Programmatic ad fraud deterring TV industry from the space, says ITV commercial director Simon Daglish

Ad fraud and viewability obstacles in the programmatic trading space are putting mainstream TV broadcasters off serious conversations about the technique’s potential, according to ITV commercial director Simon Daglish.

ITV commercial director: Simon Daglish

Speaking at MediaTel’s Media Playground conference in London, Daglish spoke of his concerns around third party data, and said it was “hard not to believe” that the problem of ad fraud was similarly as prolific in the UK market as the US, where figures estimate as much as $1bn of ad spend is wasted on fraudulent advertising.

“The question is, what part does big data play in the planning and buying of TV, and the answer is not clear,” he said. “But for big data to be discussed seriously, it needs to be a lot more reliable that it currently is.

“My concern for the future of big data is its reliability, particularly around third party data, which is not sourced and owned by either the media owner or the brand owner. According to the New York Times last month, 57 per cent of online ads through RTBs and trading desks were not viewed at all. During the same period, three new botnets were discovered, generating 30 million video views per day, fraudulently earning as much as $10m. The New York Times goes on to say it’s just scratching the surface.

“While these are US figures, it's not hard to believe that this fraud is endemic in the UK. Given the level of fraud, it does not give confidence to us at ITV, nor should it give confidence to anybody in the TV industry, that we should allow this data to do the planning and buying across the highly successful £3.5bn business.”

Efforts to curb ad fraud in the UK have included the involvement of the City of London police, which created a register of illegal websites in a bid to stop fraudsters profiting from false advertising. The pilot was backed by industry bodies such as the IPA, ISBA and the IAB amid growing concerns from advertisers about the lack of control over where ads appear online via automated trading.

Speaking on speculation about how programmatic buying may become a bigger player in the TV space, Daglish argued that rather than being behind the curve, the TV industry had itself pioneered the concept of automated trading, albeit not in the instant real-time fashion that modern programmatic offers.

“The surprising point here is the fact that programmatic buying already exists in TV,” he said. “In fact, it has done for some 10 years. Every day at ITV the carrier system connects agencies to ITV’s sell system, delivering an automated approval system which counts a booking straight into our airtime.

“Each month we have a system that takes the length, target audience, day part, region, contract, time, and then books across the whole of our broadcast schedule, delivering the ad as up to date as the last piece of audience data allows.

“So it would be wholly wrong to assume TV has not been a pioneering movement behind this idea. In fact, TV was the early adopter of programmatic buying.”

Daglish went on to say that the industry must remember the importance of art and creative in advertising and not become too side tracked by the prospect of data-driven results.

“We are humans,” he said. “We are not numbers or pieces of data. We have to recognise that the human factor is not measured by data alone. Humans are not logic machines, despite the data claims.

“There are no absolutes about human behaviour. The process that goes into the buying decision is both complex and imprecise and can best be described as both logical and illogical.”

He concluded: “What I’m saying is that yes, data is great, I absolutely buy into it. But its accuracy and authenticity is so challenged at the moment it’s got a big struggle to get to the top table.

“It’s not whether programmatic will be part of it, I’m sure it will in the future. It’s just not ready yet.”

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