Far too many marketers aren’t paying enough attention to ad fraud and data scandals, says Florian Gramshammer.

It’s a difficult time for the advertising industry. By 2025, ad fraud is expected to be the second largest source of income for criminals, behind drug trafficking. It’s a worrying statistic, with the cost to the industry amounting to $39 billion, according to the World Federation of Advertisers. What’s even worse is that two-fifths of marketers remain oblivious to ad fraud risks.

To add to the doom and gloom, transparency concerns continue. Last year, the IAB reported that 93% of senior marketers plan to choose agencies or suppliers based on their ability to prove brand safety and transparency in the future. In addition, data scandals such as the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook saga have left a sour taste in the mouth.

Essentially, the industry has a lot to answer for.

Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet or magic answer for the current issues across the industry. But, there are ways to make improvements. Everyone in the ecosystem has a part to play and they must consider the end goal: consumers. If the industry wants to be successful, it must be more willing to disclose information, be upfront and not shy away from tricky questions.

Here are some ways we think it needs to protect itself and move in the right direction:

Walk the transparency walk

Brand transparency is not nice to have; it is a must have. Consumers can spot lack of authenticity a mile off and brands need to deliver meaningful, relevant ads to consumers. Publishers need to put the consumer and brand suitability at the heart of the conversation.

Trust in data

Everyone in the ecosystem needs to put their trust in data, from brand to consumer. There are various ways to do this, one being the partnership channel; this respects customer privacy and forces brands to be responsible with their data, since it’s shared between businesses. By agreeing to share their data, customers benefit from an enriched experience, while brands benefit from technology that tracks and reports for measurable results.

Put action into ad fraud

For too long, brands have been hidden behind either a shroud of deceit or a veil of transparency but the industry is fighting back. Perhaps buoyed up by the shocking figures from the ANA that advertisers are losing $6.3 billion a year to so-called 'click fraud,' some advertisers now enforce within their contracts that they will only pay for online ads which have fraud protection technology based reports proving that their ads have actually been seen. It is not about spreading widespread fear and panic which will result in budgets being pulled from the digital ad industry; it is about providing advertisers with the real truth and offering brand-suitable and fraud-free inventory.

Apply the technology factor

Eyeballs alone are not enough to know if inventory is fraudulent; you need to use a combination of heuristic browser-side and server-side rules, coupled with technology which uses machine-learning capabilities to detect suspicious events such as clicks, installs, and conversions. Machine learning also protects partnership programs from the growing incidence of attribution fraud – whether it’s installed attribution fraud on mobile apps or conversion attribution fraud on website sales. Ultimately, technology will prevent wasting media dollars on malicious partners trying to steal attribution credit without adding value.

Get app-ads.txt ready

With over 30% of all digital advertising being fraudulent, ad fraud is spreading to emerging channels such as mobile. The IAB rolled out app-ads.txt earlier this year as a version of ads.txt developed specifically for mobile in-app and OTT advertising. The idea is to foil fraudsters that disguise their traffic to look as if it is coming from another company’s app to steal advertiser spend. Taking part in projects like this, coupled with using fraud prevention technology, will go a long way in moving the needle on ad fraud.

It's undoubtedly a difficult time for the industry and putting the wheels into motion on ensuring transparency and trust couldn’t be more important. While these are just a few ideas on how to turn it around, we’ll be sure to see more regulations, products and services come to the forefront to drive the change the industry needs.

Florian Gramshammer is taking part in Transparency is hard to see through, a panel session organised by Social-Wisdom during this week’s DMEXCO event.