Fraud and viewability: could things be looking up?

Content Takeover Display Advertising

The past few years seem to have been full of doomsday reports concerning ad fraud and viewablity, but many industry insiders are predicting better times ahead.

From Google’s report that nearly half of ads don’t get seen to this year’s Ad Week panel that examined the billions of dollars in revenue advertisers are losing to bot fraud, news for display advertisers has been pretty grim the past few years. However, many like Greg Stuart, chief executive (CEO) of the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) believe that industry-wide cooperation to both battle ad fraud and reach accords on viewability standards is on the horizon.

“We’re seeing a big shift in the industry right now as bigger mobile media companies and marketers start to come to agreements,” Stuart says. “It’s taken a long time, but it does feel like we’re moving in the right direction.”

Viewablity rates may be improving

One indicator that viewability is moving in the right direction is that viewability rates seem to be on the upswing. The Media Rating Council (MRC) deems an ad viewable when 50 percent of its pixels are on a screen for one second. And despite reports that rates were at a standstill in 2014, David Gunzerath, senior vice president and associate director of the MRC, says ads in 2016 could bring an uptick.


“We think the long-term prognosis is that viewability rates should progressively climb over time as the importance of viewable ads increasingly takes center stage and all parties in the transaction stream strive toward achieving high levels of viewability,” Gunzerath says. “We do know that the measurements for viewability have improved significantly over the last 18-24 months, and better measurement allows for better strategies to optimize ad viewability rates.”

Now is the time for video

The MRC currently deems a video viewable if 50 percent of its pixels are viewable for two seconds, and though Google currently estimates that only half of videos are viewable, Stuart asserts that, even at that rate, video is a solid investment for advertisers.


“This year we did research measuring the value of mobile video to other media,” Stuart says. “And taking viewability rates at what they are, we still found that video is priced 50 percent less than what it’s worth. It was the most dramatic insight we saw, and as video gets better, value will only rise.”

And as the popularity of mobile video continues to increase, Gunzerath isn’t ruling out increasing viewability standards. “To get a better measure of mobile video outcomes, a longer time threshold may be necessary. Developing such metrics is part of our long-term roadmap,” he says.

Transparency is key to ending ad fraud

Non-human, or bot traffic has been a billion-dollar drain on the ad industry, but a new, two-part program by the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) could be the solution advertisers are looking for.

The first part of the program, called the “Verified by TAG Initiative” will attempt to register and identify legitimate ad providers, while the second part, Payment ID will block payment to fraudsters, according to Mike Zaneis chief executive of TAG.

“Advertisers need to know who their business partners are,” Zaneis says. “So TAG has created a program to do background checks. The Payment ID system will then follow the money through an ad campaign so we can make sure only legit vendors are getting paid and have a mechanism for shutting off the dollars. Through these initiatives, we’re removing the profitability of crime.”

New guidelines for protecting yourself


In addition to the Verified by Tag Initiative and the Payment ID system, advertisers can also take care to look work with MRC-accredited vendors, as well as familiarize themselves with recent updates to the Invalid Traffic Detection and Filtration Guidelines Amendment, which provide an industry-wide standard for fraud detection.

“We always encourage advertisers to become familiar with our guidelines,” Gunzerath says. “They help to better prepare advertisers to ask the right questions and enable them to achieve the maximum protection for their digital marketing investments.

Article images via Flickr.

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