Programmatic's Growth is Unstoppable if Everyone Works Towards Building More Trust

March 2015

Eventually it is expected that all media will be programmatically traded to some degree and digital display is growing exponentially. However, the problem of ad fraud needs a concerted industry approach across the ecosystem.

Programmatic ad buying is taking off and growing at an exponential rate.

The IAB predicts that when the figures for 2014 are collated 50% of digital display ads will have been bought programmatically. The association says this will grow to 75% in 2017.

These are big numbers and show a growing willingness for advertisers to experiment, test and learn with programmatic.

However, for investment to accelerate publishers and the ecosystem surrounding programmatic have to build more trust into the automated process.

Publishers, exchanges and agencies all have a responsibility to create a credible and working environment and fraud has to be weeded out. Bots, ads-within-ads and other sharp practice are the principle cause for concern.

Programmatic players discussed the challenges of non-human traffic (NHT) at Ad Week Europe 2015. The definition of automated ad fraud and what it means to different elements of the industry seems to be a big stumbling block in addressing the problem.

The IAB is coordinating a cross-industry group on fraud and working on a definition that can serve in measuring the problem — however, fraud itself keeps evolving. One of its goals will be to devise a form of certification that verifies a site is safe from fraud.

Steve Chester, director, data and industry programmes, IAB, explains: "It's about minimising fraud. It's not realistic to say that it will go away. There is some degree of 'caveat emptor' for the buyer and you should ask questions of your supply chain.

Tom Bowman, SVP of sales operations for BBC Worldwide, mentions that ad fraud is a big issue with premium publishers bearing the brunt of it "because that's where the money is" but adds that responsibility sits at every point in chain, likening ad fraud to a virus "that can be inoculated against."

Basic ground rules for trying to minimise exposure to fraud include actually trying to speak to the company you are buying inventory off and "if it is too cheap to be believable, it's probably fraud," reveals Edward Thomas, head of product at Accuen.

Thomas explains that there are real people behind the tags that send inventory into the system. One tactic is to check if they have a phone number and do they pick up a call quickly — "no salesman lets a phone ring".

The separate issue of a working, tradable metric for viewability is also a hot topic. The IAB recently issued guideline notes on this, but stresses that there "needs to be a benchmark for people to work from". It insists that its advice is not a trading metric — that is to say the viewability recommendations are not a basis on which to buy and sell inventory.

We have already conducted a study of our display advertising platforms, including DoubleClick, to better understand ad viewability.

Stats to absorb from this research include the figure that 56.1 per cent of impressions are not seen but average publisher viewability is 50.2%.

The key learning from the study is that page position and ad size are huge contributors as to whether an ad is seen and actually manages to register with the viewer.

Advertisers are looking for guidance and advice in how to work safely and successfully within the automated ad serving environment. Any partner that can help show them the real benefits to sales in terms of serving relevant ads to the consumer in the right context will be valued.