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Verification: Ensuring brand safety

Fraud and viewability are industry-wide concerns. With brands such as Unilever pushing digital spend to 20% as the company focuses on mobile advertising, the need to resolve the issue of bots in the industry is only going to increase. Brands need to ensure that the money they are spending on online and mobile advertising is delivering the expected ROI. If not, in a crowded market space, campaigns will be lost in the noise.

Although digital advertising provides brands with the opportunity to reach relevant audiences at scale, a growing industry means a growth in rogue traders and bot fraud. At the end of 2013, Incapsula suggested that 61.5 percent of all website traffic is now generated by bots, a 21 percent lift on 2012’s figures. It will be interesting to see the rise at the end of this year – it’s likely to have increased. With a recent Mercedes-Benz online advertising campaign being viewed more by fraudster robots than humans, companies need to ensure their brand safety. We believe the industry needs to eliminate rogue traders by aligning on verification and viewability to make sure brands see true ROI.

Cross device challenges

Cross-device targeting is on the rise with mobile advertising now making up 66 percent of Facebook’s total advertising revenue. Mobile optimisation is key for brands with over two thirds of UK adults increasingly becoming frustrated when they visit websites that aren’t mobile-ready, according to a study from the Internet Advertising Bureau and Kantar Media.

While cross-device targeting is important for brands to stay relevant, it is not without its challenges. Solve Media shows that suspicious web traffic from mobile devices grew by 30 percent in 2013. The amount of bot fraud in the industry is increasing. If brands don’t recognise and act on such issues, we can’t move forward and evolve as an industry.

The need for validation

Bots can mimic human behaviour, so they are difficult to detect. The activity generated by these bots complicates the engagement metrics driven by real, human traffic, decreasing the value of legitimate publisher inventory. As a result, advertisers end up paying a portion of their campaign budget to fraudsters who deliver ad impressions that never reach human eyes.

For ads to generate the results brands aim for, they have to be validated by a real human audience. Action to improve viewability must happen to ensure brands can reap the benefits.  According to comScore, Kelloggs saw a 75 per cent lift in sales by increasing viewability rates by 40 per cent. Brands should look at dwell time, shares and completion rates, to provide more information about the success of an ad than simple views.

The importance of the third party

Industry leaders need to proactively seek methods for verification and viewability so that brands get true value for money. There is an option to team up with companies such as Integral Ad Science who has partnered with Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings™ to power viewability measurement in markets around the globe to deliver high-quality, third-party, multi-screen metrics that enable fair play in advertising. In addition, companies such as Forensiq provide the tools to protect brands against high-risk traffic sources in order to eliminate fraud. We’re also seeing well-known publishers including the Guardian, Telegraph and Dennis working with Omnicom to drill into cross-device, digital ad effectiveness in a major project led by the Association of Online Publishers (AOP).

Aligning the industry

Brands want to know what online success really looks like. With rapid growth and developments in online advertising, the industry is dealing with resulting issues such as fraud, but this must be alleviated to move forward. The whole ecosystem from media companies, publishers, brands and agencies need to be aligned and clear on measurement. For a market that is growing rapidly and becoming more accountable, it is crucial that third parties and brands ensure that verification becomes an intrinsic part of activity and is not just seen as an add on. Trust and knowledge must be developed to ensure viewability figures are accurate and measurement is standardised, to guarantee brand safety within the industry.