"Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by Hagai Shechter, CEO at Fraudlogix.
Transparency seems to be the mantra for ad fraud verification vendors and the value they’re bringing to the industry. However, marketers rarely ask for – and vendors rarely offer – information about why certain traffic is flagged as suspicious.
This is a multibillion-dollar industry, where vendor results and the subsequent decisions based on them have significant consequences. The industry needs to request more information about the reasoning behind the flags and vendors need to be more transparent.
With additional information, marketers have solid evidence to go back to the sell side and demand change, and the sell side has better information to use in order to improve. More detailed explanations will allow suppliers to accurately evaluate their inventory and their partners, providing marketers with higher-quality traffic.
In the fight against ad fraud, verification vendors cast their nets to catch the bad actors, but legitimate players are also getting caught up in the mix. Many vendors provide information on what was flagged as fraudulent, such as bots, sophisticated fraud or malware, but offer little to no detail about how they drew their conclusions. With no detailed explanations behind the flagged traffic, legitimate parties have little recourse.
Advertisers should be able to present more information to sellers to explain why they’re unwilling to pay for sold impressions, especially when one vendor is telling advertisers that certain traffic is invalid and another vendor is telling them it’s not. Doesn’t that inherently warrant further details about what caused a red flag to be thrown into the mix? Revenue is being lost and yearslong partnerships broken due to shrouded reasoning.
Marketers should push back for specific answers, but oftentimes they are not incentivized to. If they refuse to pay for ads deemed fraudulent, publishers will just accept it if they want to keep the sales contract.
Yes, there is fraud in advertising and a certain percentage of clawbacks are a factor, but it’s in marketers’ best interest to avoid contributing to unnecessary discrepancy issues. They should understand that by refusing to pay for possibly legitimate ads, they’re pushing CPMs higher on the traffic that vendors deem “good.” They’re not helping themselves by not asking questions.
Black-Box Metrics Are Driving The Industry
In the current ecosystem, verification companies and their reports are driving the industry. Advertisers make their buying decisions based on vendor results. Demand-side platforms (DSPs) then optimize their traffic to get the green light from the advertisers’ vendors, causing the sell side to optimize its traffic to remain partners with the DSPs.
Traffic volume is being reduced and, some could argue, CPMs inflated based on rulings by the verification vendors. The industry for the most part is blindly filtering traffic and foregoing any of its own quality metrics to match the metrics of the vendors. In some scenarios, whether or not an impression is valid is no longer the question – it’s whether it can get by vendor filters.
Change will only come when both sides of the industry realize that it’s in everyone’s best interest to demand more information. Marketers will be better informed when dealing with publishers and less likely to cause unnecessary discrepancies, and publishers will have the information they need to actually do something to reduce fraud.
Marketers should ask for the “how” and “why” behind their results, not just surface-level scores. Asking what caused certain traffic to be labeled fraudulent will keep marketers well-equipped to deal with partner negotiations and better informed when evaluating buys and performance.
For the sell side of the industry, asking these questions will give them the evidence they need to eliminate fraud and improve their traffic, not just optimize toward vendor scores.
I completely understand why vendors don’t want to share all of their information – you don’t want to give fraudsters a playbook. I get it. But giving a little more information to clients should not allow a fraudster to entirely circumvent detection capabilities. Vendors should know their clients well enough to trust that this info will not end up in the hands of the “bad guys.”
With so much on the line, there must be more transparency. Money is being lost to clawbacks and yearslong personal relationships are being stressed to their limit.
For an industry that is so analytical and deeply data-driven, it’s ironic that it’s not asking for more details when the data plays such an important role in buying decisions.