Quite recently, media reports surfaced that a bunch of international advertisers like Dyson, Mazda, Forbes, PBS Kids, among others, had pulled out their advertisements from Twitter as their ads were being displayed alongside tweets promoting child pornography and sexual abuse of children. According to reports, Coca-cola and Disney were also among the brands that found their ads appearing on the profile pages of Twitter accounts sharing illicit material.
In India, the Delhi Commission for Women has sought a CBI investigation on the availability of child porn on Twitter.
Although social media platforms including Twitter, do take action against such malpractices, brand safety is compromised a lot when such situations arise. Twitter too banned more than 57 thousand accounts for promoting child porn and nudity in India between July 26 and August 25 this year.
According to experts, if Twitter doesn’t pay heed to the advertisers’ concerns, they will soon be looking at the spending going elsewhere on the internet.
Shradha Agarwal, CEO, Grapes Digital, stated that due to brand image and safety issues, Indian advertisers have mostly stopped advertising on Twitter. She stated in another five years, she does not see Twitter being a major part of media plans. “It is the last place marketers use for brand awareness or new launches,” she said.
Earlier this year, Twitter admitted to overestimating its user base by 1.9 million users each quarter for three years. While brands still dealing with overstated reach issues, brand safety has become a bigger challenge for advertisers on Twitter.
Referring to the Twitter situation, Bitesh Singh, Founder and CEO of SocioClout, said that most of the time the content around a promoted post is not related. He said anyone can comment on anything around a post and when the agency reports the spam accounts and comments, Twitter fails to take quick action.
He added, “As an agency, however, when we serve clients we are able to hide that content and bring the user-generated content to the top. The agency helps create content around the ad so that the viewers can only see the relevant comments on the post. I think the brands should speak up about this since they are investing so much money on these platforms.”
Digital advertising has grown dramatically in the past few years. However, while the spending on digital keeps increasing, the industry is yet to address some serious red flags like ad fraud, measurability and brand safety.
Platforms like Twitter and Instagram also have a large number of bots and fake accounts that end up engaging with the content. According to reports, global digital advertising spending is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2025. However, a significant chunk of the current ad spends is being siphoned off by these fraudsters who handle the bots and fake accounts.
Dhiraj Gupta, Co-Founder and CTO, mFilterIt, stated that at least 20-25% of digital spends is getting wasted. He said it is not the platforms that are generating bots but there are a lot of tools on these platforms that aid bots. “When these bots come to articles and posts they trigger clicks on advertisements and the advertisers end up paying for it as the platform will charge for all the ad impressions and clicks that come through. These accounts are controlled by a machine which is super active compared to legitimate users. As a result, these accounts generate more activity and traffic. This is where the problem is,” he explained.
As per Agarwal, “Everyone knows that 40% of spends is being wasted. There are ways of minimising spilling by investing in trackers, however, the problem is advertisers don’t want to do that. They find it expensive.”
As per Gupta of mFilterIT, ad fraud currently cannot be flagged under any law yet. However, a number of solutions like trackers can greatly help advertisers.
Another challenge for advertisers is that platforms, except Facebook, do not allow third-party measurement on platforms. Facebook partnered with Nielsen and launched the "Nielsen Total Brand Effect with Lift" solution through which advertisers can interpret their cross-platform results. But for all others, advertisers have to rely on the data provided by the platforms themselves.
“These walled gardens have said they will not allow any third-party monitoring. I think whoever is spending money, should be allowed to audit and track it. Even the ad reports coming out from such platforms which everyone is supposed to trust contain bugs and every six months they come out with an apology email and say we found a bug; this was wrongly counted and we apologise for it. The problem is because of no third-party monitoring, everyone is forced to accept what they are reporting,” stated Gupta.
It is not only Facebook, Google and Twitter but many homegrown platforms, especially those that have scaled recently in the short-video space that allegedly has a spillage issue. “They don’t have the maturity and stability of the Facebook and Google of the world. The technology is still weak, so if 15% of ad spends are wasted on Twitter, people might be wasting at least 20% here,” stated Gupta.
Citing similar sentiments, Agarwal said that they found that one of the leading homegrown short-video apps has 40% spillage. However, their reports stated otherwise. “The way we found out was that we installed trackers when we were going live with the campaign and found at least 40% spill on the platform,” she said.