Linda Woolley To Head Cross-Industry Fraud-Fighting Unit

LindaWoolleyTAGLinda Woolley wants TAG to have teeth in the fight against online ad fraud.

The Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) is part of a cross-industry coalition composed of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the Association of National Advertisers (which launched its own anti-fraud initiative with White Ops in July), and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). The group, first announced back in September during Advertising Week, plans to join forces in an effort to combat ad fraud, ad-supported piracy and malware.

Woolley, the former head of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), was revealed Monday as TAG’s president and CEO, and she told AdExchanger that she won’t shy away from making the group into an enforcement agency. She added that although trade associations generally try to please their members, TAG will crack down on those who aren’t compliant.

“We’ll have real enforcement teeth,” she said. “The CEOs of all three associations have said that this is an important project and that they’re okay to let the chips fall where they may.”

For the moment, that would mean naming names by publicly calling out the bad actors. TAG will likely operate as a certification and monitoring body, along the lines of what the Media Rating Council does for measurement, with the hope that advertisers can ultimately use the TAG certification “as a way to identify who to do business with,” Woolley said.

“If I’m a big advertiser and my reputation is on the line, do I want to be working with companies that haven’t been verified and don’t have a seal of approval?” she said. “At the very least it would hopefully force the question: Why don’t you have certification, and is the reason due to ignorance or is it something malicious?”

During her presidency at the DMA, Woolley, who is also a lawyer, spent a fair deal of time reacting to the federal government’s recent criticism of data-driven marketing and defending the responsible use of customer data for marketing purposes. TAG is still deciding whether to form a lobbyist arm in DC to push legislation to criminally punish ad fraud. Right now, it’s focusing on self-regulation.

TAG has been in conversation with many of the big vendors in the ad fraud detection and verification space over the last several months, Woolley said. Those chats will continue as TAG works on setting up its governance and creating a field program to manage what will become its monitoring service, the details of which most likely won’t be made public.

“Criminals are always in the game of staying one step ahead of the sheriff,” Woolley said. “That’s part of why we’re not going to say too much about what the monitoring looks like in terms of actual technical solutions.”

In addition to ironing out certification requirements, TAG will be incorporating the IAB’s quality-assurance guidelines – which act as a sort of contract of trust between buyers and sellers – and the IAB’s anti-fraud principles, once the comment period on the final draft of that document ends in December. 

An anti-malware group within TAG will be coming up with principles over the next three to four months, and an anti-piracy group is working on its own series of principles this month that should be ready for primetime in Q1 2015.

As to what TAG will focus on as the highest-priority issue – ad fraud, piracy or malware – Woolley sees them all as going hand-in-hand.

“One of the ways fraud is perpetrated is through bots and malware, so there’s a linkage there, and transparency is also a huge issue because buyers and sellers don’t have it in their transactions – and that also leads to all kinds of fraud,” Woolley said. “Bad actors set up phony URLs or ad domains to perpetrate fraud, and that typically is connected to piracy. A lot of what we’re doing is following the money. That’s a tried-and-true way of rooting out crimes.”

In addition to her time at the DMA, Woolley was a founding member of the Digital Advertising Alliance, the self-regulatory group that enables consumers to opt out of behaviorally targeted advertising, and served on the board of the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council between 2012 and 2014.

 

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