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TAG Launches Anti-Fraud Program To Register Advertisers And Publishers
Initiative also includes a Payment ID system to connect ad inventory with everyone who gets paid.
An ad industry group is today announcing a new program it hopes will counter fraudulent digital ads by registering legitimate advertisers and publishers.
Called Verified by TAG, the initiative by the Trustworthy Accountability Group — the TAG in the program’s title — will set up a registry of advertisers and publishers that are certified as legitimate. Acceptance into the TAG Registry will require a background check and review process.
TAG’d companies will receive an identifier they can use to show their status, and the expectation is that participants in the ad ecosystem will require the identifier in order to do business.
Additionally, an upcoming Payment ID system will connect ad inventory to the parties that receive ad payments. This linkage is intended to counter, for instance, the use of software bots and other fraudulent means to generate fake ad traffic and thus collect payments for impressions that no one actually sees.
TAG CEO Mike Zaneis said in a statement that the two parts of the initiative will act as a kind of “’two-factor authentication’ for the digital ad supply chain.” Buyers, he said, will know that they are working with trusted parties, and payments within the system will go only to “legitimate players.”
Major industry players like AOL, AppNexus, Index Exchange, Google and Rubicon Project have pledged their support, as well as the five largest global ad holding companies — Dentsu Aegis, Interpublic, Omnicom, Publicis and WPP.
Jim Spanfeller, CEO of the Spanfeller Media Group, former CEO of Forbes.com and a critic of the lack of transparency in the programmatic ad ecosystem, told me that he is “very much in favor of this initiative.”
“By making bot behavior unprofitable, we take away the motivation to do it,” he said. “As this gains momentum, we will see a drastic reduction in the available inventory in third-party exchanges and such.”
By some estimates, ad fraud costs the industry about $18.5 billion each year, and it is growing rapidly. One question, however, is whether fraudsters can still scam the system by setting up fake identities. After all, with so many publishers and advertisers, it’s not clear if TAG will have the resources to vet them all. Additionally, it’s entirely possible that zillions of websites and their ads will continue to exist outside this system.
TAG was formed last November by three major digital ad industry organizations — the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the Association of National Advertisers and the Interactive Advertising Bureau. In July, TAG created a master blacklist of IP addresses associated with bot-generated ad requests involving data centers, based on a Google database.