Publishers Versus Fraud: How To Organize Market and End Up with Unified Game Rules

Published Tue, 2 April, 15:39

On March 21 UA Digital 21 hosted «Antifraud», a roundtable discussion on fraudulent traffic, ways and means to combat it focusing on the current situation in Ukraine’s market.

The panelists representing field – oriented companies, such as sales houses, media buyers, audience measurement companies, publishers and advertisers met to discuss the current situation and possible options to solve the problems faced.

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Dishonest traffic in digital advertising is termed as «fraud» (Fraud – deliberate deception, trickery or cheating aimed to gain an advantage). Such traffic is generated by bot programmes designed to fulfill certain actions, by install-farms where the operators manually perform and control reviews, transition states and installations from a number of Internet-access devices (with IP-addresses masked out), place fake announcements promising fake or non-existent contents. According to expert assessment a 10 to 30% share of advertising traffic might be termed as fraud.

Fraud Traffic in Ukraine: Problems and Challenges

Publishers are interested to engage advertising budgets and advertisers, in their turn, are in need of audience, real audience, not those hyped up as above. Running behind money is not the only problem faced. Yaroslava Antipina, CEO, IAB Ukraine as the discussion moderator asked publishers what kinds of fraud they are most often faced with.

Yelena Shabashkevich, Development Director, Digital Projects, Media Group, emphasized that publishers have lately become full-fledged players at the advertising market. «Without any prejudice to agency-provided services we have been more and more shifting for ourselves in sales. And thus a question arises: what kind of audience we sell not only in terms of quantity but also in terms of quality. No generally accepted unified measurement system exists as of now. There are just often used measurement systems. Besides, mobile traffic is ever growing with its share crucially exceeding the desktop one. But for all that is it measured the way we need? No, it is not.

And at the end of the day all these factors are directly relevant to our revenues. All market players should play by the precise rules. Violation of the rules brings about hyped up ratings which distort the performance data thus misleading the advertiser. Which is in fact what unfair play is all about».

Calculation of any publisher’s audience may provide insight into the audience quantity giving no idea of its quality.

Kateryna Kobernyk, Editorial Director, The Babel pays attention to the importance of self-regulation within the publishers’ environment.

«Speaking of our market we might conclude that any site is valued depending on its desirability in the minds of advertisers. However, the reach and audience are also taken into account. As a matter of fact it is not just a commercial but also a personal issue when you see that your competitors respect no rules thus damaging you ratings with an unfair player emerging ahead of you, which sure, affects your revenues and a lot of other things inside media companies.

There is an attempt to agree on the a.m. issues but publishers are not ready to simultaneously put their cards on the table. Therefore the situation has not been resolved until now».

Why publishers are in need of fair play

Oleg Onegov, Director, Admixer, explained why publishers are interested in fair play.

«Publishers are very well aware of their traffic fairness. A real figure accounting for quite a real traffic emerges as a result of funds invested into a relevant content, human resources, etc.  The publisher ends up winning his fair million of users while a certain site having invested much less into content and human resources performs much better showing 10 million users due to investment in bots, and thus it moves into a higher gear, getting to a new level of sales and earning more money».

Solutions for Combatting Site Frauds

There two ways to combat frauds. The first one: to give the traffic to various DSP, SSP for sale. They would prepare accounts and lay emphasis on problematic figures recommending whether to buy certain traffics or not. The second one – to install third party verifiers or measurers (measurement companies), such as MOAT or Double Verify and customers would be guided by their data.

When claiming this, we mean advanced and responsible customers Oleg Onegov asserts that responsibility and awareness is ever growing among both, publishers and advertisers alike. While choosing sites for their campaigns the advertisers are prone to be more careful in their analysis. «Such conscious and responsible advertisers are not numerous as yet but their number is prone to growth and it is my understanding that the situation will change for the better in 2 to 3 years, no doubt about it».

The numbers emerging during the elections do not give much cause for optimism either. When speaking of political campaigns the customers are first and foremost focus on the sites showing higher reach data taking no heed of quality issues.

It is worth noting that actions by dishonest publishers do not get off scot-free. «Sooner or later they might be quarantined or, else, excluded from the list of publishers eligible for advertisers’ funds», says Igor Yashchuk, Digital Planning Director, Amplifi Ukraine.

Top-class advertisers have actually come to the long-felt need for the traffic measurement. «While placing high budgets the customers would sure take advantage of services provided by auditors, discerning  fraud from fair», comments Andrey Liakh, Newage co-owner.

Rating might be also influenced by what we call «jeansa» in Ukr. (lit: denim and figuratively: paid journalism, advertorial, non-obvious paid for advertising); it might sometimes account for 60 to 70% revenues share and it is for the chase paper that sites might hype up enormous reach data. «In all fairness it is worth noting that jeansa is also leaving the market while moving not so rapidly as we would like it to move, though», comments Kateryna Kobernyk.

Fraud Traffic Becomes Smarter

But technologies are forging ahead. And improved tools and devices also give new impetus to fraudulent schemes. Demand determines supply. Therefore honest advertisers are supposed to readjust themselves as soon as possible. 

Igor Koval, Director, Industrial Television Committee, took an example of the bigdata (cognitive appraisal of content) purchase by the National Council for TV and Radio Broadcasting. The said system is able to convert any content (TV, Radio, I-net) into a text; conversion is followed by processing and analysis. If fully introduced and put into service the system is capable to computerize, moderate and control data in media sphere.

Need for Unified Measurement System /Metrics

A few metrics available, such as Gemius, Cmetre measure audience quantity. However they would not tell you how many real people are a reached. No solutions to solve the issue are available, i.e. there is no possibility to calculate the number of real people visiting a site. This accounts for a challenging task. The user - content contact goes through a great number of screens, and here is when and how the multi-device factor steps in.  No telemeters are available to tell you how many persons use this or that site. Besides, a technical fraud (minor as it is) – one more factor to consider. 

Serhey Tkachenko, Business Director, Kantar TNS, emphasizes both, the self-regulation significance and introduction of the universal measurer for all companies in the market. «There is a need to industrialize the market and to define the minimal rules of the game and that’s first and foremost. Let’s take pixel-audit technology as the basic element because it is key for any measurement. What comes next is agreement on the establishment survey with similar quotas. We are also supposed to choose the unified measurer for the panel, which is last but not least. The panel and establishment survey are defined via tender. These are the positions to be prescribed, to put it roughly».

We need the establishment survey so as to select respondents for taking part  in measurements as well as to correct  the so called panel (meaning the respondents that have already taken part in measurements) Author’s Note.

«The scheme would become operative, given is accepted  in the market by the majority of votes or, so to say a critical  mass would be reached» – comments Yelena Shabashkevich.

Yaroslava Antipina gave a summary of the presentations made: «Acting within the framework of the Committee on Standards we move towards unified rules. We are concerned with development of measurement standards, or adaptation thereof, to be more precise».

There are standards available within the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) international, and IAB Ukraine as a recently established Agency started to have them adapted.

What is really essential is to raise the total awareness level enabling people to identify the fraud, moreover,  to be in the know of how to combat them. So our main message is: the market must have easily understandable and generally accepted rules of the game.

And one more thing no less important: all market players have to comply with those rules.