Despite no longer being a “new” technology, mobile in-app advertising still tends to get the short end of the stick when the topic of trust is floated at any industry conference. The fact of the matter is that in-app advertising has come a long way since its inception — and it is now far from being the untested “wild, wild west” that many still envision it to be.
Even so, standards and tools are continuously being developed and improved to ensure transparency and to safeguard against external threats such as malware, click fraud, bots, and more.
In the APAC region alone, mobile ad spending is expected to increase by nearly 25% this year, according to eMarketer. As in-app advertising gains ground, it is essential to be aware of and to understand the various industry initiatives and measures in place to protect one’s mobile investments. It is only by working together as an industry that we can continue to pave a path towards a safe and protected in-app marketplace for both publishers and advertisers.
To date, three major initiatives are underway that aim to tame fraud, increase trust, and improve transparency throughout the industry.
App-ads.txt: The next step in combating ad fraud
No conversation about protected marketplaces can occur without mentioning one of today’s most accepted tools for reducing fraud — app-ads.txt. Developed by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), app-ads.txt is an extension of the original ads.txt standard. App-ads.txt helps reduce fraud by enabling mobile apps to list authorised sellers of their inventory. By adopting this specification, publishers allow advertisers to be confident that their budgets wind up in the hands of reputable vendors.
It only took 18 months for 77% of the top 5,000 programmatic web domains to adopt ads.txt (the desktop version), and the specification has since had a significant impact on cutting down counterfeit inventory on websites.
Now, the goal is that the same result can be achieved within the in-app advertising industry. An additional benefit to note is that publishers who utilise ads.txt (and now app-ads.txt) typically see an increase in revenue, as fraudsters cannot easily spoof their inventory.
Mitigating spoofing is important, as it ensures that advertisers are able to rest easy knowing exactly where their ad spend is going. As in-app spending increases in the region, app-ads.txt will only grow in importance.
TAG certification: Building trust in digital advertising
The Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) is a cross-industry certification program dedicated to increasing transparency in the digital advertising industry. TAG’s mission is to combat malware, prevent internet piracy, promote greater transparency in digital advertising, and to eliminate fraudulent traffic.
The TAG Certified Against Fraud Program, in particular, provides a set of guidelines to help guide companies in fighting fraud effectively. Companies that display the ability to adhere to the guidelines stand to receive the TAG Certified Against Fraud seal. This signifies that an organisation is committed to eliminating invalid traffic in the digital advertising supply chain.
Some of the requirements for obtaining the certification include IP blacklisting, complying with the Media Rating Council’s invalid traffic detection and filtration requirements, and implementing payment ID systems among other criteria.
But being TAG certified isn’t a one-off process. Organisations are required to prove that they are following the guidelines needed to maintain the certification every year. Achieving certification can require significant investment, which can be an obstacle for some companies.
Open measurement SDK: Facilitating transparent viewability measurement
After years of industry-wide frustration regarding the state of ad viewability measurement, the IAB took over an initiative to solve it. The initiative was focused on developing open-source code that publishers could use to integrate multiple viewability vendors via a unified standard.
This new standard now helps facilitate third-party access to measurement data and is known as the Open Measurement (OM) SDK.
The OM SDK is the first industry-approved open-source viewability measurement SDK. With many of the in-app industry’s largest players, including Google, incorporating it into their in-app offering, the OM SDK provides advertisers with trustworthy, independent ad viewability verification at scale.
Walking the path together
The mobile in-app advertising space is maturing rapidly, and the support of initiatives and technologies that combat fraud and improve transparency plays a key role in widening the appeal of mobile advertising as a whole. Ensuring that all stakeholders are aware of the steps being taken and the options available will go a long way in boosting the appeal of in-app advertising.
Delynn Ho is the general manager, APAC at Smaato