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Being human: top marketers discuss why avoiding fraud and protecting consumer data are top priorities

Half the money spent on advertising is wasted, the problem is the industry doesn’t know which half.

With brand investment in digital rising, ensuring that spend reaches real humans as effectively as possible is top of mind for marketers. The Drum and Human hosted marketing leaders from Microsoft, Circles.Life, Grab, Paypal and Razer, at a roundtable to find out more.

With consumer touchpoints fragmenting across more digital platforms, the investment from marketers has followed. However, the complex nature of tracking and targeting the right consumers online has put an onus on data and measurement, as well as a question on whether human customers are seeing ads at all.

Fred Chery, head of digital marketing, ecommerce at Razer defined this problem with an age-old marketing quote; half the money spent on advertising is wasted, the problem is the industry doesn’t know which half.

“Even with attribution and performance marketing, this challenge is still prevalent in the industry due to its complexity. As performance becomes more granular and fraud always more innovative” he adds.

He says that all brands will be looking at understanding how effective their spend has been differently, because all businesses have different needs, meaning there’s no right way to do it.

Outside of the problem of tracking the efficacy of spend, there’s also an ongoing issue with bad actors, particularly in the ad fraud space. Though often the metrics and measurement coveted by performance marketers is also viewed to be a contributor to some types of fraud.

Grab’s head of performance marketing, James Peng, believes that a historical trend of placing CPA as a metric, particularly for brands looking for app installs, has exacerbated the issue.

“My view is that a lot of the focus for performance marketing and KPIs has led to a lot of the rise in fraudsters. This addiction, for example, for an app install business, to paying for CPA, that's what drove the fraud to happen. They're not paying attention to what's in the middle. It's kind of funny because giving the marketers exactly what they want has led to the opportunity for fraud. This has probably been the biggest driver of fraud in the app install industry over the past half decade or so,” he explains.

Anupam Dikhit, digital, social and experiential marketing lead, Microsoft, agrees with this point, adding that the fraudsters evolve alongside the needs of the marketers.

“Ad fraud has been there for much longer, it just evolved to keep pace with the evolution and KPIs. I remember, back in the 2000s, it was more about clicks and then it moved to a massive phase where we wanted to pay for video views. I would say fraud is inherent to digital, simply because a lot of our metrics went too granular, which gave opportunities for fraud,” he says.

Similarly, Delbert Ty, head of marketing, Circles.Life, agrees that with digital marketing, the layers of middle men can create spaces for bad actors to exist. For Ty, Circles.Life doesn’t have a lot of fraud on a transactional level because the validation layers to purchase from a telco are very high. However, he says he sees fraudulent activity happening in marketing spend wastage.

He says he’s seen cases where, so long as you’re paying a high enough CPA, affiliate partners have bid against a brand’s own search terms, cannibalising performance on other digital marketing channels..

An important part of the discussion around fraud and validating whether consumers are human or not tied into a wider industry topic around data. With consumers being more sensitive to how their data is being used, regulators and major tech firms are limiting the use of third-party data and enforcing stricter guidelines around how first-party data is used.

Shane Capron, global marketing director, Paypal says that as a finance brand, fraud and privacy is something that’s always taken very seriously but adds that APAC consumers can feel differently to privacy issues than Europeans.

“Within a lot of APAC, there seems to be more of an expectation that certain things are going to be shared. That's okay for some consumers, as long as they are getting served the right sort of content at the right time. It’s about the perceived value,” he explains.

To be able to do this, marketers need good quality data and this is something that fraudulent or non-human traffic can augment and damage

In terms of a solution to this, the group agreed that more crowd-sourced or industry body-led activity needed to happen as it’s not a problem brands can solve by themselves.

To this point, Human’s director, Asia Pacific, Ryan Murray, says the company recently launched The Human Collective, a collaborative program designed to protect the ad marketing industry from fraud. The flagship members include Omnicom Media Group, The Trade Desk, Magnite, and Amica Mutual Insurance.

Murray says the questions around data compliance have only recently started to come up in conversations with marketers despite one of the more common fraud tactics being around account takeovers, which involves a database being attacked, stolen and reused.

“What's your role in this fight as a brand? That's a discussion that we want to have, so we launched the collective protection idea to bring it back to marketing to say - how do we band together to share information to impose our will on the cybercriminals and to get them out of the value chain?” he explains.

The Human Collective is just at the start of its mission, so the impact this collective protection idea will have is not yet known. What’s clear from the brand’s perspective is that with greater investment in digital, the importance is also greater.

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