The massive scale of ad fraud has been in the headlines recently, but while it needs to be treated seriously there is no reason to startle the horses too much, the panel concluded.
“Even though it is a problem, it is fixable,” said James Sampson, vice-president and general manager, APAC, of DataXu. “Bots are getting more sophisticated. People can build things that actually look like people. They browse, they click things, and they pause. That makes them harder to spot, but it can be done.”
Sampson was moderating a panel on ‘Fraud and trust in programmatic buying’, addressing a packed room in one of the summit’s afternoon discussion tracks.
“More and more is being transacted this way, so more and more is being measured," he said. "We can look at things that we never used to be able to see. Everybody is looking at this and taking it very seriously.”
Sam Ahmed, SVP and head of marketing for APAC, Middle East and Africa at MasterCard, said that while programmatic was in its infancy, credibility was crucial and the problem of ad fraud could damage “the whole ecosystem”.
“We can’t lose credibility in this area for the business,” he said. Although fraud is not "very prevalent", "It is bad for your business—all of us in the industry need to look out for fraud,” he said.
The panel of four agreed that while genuine, the risk of ad fraud was far outweighed by the savings and efficiencies that programmatic buying made possible.
“We want to do more with less money,” said Seraphina Wong, executive director of global advertising and APAC head of communications and branding at UBS. “Cost efficiency is the big agenda we are focussing on.”
Programmatic buying is still “new and developing”, she said, so the industry “can’t expect it to be completely good and completely useable” immediately. However, she added that benchmarking was the key to judging how effective a programmatic campaign had been.
“If you go in like a robot, you come out like a robot, and you won’t get the return you expected,” she said.
Wong said she was confident that her marketing was overwhelmingly being seen by genuine human eyeballs, partly because it was selectively targeted but also due to the engagement that it generated.
“You can see that if they are asking these sorts of questions, these are not robots," she said. "If they are leaving their numbers and requesting to be called back, then these are not robots.”
Lee Smith, APAC CEO at Omnicom Media Group's Annalect Group, said all parties needed to collaborate on the issue in order to neutralise the risk.
“This is an ecosystem problem—it’s not something sitting just with publishers, just agencies or just brands,” he said. “There are opportunities for bad people to get involved in the process.”
However, “the pace at which they are being dealt with outpaces the new problems”, he said, adding that he felt poorly targeted advertising was a far more pressing concern for the industry.
“I buy groceries online and five minutes later I get an advert for the same things I just put in the basket,” Smith said. “That is not just annoying, it is also pretty amateur by the advertiser.”
L-R: Khoo, O’Connell, Kikunaga, Toy, Huang
This issue was dealt with in the subsequent session, ‘Keeping a seat at the table: the power of data management infrastructure in an evolving world’.
Michelle Toy, head of marketing and communications at BNP Paribas Securities Services, took issue with the overused analogy that likens big data to teenage sex—that everyone talks about it but nobody does it or understands it properly.
“I think we are beyond that,” she said. “We are pretty much growing adults.”
“For me, it’s about how do I speak in a way that my CFO is going to understand what I am talking about in order to even keep my budget flat for this year. He will want me to tell him how I am contributing to top-line growth, what are the sales leads that are being generated, and what is share of wallet that we are expanding for our top-20 customers. Then I work backwards to work out what kind of data do I need to be able to compile it, massage it and package it up to be able to present this kind of information, both quantitative and qualitative.”
In an ideal world, Toy said she would like to have “a dashboard where everything is colour-coded red, yellow or green, and my CFO understands what that means”. “So long as my budget stays flat, that is absolutely great.”
Moderator Jordan Khoo, APAC vice-president at Sizmek, admitted that the standard of online advertising left much to be desired. “I don’t recall the last time I had a brand recollection from something I saw online. Why has creativity got lost in this new data-driven marketing strategy?” he asked.
Kevin Huang, co-founder, CEO and managing director of Pixels and Gravity4Inc, said that marketers were still trying to get their heads around programmatic buying, and with the emergence of big data they needed to decide “what should be used and what should be ignored”.
“Because it is in its infancy, a lot of clients have identified it as a performance channel,” Huang said, adding that this made them adopt a very tactical approach. “I think that creativity will change once marketers start thinking about it from a brand perspective.”
Joanna O’Connell, chief marketing officer at MediaMath, said it was time to “change the conversation” from data to focus on the emotional connection with consumers.
“At the other side of the screen there is a human," she said. "Just think of your own experiences as someone on the other side of the ad: it’s boring, it’s annoying, it’s intrusive, it’s creepy, it’s irrelevant. Those are all bad experiences. We need to talk about what really good advertising can and should look like.…Data can help. Technology helps. But it is only part of the equation.”
Mitsuru Kikunaga, group head of digital AirAsia, said marketers needed to learn to be more adventurous. “Internally we are afraid of trying something new,” he said. “I encourage my marketing chiefs: ‘Just test it—to fail is OK.’”