Advertising New Publishing Tech
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Q&A: Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) – increasing trust in digital advertising

The Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) is a not-for-profit industry self-regulatory organisation – established in the US in 2014 by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), the US Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As) – aimed at tackling criminal activity and increasing trust in digital advertising. The organisation has since made serious progress tackling the problems plaguing the ad industry. In central London, WNIP caught up with Nick Stringer, VP, Global Engagement & Operations, to find out more.

What business problem is your company addressing?

TAG’s mission is to tackle criminal activity in digital advertising. Digital advertisers lose billions each year to fraud, piracy and malware. Research by IAB US and Ernst & Young estimated that $8.2 billion can be saved each year in the US alone if the digital advertising industry works together to eradicate corruption across the supply chain.

What is your core solution addressing this problem?

TAG seeks to prevent advertisers giving a portion of their ad campaign money to criminals who generate ad impressions that are never seen by real legitimate people. Its Certified Against Fraud standard – supported by the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) in its Global Media Charter – provides companies with a way to effectively fight invalid traffic and, to date 115 companies from around the world are meeting the standard (with several hundred more going through the certification process). Requirements to reach the standard  include:

  • Filtering 100% of transactions in compliance with the GIVT requirements of the Media Rating Council’s (MRC) Invalid Traffic Guidelines;
  • Deploying technological tools to filter 100% of transactions for domain and data centre IP threats; and
  • Implementing and honouring transparency tools such as Ads.txt to create public records of authorised digital sellers, and TAG’s Payment ID system to establish a trusted chain of custody for transactions.

Are publishers and agencies successfully meeting your standard?

Research by The 614 Group shows that significant progress is being made in industry efforts to tackle ad fraud. In January 2019, a study of the top five digital advertising European markets (UK, Germany, France, Netherlands and Italy) found that there was a dramatic reduction in fraud rates across these markets from an industry average of 8.99 percent to just 0.53 percent when using TAG’s Anti-Fraud Standards. This benchmarking study builds upon research in the US that found a reduction in ad fraud of more than 84% in TAG Certified distribution channels versus the broader industry average. Fraud rates were held to less than two percent in TAG Certified channels in both 2017 and 2018, stopping the flow of money to criminals who profit from it.

In addition to the largest agency groups such as WPP’s GroupM and Publicis, and global platforms such as Facebook and Google, publishers/content creators such CBS, NBC Universal, Amazon, Disney / ESPN, Hulu, Shazam, Turner, Vevo, Walmart, Warner Bros are all TAG Certified Against Fraud.

Dataxu, LKQD Technologies, OpenX, SpotX, and Sovrn are the first leaders to achieve TAG Platinum status by being TAG Certified Against Fraud, TAG Certified Against Piracy, TAG Certified Against Malware, and compliant with TAG’s Inventory Quality Guidelines.

What does it cost to be part of TAG’s certification process?

TAG administers a not-for-profit self-regulatory programme: each certification standard costs $US10K but there is a small business exemption and a discounted comprehensive package. Pricing and compliance applies to entire legal entities and not individual business models within the same commercial group: a company may choose to certify for its entire global operations.

What are other people doing in the space and why?

Fighting fraud in digital advertising is a global challenge: and this is why a consistent and scalable approach across markets is required to tackle it effectively. Many advertisers, such as Proctor & Gamble, are now mandating the TAG Certified Against Fraud standard in their ad buying requirements. TAG believes in a ‘Global Standards for Local Markets’ approach as outlined in a published International White Paper. This involves tackling issues such as ad fraud by recognising national differences, such as market developments, cultures and political environments, as well as ensuring a consistent approach across markets.

TAG’s partnership with JICWEBS in the UK is an example of this working in reality: aligning standards to tackle criminal activity across markets, and promoting brand safety. For example, the recent achievement to unify under one anti-fraud certification which gives companies a clear path to implement one global anti-fraud standard wherever they operate across the world.

How do you view the future?

Tackling criminal activity in digital advertising – a sector driven by evolving consumer behaviour, technology and business models – will always be an ever-changing challenge. TAG is run by the companies, for the companies: and operates a working group for each pillar of activity – fraud, piracy, malware and business transparency -where businesses can participate and evolve the standards.

Thank you.

Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

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