It's About to Get Harder to Claim Ignorance on Ad Fraud

Trade Orgs Offer Little Detail on New Pact, but Here's What it Might Look Like

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The industry's trade associations are prepared to hold publishers and ad buyers responsible for the quality of traffic they purchase. It's one way the Interactive Advertising Bureau, the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Association of National Advertisers plan to take on ad fraud.

"There will be absolutely new obligations on publishers, networks and exchanges to filter this stuff out," said IAB exec-VP Mike Zaneis in an interview with Ad Age.

The details come after a mostly vague initial announcement in which Mr. Zaneis told the Wall Street Journal the groups' new joint initiative to tackle ad fraud was about "not just talking about trust in the supply chain but committing the entire industry to actually following through."

The standards members will be held to and the consequences which might befall those running afoul of the rules were not disclosed.

Purchasing traffic, especially on the publisher end, is a significant entryway for fraud. Publishers buy traffic to introduce their publication to new readers or simply to pad their stats. Though some traffic buying marketplaces are legitimate, they can be very opaque. That makes it fairly easy for publishers to look the other way while cheap, low-quality traffic floods their sites.

"I don't think any IAB member is knowingly buying fraudulent traffic, knowingly selling fraudulent traffic," Mr. Zaneis said. "But too many people are engaging in acts of omission, where you sort of turn a blind eye and it's sort of, 'Well this is common practice, everybody buys traffic from this source, so I'm just doing what everybody else is doing.' That's not going to be okay anymore."

Put another way, claiming ignorance on bad traffic buying is likely going to get a lot harder.

"Big changes are coming folks," Mr. Zaneis said. "Everyone will have obligations, everybody is going to have to make changes."

Buying traffic won't be outlawed, however. "We absolutely will not say don't buy traffic.We will say know who you're buying it from and make sure that it's not fraudulent," Mr. Zaneis said.

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