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June 29, 2015 | 4 min read

The&Partnership Founder Johnny Hornby asks the industry’s leaders if a cross-industry initiative is needed to combat botnet fraud

Johnny Hornby: If the 30, 40, or even 50 per cent figure that people are mentioning around programmatic that is fraudulent is true, then does the industry have a kind of duty to you as an advertiser to expose that and clean that up?

Keith Weed, chief marketing officer, Unilever: I think there’s a potential time-bomb in this area which will lead to loss of faith and trust in the industry.

Johnny Hornby: How worried are you about fraud? Some people are saying that up to 40 per cent of views are fraudulent.

Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive, WPP: Well it depends whether you’re using open exchange or closed. Xaxis, 85 per cent of its £bn of buying is done through closed exchanges, because we think that’s a better way.

Keith Weed: But even before you get as far as fraud, I think there’s things going on which I think still need to be sorted out. It’s just viewability. Now what’s viewability? On some platforms, if the ad gets served, you pay for it. Now, on a PC it could be below the fold down here, but you’re paying for it.

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I think you get what you pay for – it’s simple. There’s talk in the industry about – it’s maybe 50 per cent or 70 per cent. And I’m saying, well you know, it should be 100 per cent.

Brent Hoberman, co-founder, Founders Factory: You get new terms like programmatic – everybody’s talking about it but no one’s doing it.

It’s like teenage sex – everyone’s talking about it, everyone thinks everybody else is doing it, the people who are doing it (and there aren’t that many) are probably not doing it that well.

David Pemsel, chief executive, Guardian Media Group: I think it’s the reality of the business. The holding companies need to make their margin, and I can see why it’s going that way.

100 per cent viewability, why should that be an outrageous demand? I mean you’ve paid for something – guaranteeing that someone’s viewed it I think is completely acceptable. And putting the metrics in place to be able to quantify that I think is completely justifiable.

Sir Martin Sorrell: With those open exchanges we’re using people who have a much higher standard.

Johnny Hornby: And you can sift out botnet fraud in that?

Sir Martin Sorrell: Well can you sift out all of it? I don’t know – I’m not an expert – but I would guess you could get to most of it. But it is an issue.

Johnny Hornby: Is it an issue do you think that should be a cross-industry issue? If you’ve got clients – let’s say the UK for example – spending £15-£16m in programmatic, and the 40 per cent figure is anywhere near right, then that could be a lot of money that people are spending.

Sir Martin Sorrell: I wouldn’t say it’s right in our own case, because we fairly meticulously go through this to try and eradicate it.

If it is of the scale you’re suggesting, clearly it’s an issue, and it should be dealt with.

Matt Brittin, president, EMEA business and operations, Google: The digital world is still such a young industry. It is working it out, and working the issues out at a pace now, because I think there is … Having sat with the big guys, the Unilevers etc, you’re now at the scale and spend where we need some more verification. I think it’s perfectly possible to do it and it will come.

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