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Protecting your brand from the video fraudsters

Video advertising continues to grow at a torrid pace, and it is no surprise that global organised criminals have been licking their chops at the prospect of taking advantage of the dollars flowing into the medium.

The size of the video advertising revolution is clearly too big for illegal operators to ignore: Cisco forecasts consumer video traffic in the Asia Pacific region will increase almost threefold in just four years, from 9.1 exabytes (or 91 billion gigabytes) in 2013 to 24.5 exabytes in 2017 – that’s equivalent to 420 years of continuous streaming of 1080p video.

So, what damage can these illegal operators do?

First, they can fool you into paying for viewers who don’t exist. Publishers knowingly or unknowingly allow bots to simulate human browsing behaviour. They create clicks for money, caring little about effectiveness or efficiency. These fraudsters will use a myriad of techniques to divert campaigns and acquire revenue from advertisers, making techniques to close the loophole problematic – what worked to stop them yesterday, may not work tomorrow.

In this regard, advertisers should demand from their technology partners crystal clear answers to three questions:
– Did a real person or a robot see the ad (fraud prevention)?;
– Was the ad viewable, giving someone a chance to see it (viewability)?; and
– Did the ad run in the place it was supposed to (verification)?

This last point can cause significant brand damage. Sometimes, ads find themselves in highly unfavourable environments. Advertisers are finding themselves appearing on unscrupulous sites that make money by facilitating the trafficking of copyright infringing material. Established brands clearly don’t want to be seen providing the revenue model for such places, but inadvertently some of them are.

Advertisers can find the fringes of their campaigns in this advertising netherworld, thanks to the practice of audience extension – planners request complementary media to add extra impressions to a mainstream campaign. Techniques, like URL masking, make it hard to identify fraudulent traffic sources, or for advertisers to have transparency on precisely which sites their media is being served to.

Hence, the need for more control and assurance in the video advertising industry.

With an increasing amount of inventory booked through trading platforms this is the obvious place to look to close the fraudsters’ loopholes. It’s something Adap.tv has taken very seriously, integrating with companies like Integral Ad Science, whose focus on brand-safety ensures advertisers should never be seen alongside content that will adversely influence their brand. They will also provide a real time fraud detection capability, blocking ads from non-human traffic, along with other common fraud measures such as ad stacking and iFrame stuffing.

Such tools help provide advertisers with a clear view of the audiences they are reaching. Adap.tv, as an open platform, means other tools can be easily integrated and used to tackle new issues that will certainly come up. Staying ahead of those who commit these crimes means needing to work together with leading solutions, whether developed in-house or externally.

While Adap.tv has taken one of the most aggressive approaches to protecting brand safety in video, we know it requires an even greater, concerted effort by the whole industry to create the standards and processes within which video advertising can safely thrive. In the US, the IAB’s Traffic of Good Intent Task Force (TOGI) is leading the way on that front. IAB Australia has just announced the formation of the Brand Safety Council, comprising trading platforms, agencies and publishers, and Adap.tv is a proud and active participant in that effort. With video piracy rife in the Asia Pacific region, the local chapters of the IAB clearly need to take the baton and lead the industry in facing the challenge.

In the meantime, planners need to ensure they are ahead of the game, understanding how pirates operate and are able to protect their clients’ brands. Otherwise, you know who will be the fall guy if a brand finds itself on the steamier side of the internet – whoever scheduled the campaign.

Alex Khan

Alex Khan is the Managing Director APAC at Smaato.