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Here’s how brands can protect themselves from ad-tech fraud


The issue of brand safety is a top concern of programmatic media buyers in the digital advertising marketplace. Unfortunately, it's a notoriously challenging concept for companies to grapple with in a digital-first world.

In an industry where technological change is racing ahead at breakneck speed, a poor brand safety strategy can risk a company losing its hard-earned reputation in a matter of seconds.

Mitigating a range of financial, reputational, and legal risks while also managing concerns around viewability and ad fraud can be exhausting. But a knee-jerk reaction of aimlessly spending ad dollars is possibly the worst mistake a marketer can make. So here are several ways of protecting against negative impacts and achieving brand safety.

Industry-approved guidelines

Common types of ad-tech fraud include ad stacking, where multiple ads are layered on top of each other, allowing only the top ad to be visible. Once a user clicks on the ad, a click is registered for all the other ads stuffed beneath the first ad. Such fraud can give the illusion to brands that their campaign is successful because of the high click rate.

However, the reality is that companies are paying massive amounts of money for advertisements that are never seen by the intended audience.

To prevent this, brands should use third-party solutions accredited by the Media Rating Council to ensure multiple layers of trustworthiness. In addition, to mitigate the growing list of concerns, brands should refer to The American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A's) complementary Brand Suitability Framework to assess their risk tolerance. By agreeing on the degree of risk they are willing to take, brands can alter their expectations accordingly and proactively prepare for potential problems.

Understand your brand DNA

Some brands take calculated risks and still choose to place their ads in publications that produce controversial content. But avoiding all the harmful categories defined by the 4A's could also limit the opportunities and exposure the brand could have enjoyed. As a result, there is a palpable tension between brands minimizing risks and losing potential ad exposure.

Although it's easy to identify that every non-viewable or fraudulent impression represents immediate financial waste, reputational risk is harder to quantify. For example, will consumers not eat a brand of ice cream because it was next to a particular YouTube video? But being overprotective of where your ads will appear often holds advertisers back.

Focusing on brand-safe placements rather than brand suitability can limit reach and engagement.

By understanding the DNA of your brand, it becomes easier to determine what is suitable for your ads rather than avoiding what some will deem inappropriate content. So instead, think about what your consumers will prioritize most.

Invest in innovative technologies

As technology evolves, the occurrence of ad-tech fraud increases. Advertising industries and institutions have been working furiously to prevent such malevolent behaviour. Brands must invest in innovative technologies such as AI and facial recognition to help identify safe placements for the brand. If budget permits, brands should work with publishers that offer premium services that guarantee safer ads placements.

Brand marketers are waking up to the reality that they don't need to battle ad fraud independently. Instead, by increasing investment and enlisting partners to improve their capabilities, many are approaching brand safety with new levels of nuance and sophistication. In doing so, they are delivering better quality and effectiveness to their media spending.

Marketers must accept that traditional brand safety measures are no longer as effective as they once were.

As a result, more brands employ third-party agencies specializing in using advanced technology to identify risks and prevent ad-tech fraud. Investment and cooperation between brand marketers and third parties are crucial when creating a successful ad campaign and reducing financial waste.

Achieving brand safety

To achieve brand safety, brand marketers should adopt industry-best practices and enlist partners that can purposefully prevent or lessen the negative impacts of brand safety risks. In addition, brand marketers should be mindful of potential risks and tailor their campaigns accordingly.

Interviews should be conducted with brand representatives to have a concrete understanding of their brand safety needs. Once both parties have reached a common ground, it is easier to negotiate contractual agreements regarding recompensating in the event of ad-tech fraud.

Brands should also participate in industry groups and follow guidelines while simultaneously pushing for transparency and targeting accuracy. This allows ads to be customized according to contextual factors, enabling ads to reach the intended viewer.

In a digital world where context is everything, marketers must embrace more subtle and nuanced decision-making methods.

Identifying risks and leveraging the tools to mitigate dangers to brand safety are becoming table stakes. Forward-looking brands and the partners working with them insist on safe and fraud-free environments that serve their consumers while protecting and preserving finances and reputation

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