Why Independent Verification Can Put An End To Ad Fraud

March 21, 2017

It’s been an interesting week for the digital video industry, with several brand advertisers voicing concerns about ad fraud and brand safety and pulling their video advertising campaigns from various channels. I can’t say that I found this a surprise. A few major players in the industry have long taken the position that they are platforms, not media publishers and broadcasters, which means that the content on their platforms can’t be viewed in the same way as, for example, content from a TV broadcaster.

I attended the AdWeek Europe Channel4 breakfast this week and the panel discussion quickly moved onto this very topic. Jonathan Allan (Channel4), Daniel Creed (Santander), Sally Silver (Amplifi) and Tim Hussain (Ebiquity) were the panel tasked with bringing some sense to the debate about ad fraud and brand safety.

Sally, Tim and Daniel all agreed on the need for a common standard for basic metrics such as viewability but Jonathan made a strong case that the metrics needed to be consistent and could not just be created by each advertiser separately. I agree, whilst the target for a given campaign can differ (brand, response, interaction, reach, etc.) the definitions of those metrics need to be consistent so that all parties in the interaction can agree on how a campaign has performed. Jonathan also pointed out that if a brand advertiser just looks at costs then this can lead to advertising appearing where it shouldn’t because, unsurprisingly, content created in a multimillion pound studio is unlikely to be of the same calibre as content created in a kitchen on a webcam.

I have sympathy for the industry players that are platforms rather than media owners. For example, Facebook recently won their case in Germany against a Syrian refugee on that basis. However, the obvious consequence of such a position is that advertisers cannot view these companies as a regular publisher or broadcaster. If they really are platforms for other publishers and broadcasters (micro publishers) then it is those micro publishers who need to be verified and assessed. Either that, or these companies must decide that they are a publisher/broadcaster and to start editing and vetting content – but that would be a mammoth task and a fundamental change to their business model.

This very issue is why Innovid partners with third parties on verification and measurement instead of incorporating these capabilities into our product offerings and business model. We incorporate genuinely independent third party verification and advanced audience analytics from a range of industry leading partners (DV, MOAT, IAS, Nielsen, ComScore and others) and we do so, as far as we are permitted by the platforms and publishers, across an entire video campaign and without requiring multi-tagging. We would very much support an agreed standard, to be implemented by those verification partners, that all parties would accept but at least the majority of our customers are already getting some protection from the more egregious threats to their ad spend budgets and brand reputation.

In light of the concerns this week and the recent campaigns being pulled, I would strongly suggest that anyone delivering video advertising do so using an industry standard video marketing solution that properly integrates with verification technology, such as the Innovid Video Marketing Platform. Given the complexity and speed of innovation, there is a need for the most open and transparent solutions; providing a best-in-class solution for advertisers and maximizing their ability to reach their audience.

At Innovid, we’ve long been advocates of independent verification. Single solutions can often be interpreted as a student marking their own paper, especially if the measurement results don’t provide the necessary level of transparency. At the same time, we know that brands and agencies find digital video already overcomplicated and the last thing they want is to have to incorporate yet more tags and technology to get campaigns live.

Matt Colebourne is the Managing Director of Innovid EMEA and a veteran of the digital advertising industry since 1997.