WFA reacts to recent stories on ad misplacement


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Said Stephan Loerke, Chief Executive Officer of the World Federation of Advertisers, in relation to the recent headlines in the UK media*:

“Brands have been increasingly drawn to programmatic media's promise of efficiently delivering relevant content to people at the right time and place, at scale. This opportunity has seen investment in programmatic advertising increase dramatically. A recent WFA study shows that this now, on average, represents 16% of our (large multinational) members' global budgets, up from 10% two years ago. Whilst this figure varies greatly by region, many other sources have also tracked this increase with MAGNA Global, for example, now valuing the global programmatic advertising market at $19.5b, up from $14.2b the year before.

Both we and our members are increasingly concerned about the lack of transparency in this ecosystem. This takes many forms; including brand misplacement (as highlighted in recent media reports) but also the endemic levels of ad fraud. Our recent study ( outlined the scale of the problem, conservatively estimating that 10-30% of all impressions are fraudulent. Whether a brand's messages are seen by a bot rather than a human or whether an advertisement appears within utterly inappropriate content, the other players in the ecosystem still benefit from the initial investment. Currently, it is only the brand owner who loses out.

WFA members have already been taking action to deal with the issue of ads appearing against inappropriate content often by limiting the amount of 'run of exchange buys' within their investment. Our recent programmatic study found that WFA members are increasingly (67%) turning to private exchanges, which promise better quality inventory. More brands are also taking a more hands-on approach and directly contracting with the various parties involved in the ecosystem to ensure greater control – including the ability to contractually oblige them to protect their brands against misplacement and ad fraud. This could include potential penalties where these guarantees are not met.

What is needed is a more co-ordinated approach, such as a list of approved vendors being promoted by TAG in the USA, as well as third-party open-source solutions which have worked so successfully in other sectors. It is incumbent upon the ecosystem, including publishers, ad networks, programmatic companies and agencies, to prove that the capability to effectively deal with challenges such as ad fraud and brand misplacement is in place. As it stands this seems not to be the case. Until this time, brand owners need to apply caution in relation to their overall digital media investment.

Whilst brand owners are taking steps to protect themselves and their customers, it is ultimately incumbent on the platforms, including those mentioned in today's media reports, to do more to restrict this sort of inappropriate content from appearing in the first place. This is not the first time this sort of issue has been raised (see FT article) and clearly there is a need for the world's leading digital platforms to address this with a great deal more urgency and intensity.”

*The Times: “Big brands fund terror through online adverts”, “The click trick: how advertisers end up on extremist websites”

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