taken significant steps to address them.
To this end, the ACCC has just launched a digital ad tech inquiry, following its digital platforms inquiry, which concluded last year. This new inquiry, which is currently seeking submissions, will focus on competitiveness, effectiveness, efficiency and transparency of suppliers of ad tech services, and ad agency services.
The inquiry hopes to uncover whether market participants have enough information to make informed choices about the use of ad agency and ad tech services, and whether competition and efficiency are being affected by supplier behaviour.
The way forward
Advertisers have become much more demanding buyers, heeding a number of best practices and insisting on only verified ad inventory, demanding viewability, and only buying when prices are fully transparent.
Many ad-tech platforms have pretended to move in exactly this direction, and some actually have. But relying on external agencies and/or various adtech suppliers is still leaving many ad buyers with a sense of inequity, and causing many to take their programmatic and buying in-house. In fact, Juniper research suggests the global cost of ad fraud will more than double to US$44 billion by 2022.
Australia is behind the rest of the world in that there’s not hard and fast legislation yet to prevent ad fraud. There’s ‘guidelines’ and ‘best practice’, and associations can only assist by lobbying to the Government or the ACCC and providing principles to follow.
And while many clients and buyers are agency-savvy and know to demand transparency, and some are taking it in-house, some are still a little lost when it comes to asking the right questions to get the best results from agencies and ads alike.
Fortunately, there are a number of organisations to help point buys and users in the right direction.
In 2018, the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA), the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), and Media Federation of Australia (MFA), released a set of digital practice guidelines which aim to define the areas of responsibility and requirements for all involved in digital advertising to improve the online consumer experience.
The 25-page guide covers digital transparency, viewability, ad fraud, and data protection, and aims to re-establish trust in the industry following the fraud scandals.
The fact is, advertisers and buyers should not have to wrestle with suppliers. They need to be empowered, and the best way of achieving this is by seeking out the support and collaboration of industry groups and specialist organisations for guidelines and best practice for media, agencies, and clients.
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