How to Fix Ad Fraud (and Why Publishers Should Pay) Industry Needs to Make Digital Advertising Accountable

A great piece by Charlie Fiordalis, Managing Director of Digital for Media Storm

Appeared in Ad Age May 30, 2014

The prevalence of digital advertising fraud is a huge threat to our industry and can no longer be ignored. As an industry, we need to take immediate steps to make digital advertising fully transparent and accountable. If not, the future looks bleak for digital advertising professionals, as trust will erode and growth will cease.

Why the current industry perspective isn’t helping:

Most articles about digital fraud focus in on a number. And I understand why — the numbers are huge ($6 billion according to some reports) and stats are easier than solutions. According to another recent report, more than one-third of online ad traffic is fraudulent, and that doesn’t even touch on the two additional issues of viewability and brand safety, which are arguably equally as important.

But statistics aren’t going to solve the problem. We need to stop celebrating the problem and actually do something about it. I admit it, I was in denial. I’d been following the articles hoping it was exaggeration and rationalizing that someone else would clean up the problem. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was true: that the very foundation of digital advertising — the belief that we’re creating a better, more accountable medium — was very, very ill.

So what’s the real solution?

One word — accountability.

About eight months ago, Media Storm started working with the leading third-party advertising fraud prevention agencies and began deploying solutions across campaigns. By creating accountability and complete transparency in all aspects of media and recommended bot-traffic, viewability and brand safety protection, we have been able to proactively prevent non-human, non-viewable traffic and ensure that we’re serving impressions in brand-safe environments.

That’s encouraging, but it isn’t a solution, and I think both the buy side and sell side can agree that it is in everyone’s best interest to actually solve the problem. That leaves two very big questions to be answered:

  • Who can actually solve the problem?
  • How should we pay for it?

Who will have to make the changes?

Making this happen will require action from three major industry factions: the buy side, the sell side and the IAB.

From the buy side, we have to provide full transparency to our clients. This involves working only with partners who provide full transparency and implementing protection to ensure that all traffic comes from humans. And yes, this will mean refusing to work with publishers who don’t sell “real” traffic with implemented protection and who don’t sell based on viewability verification with brand safety measures.

The sell side should work directly with a third party to remove fraudulent impressions and sell with third-party verification guaranteed on bot protection, viewability and brand safety.

Lastly, in order to have a marketplace based on new rules, we’ll need the IAB to update its standard terms & conditions (T&C) that we all utilize as a base in buying and selling online advertising. The T&C update will need to establish fair rules to conduct business only on “real” traffic and to sell on viewability and brand safety.

The cost of accountability and who will have to pay for it:

All along, the buy side has operated with the assumption that we are getting what we have purchased. Ad fraud is a threat to that assumption, and I think the responsibility for direct payment should come from the publishers. There, I said it. Someone had to.

I realize this may not be what the publishers want to hear, but they can look at it as a form of insurance on their side. And though advertisers shouldn’t directly pay for the “insurance” as a separate line item, I think the general industry would understand if some cost has to be passed on as the cost of technology/product development. It is business after all.

The time is now: Let’s make digital media truly accountable

Media overall operates under the trust that what you buy is what you get. For example, we can verify the placement in TV, out of home and print. But in digital, especially with programmatic audience buying, the “proof” often sounds something like this: “You won’t see it directly because you aren’t in the target audience, but we assure you that it’s running and here are our reports.”

If we don’t clean this up now, ad fraud will erode the trust in digital and damage the overall industry (even more than it already has). As TV moves more from spots to addressable inventory, this threat is amplified. Digital is an accountable medium, and we need to embrace that accountability. I believe that there is a higher ground and a higher accountability for every dollar that moves to digital from other media.

So join me in this fight to maintain industry credibility, won’t you?

2014/5 Upfronts: Why It’s Time to Move to C7 Ratings

Appeared in Ad Age May 6th, 2014 

 

Next week, members of the media industry will converge at various New York midtown venues to view program schedule pitches by the major national broadcasters. It signals the seventh anniversary of Nielsen Media Research’s move to C3 ratings — providing standardized ratings for commercials during live broadcasts of programs, plus three days of playback.

The deal was groundbreaking at the time. Advertisers and their agencies wanted to pay for the audience that actually saw their ads. Previously, ratings measured average audiences for live programs, not specific commercials. The quid pro quo for the networks was recognition for later audiences of their programs that they hadn’t been earning credit on. They negotiated with the agencies and settled on C3.

It’s time to now move to C7 ratings, and here’s why.

We need a ratings currency that actually represents how people watch TV in 2014.

Consumer viewing habits have shifted dramatically since C3 ratings arrived back in 2007. DVRs were only in 17% of homes, and they are now in 48%. Seven years ago, Hulu hadn’t even gone live, Netflix was primarily a DVD mailing service, no one owned a tablet, and cord cutting was something that only happened in a hospital maternity delivery room.

Live TV viewing continues to fall. Within the all-important 18-49 demographic, live viewing in the last four years has dropped 36%, while the level of time-shifted viewing of a show the week after the live broadcast has doubled. So why is it that someone watching a catch-up episode of Sunday’s “The Good Wife” on Thursday isn’t as valuable or relevant as someone who watched on Tuesday?

Macy’s one-day sales and film releases.

One reason cited for not making a change is retail and movie advertisers’ time-sensitive advertising. But hey, even retailers advertise across flights. There’s no denying that a spot in the first week of a three-week campaign has value if it’s seen four days after it first ran. Media sellers can easily make an exception for obvious one-day sales. Of course, the studios are always going to insist on buying against same-day ratings. But why let the entire media industry be driven by just a minority of the campaigns that run in the market?

Paying more?

In truth, the main reason agencies really don’t want to have this discussion is because they’re already “getting that extra audience for free.” Now, I’m not necessarily advocating paying more for the same spots this year (I’ve got clients too!). But I am suggesting we take steps to put something in place that makes sense looking ahead.

The reason I’m advocating for C7 ratings is because going forward, I believe this has got to be better for the TV industry, and in turn for its advertisers.

Broadcast and cable TV’s future isn’t going to be about competing for share of broadcast dollars. It’s going to be about share of video views.

We’re not far away from ad budgets moving seamlessly between web, mobile and linear TV. Why tie TV’s future to an outdated currency that doesn’t reflect how people are actually watching TV?

A vibrant TV industry is in marketers’ interest.

Until brands find a more effective marketing medium with the scale of TV advertising, they’ve got a vested interest in its health. As more cable networks invest in original programming, audiences increase and so do the ad impressions that are available to buy. This helps to maintain the efficiency of TV as an advertising medium. A shift to C7 ratings improves the economics and the ability of the networks to monetize that investment. That’s something we should all want to support.

In the coming months, let’s put C7 ratings on the agenda. It’s the right thing for today and tomorrow.

Asian American’s that are Shaping the Media World

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage month.  It struck me that Asian American’s have and are playing an increasingly prominent role in shaping our media industry.   What’s even more impressive is they’ve achieved a career in media, despite overcoming their Tiger Parents disappointment in them not becoming doctors or working in the family business!

So here’s my list of Asian American Media Mavens.

connie chung geri wang

Hall of Fame News Broadcaster

Connie Chung broke through the news broadcasting ceiling by co-anchoring CBS Evening News all the way back in 1993.  It’s a rarity these days not see a female presenter on national or local TV news channels, thanks to Ms Chung.

 

Shrewd-ist Ad Sales Exec

Geri Wang, President of ABC Sales. This Upfront, look for Geri to beat out some CPM increases from Agency Media Buyers.

 

william hung Reality Media All Stars

This has to be a tie.  American Idol hopeful William Hung was the first reality star that most fellow Asian’s would rather forget.  His “She Bangs” performance helped foster American Idol notoriety and YouTube fame.  But we at least were able to move on and progress, when America saw its first Asian American  reality show winner when Yul Kwon managed to be last Survivor standing on the island.

 

jerry yangBest of Asian American Media Tech Geeks

… at the top of that tree are Jerry Yang founder of Yahoo!, Steven Chen co-founder of YouTube, not to mention some budding new tech-preneurs such as Brian Wong, the youthful founder of Kiip.  Also, I’m a fan of David Shingy, technically not American, an Aussie who’s definitely a forward thinker for the industry.  Try to if you can, get the chance to hear him speak.

 

lingmindyActresses that make us laugh most

I met Lucy Liu at last year’s CBS Upfront party, currently starring as Watson in the delightful Elementary.   But it was the Queen’s NY native role in Ally McBeal that to me was a break out for Asian American’s on television.  The producers of that show chose not to type cast the sultry Asian mistress or kung fu kicking villian, but quirky Ling, surely the most interesting character on the show.  I loved Mindy Kaling in the office and the delectable The Mindy Project.  And I really like little known comedy Sullivan and Son, that just starting its second season on TBS this week, whose lead character is Asian.  But the real star is Jodi Long who plays his Korean mom who probably breaks every rule in the PC Asian playbook, but leaves me laughing out loud.

 

danielBest Asian Hunk

According to my wife, Daniel Dae Kim.

 

Most powerful Media Owners in the Future

The arguably the most powerful Asian American’s that may inherit the media world might be two teenagers … Grace & Chloe Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch and Wendy Deng’s two daughters, who potentially could inherit a significant portion of NewsCorp and  21st Century FOX empires.

 

Most Innovative Media Client (and Hardest Partier)

Babs Rangiah, Vice President, Global Media Innovation & Ventures for Unilever who has helped to bring innovative media campaigns for Axe and Dove.

Cosmopolitan Magazine Innovates with it’s L’Oreal Sponsored Cover

 

Cosmopolitan magazine is causing a bit of a stir with its upcoming May issue cover. No, it’s not promoting a risque sex survey or planning to scoop Vogue with a Kimye cover of its own. Rather, the publication has the audacity to feature a pasted-on cover for its subscription copies, sponsored by L’Oreal Paris. The extra cover was produced by the edit staff and includes a tease about a L’Oreal contest alongside actual unpaid editorial cover lines. Traditionalists are asking, “Is this a blurring of the lines?”Fashionista raised the question of whether Cosmo had possibly violated The American Society of Magazine Editors’ guidelines.

Are they kidding? Right now, the publishing world should be challenging convention. It needs to. The media industry is being disrupted and the traditional business model isn’t keeping up. Newspapers have been decimated. The magazine business isn’t far behind. According to the Association of Magazine Media, ad pages have fallen a staggering 40% in the past five years. This despite the fact that magazines are showing increased readership when measured across print and digital channels. The magazine publishing industry doesn’t have an audience issue — it has a revenue issue.

For publishers to survive and thrive, they need to find more ways to attract marketing dollars. I applaud this initiative by Cosmo’s publisher Hearst and kudos also to L’Oreal for picking it up. The magazine industry has to find more creative and commercial ways to monetize its assets.

Just providing eyeballs for ads isn’t enough, because in media, there’s no shortage of them.

Total television viewing hours continue to climb. The supply of online display ad impressions appears almost infinite. Time spent with social media is now over three hours a day, up from nothing seven years ago. And the increased access to media via mobile is adding to the daily media diet. As a result, the value of the ad impression is diminishing.

Magazines have assets that brands want. Magazines have insight into what engages readers. They know how to continue to stay relevant and current. They create content that people notice and share. They provide ideas. Finding new ways to tap into and integrate with this content is a whole lot more exciting for brands than interruption.

But will this turn off consumers?

Consumers get that someone has to pay for the content. Most consumers are savvy and pragmatic when it comes to advertising.

They know that advertising subsidizes their magazines. They understand that advertising by and large pays for their favorite TV shows, nearly all the content on the Internet, Google and Facebook, and even public radio.

Of course, if you ask a consumer if they want advertising, they will answer “no.” But the increased time consumers are spending with commercial media suggests that consumers accept the exchange.

Advertising is evolving. Consumers also know that the face of “advertising” is changing. We continue to add dozens of new formats. We now have: native ads, custom commercials on Jimmy Kimmel, Ford music videos on American Idol, sponsored stories, branded entertainment,unbranded content, viral videos, crowd-sourced content, influencer marketing, music/artist collaborations, mobile apps, in-game brand experiences, newsroom generated real-time messaging and value brand exchanges. Not only do consumers accept these newer forms of “advertising,” they are actually talking about them when they’re clever.

In the context of these added media channels, a sponsored cover seems tame.

Smart brands and publishers will always default to the reader’s point of view. I believe that most brands understand the importance of showing care in how they talk to consumers in these newer media formats. Crucial to this is respecting their time and intelligence. L’Oreal could have been more overt. But it appears they let the editors guide them. In today’s social-media driven world, they will quickly hear if things start to wrangle.

We all want a healthy magazine industry. For that to happen, magazines need to be more attractive for brands. Innovating and experimenting with new solutions can only be a good thing.

Chipotle’s Unbranded Entertainment Marketing Coup … Farmed & Dangerous

chipChipotle did something radical last month. The company introduced its very own TV series, airing on Hulu. The first three 22-minute shows in the four-episode comedy series, titled “Farmed and Dangerous,” are now available for viewing.

It’s another example of the Mexican restaurant chain challenging industry convention. In 2012, it picked up the Cannes Grand Prix for its animated “Back to the Start” two-minute music video, which ran to a Willie Nelson cover of Cold Play’s “The Scientist.” That ad promoted the story of Chipotle’s locally farmed ingredients.

“Farmed and Dangerous” takes branded content to another level by not including any branding at all in the show. Social Media Week organizers dubbed it Unbranded Entertainment. Chipotle and other advertisers placedcommercials in the show, but by not including branding in the show itself, the restaurant has taken a risk that few marketers would entertain.

But Chipotle’s chief marketing and development officer, Mark Crumpacker, said on a panel at Social Media Week, in which I participated, that he didn’t consider it a big risk at all. Citing McDonald’s significant marketing budget, which dwarfs his company’s, he said Chipotle couldn’t afford to rely on traditional advertising. The hope is that PR, buzz and social media will do much of the heavy lifting for the chain’s message.

This is an interesting, albeit untested, new broadcast model for marketing. We’ve already seen Netflix and Hulu create premium original content online to compete again broadcast and cable networks. Chipotle’s concept is to create an own original entertainment show that somehow presents its messge while it shares in the income of ads being placed on the show by other companies.

This model makes sense, of course, only if the right target audience, specifically Millennials, watches the show. What does the show have to do to succeed?

First, it has to be genuinely entertaining. Wisely, I think, “Farmed and Dangerous” is a satire. The lead character,Buck Marshall, played by Ray Wise, is head of the Industrial Food Image Bureau. Wise’s character represents big-business interests that attempt to put a positive spin on genetically engineered foods.

Second, the show must have a message that connects with audiences. The serious message here is about the importance of food safety and sustainable farming. These are issues that Chipotle has championed from the start and are a concern for a growing section of the population. Chipotle reasons that as more people are discussing these issues, more of them will choose its brand.

Third, the show needs to walk a fine line between offering pure entertainment and overtly pushing the brand. Cross that line, and marketing savvy Millennials will turn off. Chipotle has chosen not to make references to the brand in the body of the show.

Twenty-two minutes of content and no burritos in sight. Only a handful of brands would attempt this. But, get the mix of story and message right, and you have content that consumers will want to watch, talk about and share.

Maserati in the Super Bowl … A good idea?

Here’s What Maserati Could Have Bought Instead of That Super Bowl Ad

Published in Ad Age on February 11, 2014

maserati

Maserati’s spectacular Quvenzhane-Wallis-narrated Super Bowl commercial has had its share of fans and detractors alike, from agency creative chiefs to armchair critics. So did it prove to be a good media strategy for the Ghibli sports sedan?

A 90-second ad in the Super Bowl went for probably around $11 million. Add to that the production of the spot, the Yahoo home-page takeover, the USA Today cover wrap, paid search and digital display advertising, and it feels like a cool $16 million to $17 million for the week’s media buy. I’ve always been a fan of Super Bowl advertising, but this buy didn’t make sense to me.

If you’re Coca-Cola, which sells over 350 million bottles of Coca-Cola across the country, with just about everyone watching the game a potential consumer, it’s smart business to be in the country’s biggest advertising event. But for a luxury auto manufacturer hoping to sell a far smaller number of units, it seems, well, a luxury. Just 9 seconds of the 90-second spot involved a car visual or sound, with only the last 3 seconds revealing to viewers what the brand was. It’s hard to see this as a wise use of money.

But I hear the counter argument: “It’s generating awareness.” “The comments on Facebook and tweets on Twitter.” “People are clicking to its website.” So why not a Super Bowl Ad?

Creating awareness is a good thing. But doing this at the top of the marketing funnel is an expensive proposition. Many other marketing considerations go into converting a prospect into a buyer. Many more people are aware of Ferrari than, say, Mitsubishi, but that awareness doesn’t equate to more units sold.

Any auto dealer will tell you that selling cars is a 52-week-a-year proposition. Has Maserati got the budget to follow up a big week with sustaining advertising support for the other 50 weeks? General Motors does.

Maserati, part of Fiat Chrysler, did see some impressive increases in searches on AutoTrader.com and Kelly Blue Book after the Super Bowl spot ran. I’m guessing that these came off very low bases. Social-media mentions were also high. So they seem to have gotten the brand into the conversation.

One big surprise about the Maserati spot was the fact that no one saw it coming. No pre-event buzz. No spot on YouTube or Vimeo before the game. Ad Age’s piece showcasing the ads in advance didn’t have it. This felt like a miss for Maserati. The Super Bowl isn’t just a media buy, it’s a marketing event, of which brands are an indelible part. Perhaps the agency team felt it had to do something to stand apart from the rest. However, with 12 other automotive advertisers appearing in the Super Bowl, I would have worked harder to find a way to distinguish the brand.

Paying for the most expensive spot with the highest production values, in the most competitive automotive media event, doesn’t strike me as what a challenger brand — which it claims to be in the ad — should do. Kudos for Maserati’s boldness, but its money could have been spent a lot more imaginatively and responsibly.

As an aside, here’s what $16 million to $17 million dollars could buy in other media:

52 full-page ads in The Wall Street Journal and Financial Times

60 double-page color spreads and a load of premium digital placements in Forbes

Every ad in the New York Times tablet app for six months

6,000+ spots on CNBC

2-minute spots on the Oscars, the Golden Globes and the Grammy’s

A 30-second spot every hour in prime time on CNN, MSNBC, FOX News and Al Jazeera America for four months

A national 12-month deal running 90-second spots throughout on cinema

Every promoted Tweet to the entire U.S. Twitter base for 85 consecutive days

<adage_no_lookbook_links>or 10 home-page takeovers on Yahoo, AOL and MSN.

It’s Time to Shift the Focus from Mobile to Mobility

Let’s Stop Thinking About Mobile Just as a Channel or Tactic and Move on to a Bigger Idea

Published in Ad Age.com January 29, 2014
mobile
In an industry that’s obsessed with tapping into the Zeitgeist, we talk about mobile as though it’s the bright and shiny new object in marketing. Are we kidding? This year, smart phone penetration in the United States will hit 80%, tablets will overtake sales of PCs, and already about half of online traffic is taking place on the mobile web. Come on marketers … consumers and manufacturers are way in front of us. Let’s kill off talk about developing a mobile plan. Our marketing plan needs to be our mobile plan … and so too do our communications.

It’s Mobility, Not Mobile. Mobile is primarily about the devices and platforms, but mobility is a bigger idea. Mobility is very much at the heart of culture right now. It is about fulfilling consumers’ desire to stay constantly connected and helping people to get tasks done on the move. Mobility in marketing is going beyond mobile advertising, to adding mobile functionality and targeting across your marketing efforts, such as how Chipotle’s mobile app helps to facilitate dining on the go by allowing you to order and pay for your burrito on the way to their restaurant to avoid the wait. Instead of allocating a separate budget to mobile alongside other media channels, we should be applying mobility solutions to our print, video, search, out of home and website. For example, how many of us have plans to add voice navigation to our website? My bet is that consumers are going to respond to added mobility in your marketing programs as they have to mobile devices … super-fast.

All Media is Digital. All Digital is Mobile. Thankfully we rarely separate digital from non-digital media plans anymore. Your digital strategy is your media strategy. In the same way, we have to stop putting mobile in a silo. A number of media companies are leading the way. According to the New York Post, about a third of its audience (print and digital) is coming from mobile devices. Over 65% of Twitter’s growing ad revenue comes from mobile ads on smartphones. Little wonder that Instagram, SnapChat, Flipboard and Waze, whose platforms have mobility at the heart of their proposition, were the hottest and fastest growing media this past year. VH-1 showed that it was able to grow its prime-time television viewing audience by 34% by improving the mobility of its shows and content. It made available full episodes through a mobile app, which also included extended content encouraging audiences to share with their social circles.

Mobility is Shifting Hyper-Local to Hyper-Location Marketing. Patch’s demise at the hands of AOL was a blow to pundits of hyperlocal. But mobility solutions are creating far more granular targeting and brand engagement. Savvy companies like PlaceIQ and 4info have mapped out the country and can provide location-based marketing (standard and rich media banners as well as video) based on where you go and where you’ve been. Apple’s iBeacon went live early this month in 200 Safeway and Giant Eagle supermarkets and could revolutionize the in-store experience. Using low-frequency Bluetooth technology, it creates GPS-like utility in the store itself that is able to pinpoint to within a few feet a shopper’s location through his smartphone and prompt him with special offers as he navigates the store.

Mobility is Fueling Intelligent Marketing. Mobility is paving the way for more intelligent marketing by utilizing the data it collects. FourSquare is somewhat re-inventing itself as a decision-recommendation engine for users and an insight resource for marketers accessing location data they have collected. The Weather Company is using its data to help retailers plan and even forecast sales. For example, based on weather patterns The Weather Channel knows that in Chicago, beer sales increase when summer temperatures are below normal three days in a row, whereas, in Dallas people buy sunscreen and bug spray in the spring when the dew point goes down. Mobility could inform an entire marketing communication strategy.

Mobility isn’t about what’s happening with devices and setting aside budgets for mobile advertising, but how you bridge mobile to real-world marketing. Exciting times ahead.

@antonyyoung

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