Programmatic Future Trends Series: Fighting ad fraud and the future of trading desks

In 2015, programmatic advertising was at the centre of discussions and events across the advertising industry. From Advertising Week in London and Interact in Berlin to the Festival of Creativity in Cannes, it has never been far from the headlines. With 2016 underway and a comprehensive schedule of outputs planned, we asked some of our Programmatic Trading Committee members to reflect on the challenges and achievements of 2015 and what we can expect from the year ahead. This blog is part of a Programmatic Future Trends series.

This blog includes contributions from Nigel Gilbert, VP Strategic Development EMEA at AppNexus, Andres Ferrate, AdSpam Team at Google, Anthony Rhind, Chief Strategy Officer at Adform, Andy McNab, UK Managing Director at RocketFuel and Paul Coffey, Director, Customer Solutions and Innovation, Platforms EMEA at Google.

What do you see as the key achievements or milestones of 2015 in fighting ad fraud and bringing trust to the advertising ecosystem?

Nigel Gilbert, VP Strategic Development EMEA, AppNexus

“Advertisers and publishers, alike, have demanded a renewed focus on reducing invalid traffic, improving viewability, and navigating the ad blocking debate. As a result the industry had to escalate efforts and collaborate more on all fronts.  These common challenges have raised awareness of the interconnected interests of different actors in the larger ecosystem.

  • Elimination or reduction of reselling and arbitrage – one of the most pervasive causes of invalid traffic is the reselling and arbitrage of inventory, and major ad tech companies and exchanges, including AppNexus and Facebook, moved to eliminate such practices from their platforms in 2015.
  • Better viewability standards – 100% viewability was increasingly demanded f in 2015; one notable case study is that of GroupM and client Unilever who together announced that they would only count 100% in-view display impressions. The industry is listening; last fall, Google announced that it was in the process of introducing 100% viewable ads across the Google Display Network (GDN), while AppNexus rolled out its viewable marketplace, a new and important platform capability that empowers buyers to transact only on viewable impression.  We expect that viewablility will soon become the common currency of digital advertising.
  • The rise of ad blocking poses a real challenge for digital advertising.  It’s incumbent upon us as an industry to do a better job of educating the end-user about the implicit contract for access to free content, but also re-earning their trust by improving a broken user experience. It’s our job to make advertising more relevant and less intrusive to end users. IAB Europe’s Board ad blocking task force is addressing this specific challenge along with other IABs and industry players. AppNexus CEO Brian O’Kelley made an excellent case he made in a thought-piece in Forbes about how ad blocking has the potential to make the Internet smaller, erecting toll booths and pay walls, and transforming it from a democratic system to an oligarchy of information and content.
  • Industry self-regulation – it’s worth highlighting a relatively new coalition, the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG).  Formed in 2015 with the goal of eliminating invalid traffic, combating malware, fighting piracy and promoting transparency, TAG drew the support of industry leaders such as AOLGoogle, AppNexus and Index Exchange, as well as the largest global advertising holding companies, WPP, Omnicom, Publicis and Interpublic.”

Andres Ferrate, AdSpam Team, Google

“2015 was marked by the convergence of industry-sponsored policy and additional investment in technology. One key achievement is stronger collaboration in the industry via TAG to increase transparency both through the sharing of Data Center IP Blacklists and Payment IDs.  These efforts kept (and will continue to keep) millions of bad actors out of the advertising ecosystem, while raising the tide for good players.  Given the shift to programmatic, another key achievement was broader investment in automated defenses to combat common ad fraud scenarios such as ad injection and hidden ads. The prevention of ads from appearing on pages that serve malware and unwanted software further prevented advertisers’ spend from being diluted, while directing this revenue to responsible publishers and improving consumer safety. Read this blog post to find out more how Google fought bad ads in 2015.”

The ecosystem is evolving and various players are having to reshape themselves to stay relevant. What does the future look like for trading desks, what role are they likely to play?

Anthony Rhind, Chief Strategy Officer, Adform

“Trading desks were initially necessary and effective; they concentrated expertise, accelerated knowledge development and enabled a high volume of campaigns to be managed effectively.  As programmatic evolves from a narrow buying discipline to an operating system that optimises all touchpoints and messaging dynamically, the trading desk innovators must be absorbed into the heart of the media, creative and strategy teams.  Today most media agency heads have built their reputation in digital, but the next wave will need a programmatic foundation to define service excellence and drive innovation.  All insights will be refined by real-time data and all implementation will be enhanced by the speed and variance benefits of automation.”

Andy McNab, UK Managing Director, RocketFuel

“Agency groups are continually re-shaping themselves to ensure they stay relevant, one outcome of this has been the agency trading desk.  Agencies are in a position of closer proximity to client data and as such are intrinsically linked to that ecosystem, naturally they are best placed to advise on strategy.  We are seeing agency groups embracing best in class technology providers to power these strategies.  We are seeing far more of a collaborative relationship between trading desks, tech providers and advertisers. This is demonstrated by Cadreon partnering with Rocket Fuel’s programmatic marketing platform to enhance IPG Mediabrands’ Audience Measurement Platform.  We expect to see more of this in the future.”

Paul Coffey, Director, Customer Solutions and Innovation, Platforms, EMEA Google

“Change is happening across the ecosystem, not just in the trading desk space. The disruptive nature of programmatic means that all players across the industry are having to adapt their business models.The research that Google has conducted with BCG shows that in order to make efficiency and effectiveness gains, it’s necessary to make significant changes to the way that marketing and agency teams are organised. It requires all players to be more nimble, to focus on collaboration and to understand data in driving effective campaigns. There are three building blocks that will underpin trading desks’ success:

  • Speed: Marketers and agencies alike must keep up with technology, and use this technology to incorporate real-time insights into campaigns.
  • Collaboration: No single person or organisation can make programmatic work on their own – collaboration across teams is necessary.
  • Data: Utilising first- and third-party data will allow marketers to execute more effective campaigns.”

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