New group tackles fraud in online advertising

A group of high profile companies including retailers, consumer packaged goods manufacturers, ad agencies, media companies and associations, has formed an independent organization to fight fraud in online advertising.

The Trustworthy Accountability Group is described as "an advertising industry initiative to improve the digital ecosystem," according to a press release. The board of directors was named this week, and includes 24 top executives from companies like JCPenney, McDonald's USA, Procter & Gamble, Modelez International, Facebook, the Wall Street Journal, and other well-known entities.

"For digital marketing to grow to its full potential, we must work together as an industry to build a trustworthy and accountable digital supply chain," said Marc Pritchard, global brand building officer, Procter & Gamble. "TAG is helping bring all of the stakeholders together to tackle difficult issues like fraud, digital piracy, ad-related malware, and lack of transparency, and I am delighted to join its board of directors as we undertake this important effort."

"TAG is building momentum with cross-industry programs to set appropriate standards, validate good actors and identify low quality sources of inventory," said Vivek Shah, CEO, Ziff Davis. "We believe this all-star board can help TAG set a clear and successful agenda, while ensuring that TAG programs are quickly adopted across the industry."

The group said that its founding CEO and president, Linda Woolley, a former CEO of the Direct Marketing Association, has stepped down "after helping the organization build a solid foundation for success." Mike Zaneis, EVP, public policy, and general counsel of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, is the interim CEO of TAG until a permanent replacement is found.

"What we're trying to do is put trust in the digital supply chain," Zaneis told Adweek. "There are serious challenges."

Zaneis described the cycle of fraud. Bad actors establish websites with pirated content, delivering malicious ads over networks, taking over computers with these ads, driving traffic to their pirated sites and selling ads that only get seen by these "zombified" computers.

"Marketers need to make sure they know what they're buying, that it's high quality and not supporting criminal activity," Zaneis said.

"Fraud, malware and piracy—marketers are really paying attention to this stuff now, and they are hopping mad," Woolley told a recent meeting of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. "I think marketers are extremely concerned about these issues, and they're now willing to take a stance."

With a new initiative called Brand Integrity Program Against Piracy, TAG will certify advertising technology companies as Digital Advertising Assurance Providers. They will be required to identify high-risk sites or "ad risk entities" and prevent marketers' ads from appearing on them. TAG will work with some independent third-party firms, including Ernst & Young and Stroz Friedberg, to validate advertising technology companies for the monitoring job, the Journal said.

TAG is an initiative created by the Association of National Advertisers, the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Interactive Advertising Bureau to attack ad-supported piracy, advertising fraud, malware and other critical challenges in the digital communications supply chain. The group wants to spur industry-wide improvement focusing on four core areas: eliminating fraudulent traffic, combating malware, fighting ad-supported internet piracy to promote brand integrity and promoting brand safety through greater transparency, according to the press release.

Update: This story has been changed to include content from an Adweek article.

For more:
See the Trustworthy Accountability Group press release
See the Trustworthy Accountability Group website 
See this Wall Street Journal article
See this Adweek article

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