January 04, 2020

by Dave Morgan

What would the industry do if it heard almost a fourth of Nielsen’s panel were bots: frauds, robotic fictions, not real people?

Folks would be up in arms. We’d probably see stories in the ad trades calling for Congressional investigations, and networks and agencies would suspend their payments for the ratings.

Don’t worry. It’s a rhetorical question. Nielsen does NOT have a panel bot problem.

Juxtapose the anticipated rabid reaction to that hypothetical problem with the tepid industry reaction to research from Pixalate telling us 22% of the programmatic ad delivery on OTT (over-the-top) and CTV (connected TV) today is fraudulent.

What gives?

How come most folks yawn (or avert their eyes) when you talk about the clear, unmistakable problems of fraud and opacity in digital?

No one is yelling to the rooftops about the impenetrability of determining provenance, value and accuracy in data used in digital ad targeting, a multibillion-dollar market — especially when the data sometimes represents 80+% of the raw cost of a targeted digital ad campaigns.

Why? Because many in the ad industry hold new, buzzy digital channels to different standards than they do legacy media.

That needs to change. Digital advertising in the U.S. now receives more spend than any other channel, including TV, and there is no question that building trust and transparency in digital ad data and in OTT/CTV needs to be front and center.

What can be done? Here are some of my thoughts on where we can start:

Simplify the targeting data story. We may not understand meteorology and the science behind it, but we all know how to talk about sun, wind, rain and snow.
Meanwhile, much of what happens around data and targeting is purposefully complex. Just look at how much of it is communicated in acronyms, not words.

Ask hard questions about how shareholders’ money is being spent. This is not just about relationship management. This is about spending shareholders’ money.

Folks buying targeted ad campaigns need to ask (and have answered) key questions like: How do I know the data is correct? Where it came from? How it was manufactured? Did the data/targeting add value? Was the price fair, at market? Who made money on the impression? Who made money on the data? And, how many “daisy chains” did each go  through? Uncomfortable questions to ask partners and suppliers for sure -- but essential.

Do it now, before that targeting data “black hole” invades TV ad budgets through OTT and CTV. There's no question digital ad approaches are going to remake and revolutionize TV. That's a great thing. Advertising on OTT and CTV will be big parts of that future. However, let’s take the good and leave the bad behind. Let’s have a future of fewer, more relevant ads, with no fraud and no opacity. That will lead to happy viewers, profitable publishers and profitable, growing advertisers.

Get involved in the ANA Trust Consortium. The Association of National Advertisers is taking the lead here. These are the kinds of issues that they’re trying to tackle. Help them and help yourselves and be part of the process.

What do you think? Do we hold digital ad platforms like targeting data, OTT and CTV to different standards than we hold Nielsen and TV?

Appeared first in Mediapost

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