Who Is Actually Responsible for Ad Fraud? Is It the Agencies?
There is a mystery wrapped in an enigma standing right before us in the media industry, and at first and second glance it just doesn’t make any sense. Let me try and approach it this way -- you walked down a block in your hometown many times and got robbed more than once, in fact, you get robbed every time. Knowing that, wouldn’t you change the way you traveled? Suppose you told the police about the ongoing robberies, and they told you, “Yes, that is the way it is, but we think the trip is still safe because you were only robbed of 50% of what you had each time.” Safe? By whose standards?
To me, this parallels the current situation in the advertising industry. We read of ad fraud every day in the digital world, and yet the digital advertising budgets rise every quarter.
We are confronted with ad blockers, ad fraud, robotic ad clicking, totally fake CPMs, and CMOs who don’t believe they get a measurable ROI from social media, and yet they continue to spend more in the world wide web of murky digital swamps and total intentional fraud.
This rant has nothing to do with print, so let’s just take that out of the equation. This is strictly a question of why is digital fraud is tolerated? There must be an ROI somewhere, but where is it? I get that advertising next to search works. I get that social influencers may actually help promote brands. I get that 50% of our time is spent in focusing on digital screens. I don’t get why lies, deception, unseen ads, and fraudulent statistics are given a second glance, let alone increased ad buys.
In the wild west of yesteryear, there was limited enforcement of the laws and the rules of society, due mostly to a lack of an enforcement agency responsible for the safety of the citizens. Order came and civility was enforced when the public demanded an intervention by peacekeepers with authority to jail the offenders of society.
Who then is the peacekeeper in the ad wars? Who has the jurisdiction to demand the stopping of ad fraud? No one, and that is the problem. Apparently attorneys general can’t/don’t/won’t do it. Advertising associations are a total joke when it comes to self-policing. And ad agencies don’t care as they make money regardless of fraud, robots, unseen ads, and all the other detritus elements of that media industry.
And that, my friends, seems to be the very root of the problem. The ad agencies are rolling in profits, while the rest of us linger and suffer. In fact, they do very well with all this known fraud and it really just means they are billing more and more each quarter. Do they know about the fraud, yes. And so what does that mean? It means nothing but keep the profits coming, thank you very much.
So how does this get resolved? As a man who usually has an opinion and a solution to offer, I have the following proposal. Since we are aware of ad fraud and know many of its statistics, we do the following: we subtract 3X the price of the part of the agency charge that is statistically known to be fraudulent from the agency bill. What is known to be true gets paid and what isn’t gets subtracted 3X from the invoice. It seems to me that would clear this up pronto. I call it "Bo's Responsible Ad Payment Proposal."
If that isn’t close to the answer, then I haven’t a clue. Without that kind of proposal, it seems unresolvable and will remain a mystery wrapped in an enigma.
Bob Sacks (aka BoSacks) is a printing/publishing industry consultant and president of The Precision Media Group (BoSacks.com). He is also the co-founder of the research company Media-Ideas (Media-Ideas.net), and publisher and editor of a daily international e-newsletter, Heard on the Web. Sacks has held posts as director of manufacturing and distribution, senior sales manager (paper), chief of operations, pressman, circulator and almost every other job this industry has to offer.