2018: The Year Marketers and Publishers Are Rewarded for Good Decisions
This year digital advertising investment grew to a high of $85 billion, up from $72 billion in 2016. At the same time, industry estimates of those dollars lost annually to digital advertising fraud have ranged from $6 billion to $16 billion.
What did we learn this year? First, digital ad fraud is too large of an issue to continue sweeping under the rug. This problem trumps all other digital issues as it impacts the downstream measurements that the industry uses to transact.
We also saw two major causes of ad fraud discussed more openly:
- Domain spoofing, which occurs when a marketer’s ad is placed on a fraudulent site after that site impersonates a legitimate publisher.
- Illegitimate traffic sourcing, which is when a legitimate publisher buys invalid traffic from a third party, thereby exposing advertising to that traffic.
Although marketplace understanding of digital advertising fraud increased, well-intentioned marketers and quality publishers—including AAM’s clients—have been negatively affected in this environment. Others continue to profit from the situation.
What will we learn in 2018? There’s some good news. As education and understanding of ad fraud continue to improve, there are also solutions to ad fraud problems that will begin to become mainstream. And when this happens, marketers and publishers won’t need to understand how ad fraud is committed. They will only need to know what they need to do to be rewarded with increased ROI (for marketers) and greater share of ad dollars (for publishers).
Two major solutions will become more mainstream in 2018 that will benefit marketers and quality publishers. They are separate solutions, that together, address two major causes of fraud: domain spoofing and illegitimate traffic sourcing.
- Greater adoption of ads.txt and ads.cert: The IAB Tech Lab initially developed ads.txt and is developing ads.cert in response to the spoofing problem. Ads.txt and ads.cert allow buyers to see if inventory is from a legitimate publisher and helps eliminate domain spoofing. The publisher must initiate this solution by simply adding code, and buyers must check for the solution to be effective.
- Movement toward independently audited digital publishers: The Association of National Advertisers asked AAM to develop a new digital publisher audit to have assurance through third-party verification. A publisher audit, also known as AAM Quality Certification, gives marketers more confidence that their ads are seen by legitimate, human audiences, and gives quality publishers the credit they deserve in a sea of millions of sites.
The two solutions work hand-in-glove. Ads.txt minimizes the flow of ads to fraudulent sites, and AAM Quality Certification ensures that the flow of ads to legitimate sites reach a quality audience.
Both solutions require marketer action. Some marketers have begun asking their agencies and publishing partners to adopt the new solutions. Marketers will unite in driving these solutions into standard practice in 2018.
Both solutions require publisher action. Many quality publishers, those who do all the right things to produce quality audiences and protect their advertisers, have begun implementation to get ahead and show their leadership.
As both solutions move toward greater market adoption in 2018, marketers will finally begin to get the digital assurance that they deserve. And good, quality oriented publishers will get the credit they deserve as advertising increasingly flows their way.
2017 was about industry understanding and solution development. 2018 is about action and solution adoption.