As digital advertising climbed toward an estimated $170 billion last year, marketers are battling a dramatic rise in traffic fraud. Theorem is helping them in the fight.
I recently met with a client who is head of ad operations at a major print and digital media company that generates revenue from both advertising and subscriptions. The client told me he has never been under greater pressure. The cause of that pressure? Advertising customers’ growing apprehensions over ad fraud and their demand for proof that their ads displayed correctly and were consumed by actual humans.
And who can blame them? Digital advertising is becoming a dominant force in the global media advertising market, forecast to be a $186-billion market in 2015. Excluding the online and mobile components of over-the-top TV advertising, in 2017 digital advertising will overtake TV, which for decades has been the largest advertising medium; and by 2018, digital advertising will be 8%. Even including the digital components in TV advertising totals, digital advertising will nearly reach overall TV advertising levels by 2018.
McKinsey projects digital advertising will continue to increase at double-digit rates, growing 15.1% compounded annually to 2018 and accounting for 65% of the total increase in global advertising in the next five years. Most of that gain will result as advertisers substitute away from print media. My client understands this. He also understands that digital advertising is experiencing a crisis of trust. As the Wall Street Journal put it, one-third of online ad traffic “is bogus.”
Ad fraud from fake consumers—created by cybercrime networks generating false ad views, ad clicks, and site visits by using robotic programs—represents a loss of $6 billion in digital advertising.
The client and his team are responsible for activating a thousand digital campaigns per month on average. And he depends on receiving creative assets in a timely manner so as to be able to properly test and verify that the creative renders properly on the devices and platforms the campaign is transmitted by. Plus, various stakeholders are involved: ad sales, creative design, account management, and ad operations.
This client’s situation is reflective of that of many of our clients, which are continuously under pressure to meet tight timelines. Often, clients get behind schedule even before receiving the creative assets they need to kick off the campaign activation process. For instance, in the rush to activate a campaign and meet committed deadlines, they may take shortcuts in quality control by, say, testing whether the ad renders properly on only one device platform, when the ad is intended as an omnichannel campaign distributed across multiple platforms.
Most organizations are looking for more-streamlined creative processes and faster turnaround times whereby creative mock-ups sometimes get done in presales and sometimes in postsales, at which point they’re provided a demo link. It gets further complicated when a client provides all of the creative assets and creative execution is pretty much prebaked because the creative team has to execute an existing concept. Ironically, there’s more flexibility when a client is making its first foray into digital advertising and is looking for guidance.
Campaign verification is serious business. Ad performance is critical, but key performance metrics go only so far. An ad campaign needs context: In what kind of environment were the ads delivered? Did the ads render properly on various mobile devices? Did the intended audience actually consume the ads? The possibly troubling answers to those questions are the reasons my client and several like him and his company are working with Theorem.
Our campaign verification solution ensures that clients’ campaigns meet delivery expectations in such areas as brand safety, protection from fraud, geographic coverage, and level of quality.
Theorem advocates an approach that gives a truly comprehensive view of an ad campaign because they’re built on precise measurement that is captured through:
- Creative mock-ups
- Screen shots of test pages and pages in production
- Page-level analysis
- Player-level data
- User-level data inputs
- Real-time viewability tracking