November 17, 2021
According to eMarketer’s 2019 Digital Ad Fraud Report, between $6.5 to $19 billion is lost annually to such criminal activity. With this in mind, the Advertising Business Group and Interactive Advertising Bureau GCC (IAB GCC) have partnered [LINK TO NEWS RELEASE] with the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) to promote international standards aimed at tackling ad fraud, combating malvertising, facilitating threat sharing, as well as promoting brand safety (such as minimizing the risk of ad misplacement), in digital advertising. The aim is to boost trust and transparency and protect brand investment in digital ad spending.
The Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG):
TAG is an international cross-industry self-regulatory organization established by advertising trade bodies in 2014.
TAG is focused on three core areas:
Today there are 700+ companies participating in TAG from countries across the world – including in the Middle East – working collaboratively to reduce criminal activity and promote brand safety in digital advertising.
Eliminating Fraudulent Traffic
Fraud in digital advertising is a persistent brand safety challenge for the industry: the 2019 ANA/White Ops Bot Fraud study estimated that advertisers lost $5.8 billion that year globally to bot-generated, Invalid Traffic (IVT). Recognising that individual companies or agencies cannot combat ad fraud alone, TAG works with the entire digital ad ecosystem to tackle this issue. The Certified Against Fraud Program provides companies with the industry best practices to minimize fraudulent activity within the digital advertising supply chain, such as detecting and removing IVT. Since the program began, it has made a significant impact in reducing the level of ad fraud globally – see below.
Promoting Brand Safety
Placement of ads is a crucial consideration for advertisers as one misplaced ad can jeopardize the brand’s relationship with the consumer and ultimately the brand’s revenue. TAG’s Brand Safety Certified Program aims to significantly reduce this risk on all digital media types and thereby upholding brand safety and protecting the integrity of digital advertising. The program serves the entire digital advertising supply chain by providing transparency, choice and control for buyers – enabling them to buy advertising inventory with confidence and creating a brand safety framework for sellers that increases the value of certified sellers’ inventory. From 1 January 2022, the Brand Safety Certified will include anti-piracy requirements, previously a stand-alone TAG certification.
Sharing Threat Intelligence
Malvertising’ – the use of digital ads, including creative, tags and landing pages, specifically to distribute malware, often for financial gain – is estimated to cost industry $210 million annually in 2018 to auto-redirects, and another $920 million from the ads auto-redirects facilitated with click fraud. TAG coordinates an industry-wide effort to improve defence against malware by (a) enabling companies to share real-time intelligence about threats – via a Threat Exchange – that could affect their operations; and (b) providing companies with a set of guidelines – via TAG’s Certified Against Malware Program – to help combat malware in the digital advertising supply chain, improving consumer experience and stopping botnet attacks that fund fraudsters.
Verified by TAG – Knowing Your Partners:
Prior to any company seeking to adhere to these standards, each company must be Verified by TAG. Brand safety requires that legitimate companies have a way to identify – and choose to work only with – other legitimate partners in the digital advertising ecosystem.
The Verified by TAG Program makes it possible for companies to employ a ‘two-factor authentication’ system for the digital ad supply chain. This is the first step for companies when participating in TAG and brings important benefits:
○ The Use of the TAG ID – each company is provided with a unique alpha numeric number that can be shown to clients / partners (i.e. via inventory) to demonstrate its identity / legitimacy;
○ Being listed in the TAG Registry – each company is listed in the Registry to show that is Verified by TAG as well as what self-regulatory programs the company is participating in and where is being applied (i.e. in UAE; in Middle East; or globally);
○ Participating in TAG’s Working Groups – each company has the opportunity to participate in TAG’s working groups to help shape and evolve the standards; and
○ Appointing a TAG Compliance Officer – each company should appoint someone to be responsible for compliance, as well as training and education.
Benefits of TAG – Minimising The Level of Criminal Activity:
TAG’s international standards are supported by advertisers and industry bodies around the world. – for example the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) in its Global Media Charter and brands such as Proctor and Gamble which is requiring all of its ad partners to achieve TAG’s Certified Against Fraud seal. And by working together, through TAG, companies are helping to minimise the level of criminal activity and promote brand safety in digital advertising.
○ Digital ad fraud rates in TAG Certified distribution channels (i.e. when digital advertising is bought through companies who have achieved TAG’s Certified Against Fraud seal) are over 75% lower than industry averages. Research papers focused on key regions in Europe, Asia-Pacific and the whole of the US found that fraud rates were held to less than 1% in TAG Certified Channels in recent years; meaning that on a global scale the TAG community are actively slowing down the flow of money to criminals who profit from it and providing a better ‘bottom line’ for advertisers and publishers.
○ Over 100 companies are signed up and complying with TAG’s new Brand Safety standard, helping to minimize the risk of ad misplacement in digital advertising. Half of these businesses are applying the standard to their global operations. From 1 January 2022, the standard will include anti-piracy requirements, previously a stand-alone certification which reduced ad revenue in the US for pirate sites by between 48 and 61%. According to a US report by Ernst and Young in 2017, were it not for the TAG Certified Against Piracy standard, criminals would have reaped as much as an additional US$177m (compared to the US$111m pirates did earn from serving digital advertising linked to infringing media content.
The ABG, IAB and TAG have agreed a tailored approach for the GCC market, whilst preserving the international nature of the standard. Further details are set out in this [link to FAQs] set of FAQs.
How Do I Get Involved?
1. Interested companies should contact TAG directly via email@example.com. You may also be contacted separately by MedPush, a leading consultancy in the region. MedPush is working on TAG’s behalf to help companies.
2. TAG will then set up an engagement call to (a) learn more about the company, its business and operations; and (b) provide further information on TAG, its mission, each of the self-regulatory programs and the participation process.
3. If a company wishes to continue, it will need to complete an application form to formally apply to participate in TAG. [N.B. A company may choose to do this before an engagement call if it wishes].
4. On agreeing how a company wishes to participate in TAG, it will need to complete a Membership Agreement, including any relevant fees [N.B. these will be discussed on the engagement call – further details can also be found in the FAQs].
5. The company will then proceed to be Verified by TAG and – where relevant – seek to comply with any or all of the self-regulatory programs.
6. Once Verified by TAG, the company will be sent all the onboarding material [N.B. the same applies when / if a company is certified as complying with one or more of the self-regulatory standards].
7. A further ‘compliance call’ can be arranged with TAG to discuss the specific requirements on the standards.
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