Over the past few weeks there have been several articles in circulation on the topic of claimed internet fakery. The various complaints included metrics, non-human audiences, illegitimate content, counterfeit inventory and overall lack of trust. While some of these issues are certainly a growing concern, it’s important to provide a fulsome picture of the facts. In many cases, we have seen overstatements and fear-mongering contributing to some of the emerging narratives. Most importantly, it is important to be aware of action that is being taken to have a better understanding of how the industry is addressing emerging realities of digital media.
While many of the claims are directed towards specific publishers and platforms, in analyzing the concerns, IAB Canada, consistent with its mandate to support a safe online advertising supply chain, is responding from a broader industry perspective.
The issues are evolving topics of discussion and will be analyzed on an on-going basis. Please see our current responses to the issues at hand, below:
Tackling Fake Metrics – IAB Tech Lab Collaboration with MRC
For years, IAB has worked closely in the US with the 4A’s and the ANA in support of all Media Rating Council (MRC)endeavours. MRC conducts audits and awards accreditation of individual US and global internet measurement platforms, technology providers and advertising vendors such as social media.
The MRC continues to work on advancing standards for reliable accurate audience measurement, as amplified by its October 2018 announcement of an “extension to the grace period for MRC accredited digital services to become compliant with the new “Begin to Render” requirements of the updated digital Ad Impression Measurement Guidelines, released in October 2017 as a result of MRC’s collaboration with the IAB Tech Lab’s Modernizing Measurement Task Force”.
IAB Canada continues to urge the industry to ensure each partner in the supply chain is accredited and compliant with IAB standards which include adherence to MRC measurement guidelines.
An additional great resource on the subject of metrics, is the IAB global “Advertising Quality Measurement Buyer’s Guide & Checklist”, which defined Ad Quality Metrics as a “Holistic 3-part Approach where advertisers expect their ads to be: 1) viewable, 2) displayed next to brand-appropriate content (i.e. brand safety), and 3) seen by real people (i.e. fraud-free)”.
Non-human Audiences – A Dying Population
At the IAB Canada Data event in November 2018, global ad verification provider Integrated Ad Science (IAS) presented their definition of ad fraud as “any impression resulting from a deliberate activity that prevents the proper delivery of ads to real people at the right time, in the right place resulting in financial or opportunity loss by the advertiser and/or publisher in a particular transaction”.
There are varying reports on the level of ad fraud in Canada. By all accounts, the exposure is significantly lower in Canada. Three IAB Canada members reported:
comScore reports Canadian ad fraud at 4% for Desktop Display in Q2, 2018.
Moat reports 3.4% for Desktop Display, 3.2% for Desktop Video / Mobile Web Display and 2.4% for Mobile Web Video. Mobile In-App ad fraud is much lower at 0.9% for Display and 0.5% for Video (Q2, 2018).
IAS reported dramatic differences during First Half 2018, for Canadian campaigns optimized against ad fraud relative to global non-optimized campaigns – for example, Desktop Video: 9.5%/non-optimized versus 0.7%/optimized. This is consistent with IAB global findings that indicate the power of adopting tools to mitigate exposure to fraudulent inventory.
Much has been done to address non-human traffic and those members who are participating in programs like Ads.txt and TAG are seeing results. In November 2018, TAG released its annually updated Fraud Benchmark Study, “focused on discovering whether rates of general invalid traffic were lower in TAG Certified Channels (i.e. channels in which multiple entities involved in the transaction – such as the media agency, buy-side platform, sell-side platform and/or publisher – had achieved the TAG Certified Against Fraud Program) in comparison to the industry average. The 2018 study which measured over 75 billion impressions – a 12x increase over the 2017 study – consisting of display and video on desktop, mobile web and in-app, found a 1.68% overall fraud rate vs. 10.43% industry average, representing an 84% reduction in fraud through TAG Certified Channels”. This finding is directionally consistent with prior year findings in TAG’s December 2017 Fraud Benchmark Study of predominantly desktop display traffic. See the executive summary for TAG’s founding, mission and Certified Against Fraud Program.
Illegitimate Content – Global Brand Safety Initiatives
IAB Canada is currently conducting its second annual Brand Safety Barometer Report to be released in late February 2019. The 2018 report showed brand safety as a primary concern to our members and in response, our Agency Council released the Best Practices for Brand Safety and Viewability guidebook and conducted several workshops on Brand Safe Campaign Management.
Globally, IAB also works with the 4’As and ANA with the MRC on Brand Safety Initiatives. In September 2018, the MRC issued the final version of its Supplemental Guidance on Content Level Context and Brand Safety Ad Verification. “The Supplement outlines new requirements for ad verification practices related to brand safety that now include consideration of an ad’s proximity in relation to discrete pieces of content, in addition to the requirements of prior Guidelines, which addressed these issues only at the broader domain, site, or URL levels; purpose – to address the more complex brand safety issues that have become prevalent in today’s online environments, including in-application environments, where advertising often exists alongside both curated and User-Generated Content (UGC)”.
Counterfeit Inventory – Protocols & Networked Approaches
In response to counterfeit inventory, IAB TechLab introduced the publicly available, anti-domain spoofing script, Ads.txt (Authorized Digital Sellers) Well-known, and adopted within North America, when enabled on a website, Ads.txt permits advertisers to know a publisher’s approved sellers of inventory offered on ads.txt-compliant DSPs (demand-side platforms) – and thereby block illegitimate resellers from campaigns. ‘Index Exchange’ advised us that over 95% of the domains they work with in Canada have an ads.txt file deployed (as of Nov 2018). In addition to, IAB is working on mobile specs to extend the original ads.txt standard to address authorized sellers of ad inventory in mobile apps. A big step forward for the industry.
In September 2017, US-based TAG (Trustworthy Accountability Group), which the IAB stands in support of, released its US benchmarking study entitled: “Measuring digital advertising revenue to infringing sites” conducted by Ernst & Young LLP (EY), “gauging the impact of digital piracy and the effectiveness of quality control in the US market”. The study found that >1% of total digital ad revenue was diverted by piracy and that “quality control steps such as appropriate language in insertion orders, use of ad verification vendors and lists to block undesirable sites” kept an additional amount out of money out of pirate pockets. These are important considerations when planning digital campaigns.
IAB Canada has also formed an anti-fraud committee to specifically address the protection of content produced by Canadian publishers. We except to see some industry guidance throughout the year.
If you have any questions on any of these topics or would like to join any of the committees working on outputs that address these issues, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com