In Q4 2015, a study from IAB and EY found that the digital ad industry would gain $8.2 billion by eliminating fraud and advertising crime. An untrusty supply chain consisting of fraudulent impressions, infringed content, and malvertising is one of the biggest threats to the digital advertising ecosystem today.
With sales leaders on the front lines between their organizations and their clients, it’s essential that they become well versed on the topic: according to one report by Distil Networks, fraudsters take home $1 for every $3 spent on digital ads.
“It’s imperative that sales leaders in our industry double down on our efforts to fight criminal activity,” said Mike Zaneis, President and CEO of The Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), a cross-industry, nonprofit entity created to fight criminal activity in advertising. “Nontechnical business teams especially, like ad sales reps and brand marketers, have the most to gain because ad fraud represents billions of dollars, collectively, to their bottom lines,” said Zaneis.
Sales leaders, having some of the greatest insight into the ad industry, are in an ideal position to fight fraud and ensure that their clients stay protected. Here’s how:
1. Look for patterns
Keep your eyes open and talk to your clients about fraud and brand safety, openly.
Sales teams have a bird’s-eye view of their clients, their campaigns, and their analytics, which can be leveraged to uncover patterns and solve problems before they have a chance to happen.
“If I know what 50 other companies in the digital advertising industry are seeing as far as malvertising threats, I’m going to be able to protect myself so much more effectively, and then I have an incentive to share this intelligence across the industry as well,” said Zaneis.
Sales leaders, attending many trade shows and working with countless customers, are in an ideal position to listen, learn, and see what’s happening under the radar. The key is to prioritize openness and honesty in your conversations with partners and potential customers: imagine your role as an educator rather than a closer—listen and keep your eyes peeled. Talk to fellow sales leaders. Surface as much intelligence as you can, and aim to learn.
2. Educate your clients
Initiate the change you want to see, and provide transparency into advertising operations.
When was the last time you had an open, honest, and frank conversation with your clients about brand safety and fraud?
Your company’s prospects and their customers have the most to gain from preventing ad fraud. They’re also the least equipped to prevent problems from taking place because they often cannot see how ad delivery and networks operate.
In addition to lack of awareness, there’s a tendency at some media companies to accept a portion of fraud as a cost of doing business. But those costs may be bigger than your clients realize.
“Your brand is being associated with criminal activity, regardless of whether what happened was or wasn’t in your control,” said Zaneis. “You’re funding activity that hurts your brand, and it causes material harm to consumers, among other ramifications.”
The best way to protect your clients and prospects is to empower them. On prospecting calls, share as much information as possible to educate them. Explain the mechanics of how your campaigns run and the steps you take to enforce brand safety. Tell your prospects, upfront, that they should never accept fraud as a cost of doing business.
“They have the power to require change,” said Zaneis. “If they just refused to buy inventory from suppliers that they don’t know, or that are not reputable, or that can’t be vetted against certain anti-fraud principles, then they can move this industry forward almost overnight, because the dollars will drive action, and they have the most to gain.”
3. Prioritize industry education and anti-fraud programs
Professional sales training and compliance programs catered to digital media
Ad fraud is a complicated business. What makes matters worse? Fraudsters always seem to find ways to introduce new technologies and outsmart the barriers that the ad industry puts in place to stop them—it’s tough to keep up.
With the proliferation of user-generated content and new technologies, how can all parties in the advertising equation stay safe? This question is especially challenging given that ad fraud isn’t an area that a particular person or job function owns. Aside from engineering, ad ops, and legal, there are few professionals who are well equipped to step in and ensure that advertisers stay safe.
But these teams are often focused on executing campaign operations. Sales leaders need to self-direct their education and client conversations. That’s an area where team-wide education and industry associations can help.
One program specifically designed for client-facing, digital ad professionals is the IAB Digital Media Sales Certification. Its rigorous standards make it the only globally recognized program that has been accredited by the American National Standards Institute for digital advertising sellers. For the certification exam, applicants must demonstrate a mastery of many areas, including an understanding of ad fraud as well as the intricacies of the digital ecosystem. The program ensures that participants stay educated on all that is happening in the industry through a recertification process, expanding their knowledge and instilling a deeper trust in their client recommendations.
Additionally, TAG, led by Zaneis, has developed transparency programs so that people know who they’re doing business with and where their ad dollars are flowing. Through the TAG seal program and its advisory board of industry leaders, the program is tackling advertising crime and fraud by building a vast network of trusted partners. “If you want to make changes to the infrastructure of the industry, start with small steps,” said Zaneis.