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Another Ad Fraud Exposé:  why rigorous accountability and ‘someone to call’ can never go out of fashion

The key to fighting ad fraud: Rigorous accountability

This month, YouTube has come under serious allegations of misrepresenting their ad placements and reports. So, what’s the big deal?

In an article on adexchanger.com, Sean Cunningham, CEO and president of the Video Advertising Bureau, said, “The crux is that YouTube was charging a premium for assured high-quality ad placements in the safest YouTube environments. But, in actuality, those ads were routinely placed in the least desirable places: the lowest-tier sites that generate a mountain of useless impressions while risking brand damage with every compromised (fraudulent) ad placement.”  The estimated damage is N$260 billion overcharged to advertisers over 3 three years. 

Google’s terms of use outline where ads will be placed on YouTube, promising to adhere to strict guidelines to ensure brand safety and relevance. However, recent events suggest that these promises have not always been upheld, leading to ads being placed alongside inappropriate or harmful content. This poses a significant risk for companies as their brands might inadvertently become associated with content that does not align with their values, potentially damaging their reputation.

The business model for offline advertising is significantly different. Honed over many years, and vetted by third-party analytics, it has earned the trust of advertisers as a result. TV, radio, billboard and print ads are still meticulously tracked and reported,  and clients only pay after receiving verified reports and proof of their ads being aired alongside relevant content for their brand.

The perception that digital advertising is cheap has led many to believe that they are getting a good deal.  However the Youtube scandal, the latest of ongoing online media ad fraud allegations, points to a different reality. Impressions and clicks estimates may be abundant, but there is growing scepticism about their authenticity. Are these metrics truly indicative of genuine ad display, or are they merely inflated numbers designed to make digital campaigns seem more successful than they actually are? This question looms large, challenging the very foundation of the big tech platforms’ value proposition.

As companies navigate the complex world of advertising decisions, it is vital to base those decisions on accurate reporting and a trust-based relationship with advertising partners (preferably someone with a phone number who can have a cup of coffee with you). 

While there is no doubt that content and ad distribution using internet tech presents new opportunities,  a no-questions-asked-digital-metrics strategy may not be smart or cost-effective.  

The principles of accountability and control of ad placement should be paramount considerations for any marketer.  Having to pay for big campaign advertising without logs of where and when ads were displayed, should be raising red flags.  

Let us remember that a successful advertising campaign is less about reaching the widest audience and more about forging increased meaningful connections with the right audience in the right context.

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