Greg Paull
Mar 4, 2016

Good news: Only US$7.2 billion of digital activity is bot fraud

R3's Greg Paull reports from the ANA (Association of National Advertisers) 2016 Masters of Media Conference in the US.

Greg Paull
Greg Paull

That was the headline from the first day of an engaging conference with 250 leading marketers in Florida today. In the second wave of a study with 49 digital advertisers (from Unilever to AB InBev to all the top players), US tracking firm WhiteOps found that ‘non human’ varied from between 3 percent to 37 percent and that this would account for about US$7.2 billion globally. Only a third of companies in this second wave saw their actual fraud decrease. So it was clear this is the industry’s elephant in the room that we all collectively need to solve. #Digitalsofake.

It was a year after the last ANA Media event—the one where former MediaCom CEO Jon Mandel proudly announced that there were too many rebates for digital in the US. So as we gathered again, we were the bearer of more challenging news on the rise of the bots. Marketers, media agencies and publishers need to work more collaboratively together to solve this issue. 

See our recent special report and video:
Bots versus brands: Ad-fraud warfare in APAC

Thankfully, during the day we saw some positive case studies on the power of digital to grow business. Wrigley’s Farrah Bezner gave an interesting insight into teenagers and the importance of fame as she covered the work done for Sour Patch Kids, the company’s fastest growing group of SKUs, including a very offline initiative The Patch, in which three houses became temporary homes for more than 200 musical acts to stay in while on the road, offering Wrigley unique content for the online world. Taco Bell’s Cheryl Gresham and Juliet Corsinita gave a similarly impactful case for their company's new Quesalupa, with a message of 'Create: curate and co-create” as the foundation for the work. Taco Bell also revealed it keeps 10 percent of its marketing budget “up our sleeve to do things we’ve never done before”—something that can only be done with the strong support of management. The former CMO of Taco Bell is now the CEO.

Industry expert and data nerd Brian Wieser took us on a fascinating ride through the business model of Adtech, the Holding Groups and the future. He foresees a likely bunch of “Unicorn Suicides” amongst a bunch of Silicon Valley players, who are either going to "go big or go home". And he also had some sanguine words on the rise of IBM, Accenture and other consultants in the advertising space: "If you think about what agencies do as a type of business process outsourcing, well, it turns out these companies have a lot of experience in this area." It’s a nervous time for agencies. 

In amongst this doom and gloom, it was the ever-energetic Gary Vaynerchuk, owner and CEO of Vayner Media, the US’s largest social-media agency, that provided the highlights. More Chris Rock in style, he launched into a 45-minute monologue (without any Powerpoint) on the challenges for the industry. 

“In the last 10 years, everything you know in marketing has been created—from YouTube to Facebook to the smartphone—so just imagine the changes in the next 10 years” he said. Not a fan of banner ads or programmatic, he made it clear that, “Not one f$#%ing person in this room has ever clicked on a banner ad, and yet still this myth prevails”. His focus is Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook, and in between 40 to 50 f-bombs, he built his business case. Finally, on the potential fraud in the industry, he left us with “I’m super pumped this is being looked into, and I hope that some people go to f$%#ing jail.”   

And on that note, we all adjourned for a sober cocktail. Clearly, the collective media industry has a way to go to drive more transparency and results. Let the journey begin.

Greg Paull is principal and co-founder of R3 a consulting firm focused on improving the effectiveness and efficiency of marketers and their agencies. 


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