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Hornby calls for concerted industry action on ad fraud

Johnny Hornby (below), boss of CHI&Partners and The&Partnership, is making another attempt to spur some action on ad fraud. Hornby interviewed a number of adland luminaries at Cannes last year on the topic and is now calling on the Advertising Association and others to actually do something, starting at the AA’s LEAD summit later this month.

Nobody can really know how much ad fraud – essentially conning advertisers and agencies to pay for digital ads nobody has seen – actually costs. Hornby quotes a figure of £12.7bn ($18.5bn). So why does it happen?

One reason, surely, is that in the age of programmatic media buying every so-called ‘serving’ of an ad is so ridiculously cheap that lots of people don’t care. So what if only a fraction of the intended audience sees the thing? It hardly cost anything anyway.

In a survey out today the IAB says that half the marketers questioned said they used programmatic for mobile ad buying even though 44 per cent admitted admitted to knowing little or nothing about it (which presumably means some of the ones that use it don’t understand it). The blind leading the blind, it seems.

But there are lots of bad guys – Hornby says criminals and even terrorists – making a lot of money out of this with apparent impunity. Some big media agencies don’t do so badly out of programmatic either, for all its manifest faults.

Hornby calls for a number of measures, to wit:

*Openly share information such as blacklists and whitelists across networks spanning operating countries, and have them distributed by bodies such as the AA, helping us drag frauds out of the shade.
*For the AA and its affiliates to implement the creation of a centralised body and platform for suspected botnets to be reported and investigated.
*Standardised metrics and viewability to ensure that views are views, building on the work the IAB is already doing.
*Working with media and government to educate consumers on how to fight against botnet infection across their devices.
*Combined investment in defences against fraud, to stay ahead of the criminals.
*Making the fight against ad fraud one of the ASA’s priority projects for its 2016.

All of which sounds sensible enough otherwise, as he says, the industry, which prefers self regulation to any other kind, will find itself regulated by something else.

But to actually make a difference there needs needs to be some specialist industry body (preferably an international one) employing people who are smarter (or as smart or nearly as smart) than the criminals/scammers.

That, alas, will cost quite a lot of money. Who’s going to take the lead in that?

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