Tony Laskar, Audience2Media’s CEO, speaks with The Drum over how exaggeration of fraudulent traffic is negatively impacting the sector as a whole, ahead of the closing date for entries to this year's The Drum Digital Trading Awards (DTA) judging panel member.
With media spend using programmatic buying technologies set to hit £2.5bn in the UK this year, advertisers are posed with unprecedented challenges, and the DTAs will ask some of the industries noted luminaries to assess how ad tech providers plus agencies are dealing with them.
The need for brands to gauge the potential of ad tech underscored when we read headlines proclaiming that bot traffic will cost advertisers over $7bn in media costs.
Audience2Media’s Laskar acknowledges this problem, but points out that in no way should the impact of such bad actors be over-exaggerated. “It simply puts a bad name on what we do. It really is a tiny amount, but on one hand it is good to be highlighted,” he says.
“How we defeat this battle against fraudsters and the likes, is to apply correct methodologies. Since I’ve been in digital, I see double-digit growth year-on-year along with our advertisers and agencies growing with massive uplifts in digital media budgets.”
One of the solutions to such activity was for media buyers to shift towards more closed trading environments (i.e. away from open exchanges, towards things such as PMPs, etc.), thus squeezing the opportunities for bad actors to insert themselves into the value chain.
This is a move fully embraced by Laskar, articulating his belief that “There are too many problems with exchange inventory.”
He adds: “Allow me to start by emphasising - companies who simply purchase media on a blind basis via exchanges should not be managing advertisers’ media budgets. This has led to new measurement/ad fraud companies being launched, taking the buzz away from the core highlights of how digital really is the best advertising medium.”
For Laskar, the shift towards trading via PMPs will guarantee a better synchronisation with their planning team on a transparent basis. “I believe media buyers will need to follow this route if they are trading themselves and whether or not they use brand safe ad tech companies for audience targeting,” he adds.
Those espousing such technologies hope that a more tightly-controlled programmatic buying ecosystem will help attenuate the rising uptake of ad blockers among audiences – one of the key narratives of 2015 - as more responsible players take greater control, and put audiences first.
“Ad Blocking has been the talk of the town recently for good or for the worse,” says Laskar. He also quips: “Remember we used to talk about viewability?”
He goes on to articulate his belief that the growth of mobile internet usage is the driving force behind this uptake of ad blockers, especially among intensive gamers, with a failure to tackle the problem comprehensively prompting (either for better or for worse) a fundamental shift in their attitudes towards monetisation.
“It may even drive each website/app publisher towards charging for content if the market is not careful. This may change the mass market perception and decision of installing an ad blocker software,” he says.
Commenting on the recent controversy surrounding the IAB refusing entry to its recent annual leadership summit to an ad blocker executive (one which prompted debate in the industry), Laskar is indignant.
“For AdBlock Plus [arguably the most popular ad blocker on the market], I have no comment and would like to direct your attention to the IAB when they refused their entry for their event, for a justified reason. I hope for our industry's sake ad blocking software is not mentioned again,” he says. “We are in advertising after all!”
However, for all the negativity that has dominated headlines in recent years surrounding the emergence of programmatic advertising technologies, Laskar is upbeat about how the growing awareness of programmatic advertising has had on the industry.
Do you find awareness among programmatic advertising has increased among brands? If so, what has the effect on the wider industry been?
“Programmatic advertising is just a way we purchase media… and the effect it has had on leading brands is huge,” he says.
“Hopefully the hype of programmatic will calm down as surely it is the norm for many of us today. Programmatic has also caused changed to my company. Go back seven years, we were using excel files for media planning and buying as well as signing paper I/Os [insertion orders]. Even at times we still do today.