Could the B2B Media Exchange Be One Answer to Ad Fraud?
Did you read Bo Sacks’ recent post on grappling with ad fraud? If you deal with programmatic advertising in any way, what do you think of Bo’s conclusion: “Maybe this whole conversation falls into an arena of total incompetence on an industrial scale. How else does an industry brag that we are down to only $6.5 billion in ad fraud?”
What a joke that the industry is happy that advertising fraud is projected to drop from $7.2 billion last year by 10%. Are you kidding me?! That’s the best we can do?
Bo and I were partners publishing a weekly paper 40+ years ago called The Express. If someone ripped us off for even $7.2 thousand dollars they would get a knock on their door from one or both of us. Maybe if you have never experienced advertising dollars being personal, you can’t feel as passionate as Bo and I might. Though I don’t see that as a good enough excuse.
This is worse than incompetence; it is complicity based on not giving a rat’s ass about your customers, the advertisers. So whose customers are the advertisers? With ads brokered on exchanges, the relationships are murky. I doubt in most cases there is anybody to actually call on a telephone to complain to.
I must admit the curmudgeon in me does smile at the massive irony of this whole mess. I published magazines which survived by selling advertising. We never knew how many actually read the ads. Sure, we did legitimate surveys of readership. Still, it was a matter of trust on the part of the advertisers that the stature of our brand among our readers would carry home their advertising message.
Today advertisers probably pay the lowest prices in history. Speaking in the broadest terms, some may well have paid a $80 or $180 CPM in print and are now paying $8 or $18 or even $0.80 CPMs online. With this historical perspective, if fraud adds another $1 to their cost, do they care or is that just an annoying cost of doing business?
The irony I refer to is we have traveled full circle back to not knowing how many people actually see ads. Perhaps a bigger problem is how many ads are displaying next to lame and sometimes despicable content.
Who is at fault? Clearly the ad networks and DSPs (demand side platforms) who allow phony media to run ads and who don’t make the necessary investment to police the bots. If they were held to account, made to clean up their networks, this would be solved. They also must kick out all the disreputable websites. I ran an ad network for a couple of years. At its peak we had 400 B2B online publications accepting ads. Yes, this was on a radically smaller scale than the programmatic, big data sales of today. Does that make the sellers less responsible?
BPA Introduces a B2B Programmatic Platform
One potential solution for B2B publishers may come in the form of the B2B Media Exchange being launched by BPA Worldwide next month. BPA has been a respected print media audit company for 80 years. They also audit digital and other media properties. The new initiative is called “the first programmatic private marketplace for audited B2B media.” They see this as fundamental to enabling their constituents to take advantage of the programmatic marketplace. Being a private marketplace, it also protects advertisers from the rampant fraud problem.
“For B2B media, whether [the dominance of programmatic] happens in a year or in five years, it’s all moving in that direction,” predicted Scott Roulet, VP of programmatic at BPA, who leads this effort. He believes this mirrors the change publishers went through moving from print sales to digital. The BPA marketplace is meant to help B2B media overcome the “barriers of scale” most are faced with when trying to break into programmatic sales. “It’s about programmatic enablement for the sell side and accessibility for the buy side.”
I must admit I conflate “programmatic” with big data and see both as a benign conspiracy to make branded media irrelevant. Todd Krizelman of Media Radar has tried explaining to me programmatic is a way of selling ads, not just shorthand for the networks themselves. It is this procedural, tool-based end of programmatic BPA is about to offer their partners.
Each participant will have a self-service portal to sell ads from, according to Roulet. They set a floor price and the Exchange offers space on their websites to “tens of thousands of advertisers placing ads through DSPs.” For example, one agricultural publisher who intends to participate hopes they can get the attention of advertisers like Ford Trucks, who otherwise pay them no attention. When I asked if this was mostly about selling remnant space, Scott answered, “The idea of remnant will become irrelevant.”
Scott Roulet said a major benefit for publishers is making it easy to sell to new and current customers via programmatic methodology. This brings operational efficiency by eliminating the necessity for ad salespeople to bother with the time-consuming ad production grunt work.
Anything that will help strengthen B2B media is a step forward in my book. A private marketplace also protects advertisers from having their brand associated with sleazy websites. I hope to be able to share some success stories about this new exchange in the future.
Andy Kowl is a journalist and entrepreneurial publisher with more than 30 years developing, marketing and growing publishing companies. He is senior vice president of publishing strategy for ePublishing Inc., the leading enterprise publishing system (EPS) provider which manages content, audience data, workflow, newsletters and e-commerce for hundreds B2B online publications. He helps publishers increase reader engagement and response by integrating behavioral data with contextual content, and shows them direct ways to monetize the results. Andy writes the B2B Beat blog for Publishing Executive magazine. His background in B2B includes publishing, editing and/or owning magazines and information products covering specialty retail, horse breeding, real estate, credit unions, Wall Street compliance and wireless technology.