The past year has seen brands shift a significant amount of attention to digital marketing, making it an exciting time for innovation. But with this comes the challenge of protecting investments against marketing fraud and non-human activity.
The Drum and White Ops invited marketers from brands including Foodpanda, Lazada, Shopee, Zenyum, and Zillingo to discuss this dichotomy and understand what tools, technology, and ultimately, trust, needs to be in place so that brands can fully raise the potential of their digital investments.
The importance of data integrity
A near-unanimous perception in the discussion around marketing fraud was the importance of really understanding the integrity of the data brands have. This is seen as a fundamental requirement on a marketer’s side of the ecosystem, so that a marketer can try and own a better understanding of where ad spend could be wasted on non-human activity.
Thomas Wolf, head of online marketing and CRM at Foodpanda, said his view is that marketers need to take as much ad and martech as they can in-house, citing the Uber ad fraud legal case as an example of a situation that brands should learn to avoid now.
“My view, and what we are looking to do at Foodpanda, is to build up as much as we can from a data and technology perspective in-house so we can get the best picture of the behavior of our customers. Doing it ourselves means we can trust the data and make sure we aren’t investing in media that delivers no return. The challenge that usually comes back from that is that you need a huge team to do this, but with the right talent and technology, it’s achievable,” he says.
Finding and retaining talent and marshalling resources can be a challenge for marketers, however, as not all brands are able to routinely vet or challenge whether it is getting human or non-human traffic, through owned assets, analytics or CRM tools.
The perception of ad fraud
One challenge, according to the marketers, is that there needs to be a much wider education on marketing fraud in the industry. As a subject that’s moving quickly, it’s key that brands are kept up to date with the latest changes.
One perception that is widely misunderstood is where ad fraud is really coming from. Many brands perceive ad fraud to originate from bad actors on the side of brands or publishers but in fact, a larger proportion comes from the side of cyber criminals and malware.
Ryan Murray, director, APAC at fraud specialists White Ops, explains, “In research that we’ve carried out with marketers, this perception is common, but actually it’s incorrect as around 75% of marketing fraud comes from malware on personal devices, planted by cyber criminals. This means it’s really important for brands to understand what protection is needed, and to understand how much they can save by protecting their marketing spend against f non-human traffic and brand interactions.”
Unifying and simplifying the industry
The rate of change in the marketing industry is exceptionally rapid. Many challenges to the industry—such as ad fraud—make it difficult to decide upon one strategy or direction. There are simply too many different solutions or approaches to consider. Larger players like Facebook and Google have different approaches from the rest of the industry, which in turn makes for a difficult situation for marketers.
The panel called for a unified approach to ad fraud across the industry, perhaps in the shape of a unified fraud mitigation platform, to help the industry combat the continually more savvy approach from cyber criminals.
Mengfei Wu, manager, regional online marketing, Shopee, says, “One of the biggest challenges we have as digital marketers is reconciling what big players like Google and Facebook do around these issues, and dealing with what’s a very complicated and fragmented industry.”
When it comes to an approach to the challenge, Zillingo business head of marketing services, Tushar Gudwani, says brands want to be able to select best-in-class tech on its own, or have the option of buying into tech that takes care of multiple adjacent issues (such as brand safety). In short, marketers want options, but they want to know they’re getting solutions built for the challenge, rather than “solutions” that are bolted on to existing products.
Moving the conversation up stream
The final challenge that digital marketers experience in mitigating marketing fraud is around KPIs and performance metrics. For a long time, the top metrics have been web traffic and leads delivered, without questions or metrics around quality being applied.
Aaron Ting, head of performance marketing, Zenyum, says this is a focus for many digital and performance marketing leaders, who have to balance short-term KPIs with a need to make decisions that benefit the business longer-term, including ensuring the quality of the leads captured.
Overwhelmingly, there is an urgency from brands to get on top of the marketing fraud problem and find a new normal in digital marketing. To do this, the industry needs to simplify and agree on common approaches to instil more trust, while marketers themselves need to figure out their priorities and perceptions of the challenge in order to put their best foot forward. Ultimately a more united front makes the industry a force to be reckoned with against cybercriminals.