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Where does the onus of badvertising lie?

During a panel discussion at Kyoorius Melt, advertisers and tech providers discussed the issues of ad frauds, brands safety and badvertising. Asking marketers to be smart with their investment in third-party platforms and tools, the panel concluded the need for a unified standardized measurement tool for digital.

Advertisers, globally, are bleeding of digital ad frauds, bots traffic and fake users. A major concern for brands is where to put in money and who to hold responsible for inflated campaign numbers. 

Termed as badvertising, digital ad frauds can jeopardize the entire digital ad journey of a brand.

At the recently held Kyoorius Melt, a panel comprising of Kushal Sanghvi, Business Head, Reliance Entertainment and Digital, Manav Sethi, Group Chief Marketing Officer, Eros International, and Jahid Ahmed, Head Digital Marketing, HDFC Bank discussed badvertising issues.

Moderated by Dhiraj Gupta, Co-Founder, mFilterIt, the panel further dived into the whole ecosystem of digital ad frauds and brand safety.

For a bank like HDFC wherein its 80% spend is on digital and digital is important to measure the performance and brand visibility, the major concern is where the money is going if the outcome is not measured properly, shared Ahmed during the discussion. 

“Digital, unlike traditional media, is fragmented not only in the way content is being consumed, but the way ad is being served on each of the platforms. So what is the viewability definition? YouTube, FB, OTT all have their definitions and scale. Who is viewing my ads? Is it a bot or a human? If my ad is happening, who is helping me to give me a unified measurement platform?  There are other tools coming in and are expensive. So how do I move beyond the walled gardens of all the digital platforms, and who would give me a unified campaign measurement tool,” added Ahmed.

When the online traffic is compared, bots have already overtaken human traffic. There is a necessity to set standards that help understand viewability, making sure that the performance or the ad spends is correctly measured.

Sanghvi said that almost 50% of all traffic on the digital space is through bots, which means brands won’t even realize whether the traffic was driven by bots or its TG. Advising marketers, he said they have to invest in technology that has some sort of artificial intelligence mechanism, which understands subscribers.

Ahmed, quoting examples from his experience, shared that during an app registration campaign, where the company had wanted verified lead, bots had cracked the eligibility of being a verified lead too. When registration of the app was evaluated where the tool was imperative, it came out that 15% of the registration was bots. "Bots had the knowledge of making the first transaction also. Fraudsters have managed to fake sales, fake registration, fake phone calls also," he said.

Where does the onus of ad frauds lie?

Sethi shared that if looked at the industry verticals, the inhuman traffic, downloads, fake impressions have permeated so much across the spectrum. He asked if there are ad frauds happening and publishers taking part in any of the campaigns, where does the onus of badvertising lies?  Is it on the publisher? Is it on the algorithms? Or is it on the advertiser?

He further added, “From the theoretical standpoint, as a marketer, why should I, as an advertiser really be implementing the anti-fraud solutions, when at the end of the day, I'm paying publisher to run my ad, defining where my TG is, and telling where the ad has to be run. So those filters, those checks, those lenses have to be either at the publisher’s end, or a network’s end. As an ecosystem, the responsibility has to be shared where money is being spent.”

It is impossible for a human to manage the motion of digital spread. That’s when a lot of machine comes into play ensuring that ads are being served in the right way. But why marketers should take care of the onus of ad frauds, if he is responsible for the creative, the budget, and then to get the tool, and then to ensure that the tool is leveraged properly?

Gupta shared that the platforms should make sure that there is someone who's independently neutrally tracking frauds and reporting to brands since they are spending money. Otherwise, brands might end up wasting a lot of money, assuming that platform is getting leads, sales, registrations, which is obviously good for the numbers, but not necessarily good for business.

Sanghvi was of the viewpoint that no third party platform is trustworthy. Advised marketers should instead put some core marketing budget on the measurement tools. He added that there are platforms where publisher partnerships take place, so brands can actually ask for a solution, which is kind of third-party validated, and have end to end seamless integration. So programmatically, it's sort of all tuned in the system as well.

People expect more from digital, more transparency, and more measurement. The key USP of digital is that it is measurable. So when people are open to digital, it's very important to understand what's next. Next is to get the right measurement tools. It makes sense to invest 5%- 6% of the marketing budget for building the tools and to get more accurate reports, to invest in these tools and have a better measurement of the campaign to get more accurate numbers, shared Ahmed.

“In upcoming times, marketers will have to be much smarter. Big brands had taken a call on YouTube in the past to look at their brand safety guidelines. As an ecosystem, it is the responsibility on the various stakeholders of the ecosystem to raise the standard,” shared Sethi.

The panel concluded that brands including marketers should use common sense since there is a lot of data, a lot of tools. Look at timestamps, look at user ratings. Look closely to find patterns of bots and frauds since they leave indicators, a signature trail, which can help brands, to track that down. So if for some reason, brands don't want to invest in a platform or tool, then they should be at least be on top of on their own data.

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