This Startup Claims to Verify 90% of Digital Ads and Save Brands From Losing Cash

Authenticated Digital tackles transparency

One-year-old tech company Authenticated Digital says it has a system that will authenticate 90 percent of digital ad impressions, and it's pitching the software to agencies and publishers starting today.

Its program is designed to determine if a promo ran on the correct Web page—did it appear on CNN.com, or another of Time Warner's many sites, or on a different property altogether, for example? Often brands buy ads for one site, but due to misrepresentation of inventory, they end up paying for an appearance on another, said Damon Reeve, CEO of Authenticated Digital in New York. He added that the system also can suss out when ad impressions are generated by bots

"Our company is about moving from an unknown universe to a known universe," said Reeve. "This builds a complete audit trail."

Here is a tech-heavy summary on how the system works:

  • Marketers add a JavaScript tracker to their creative on the demand-side platform or ad server. 
  • When a Web page requests the ad, the JavaScript tracker travels with the ad.
  • Once the promo is loaded, the system gathers snippets of information about it as well as the page or app environment and stitches them together. "We then process the information on our servers to understand whether the impression is authentic or if it's not authentic, and the reason why," Reeve said.
  • The system creates an audit containing all of the suppliers and data providers involved in the transaction.
  • Users can log in to a dashboard to view reports and access data.

CafeMedia, formerly CafeMom, tested the system and observed 25 percent of its inventory—sold via various ad exchanges—was ending up on the wrong sites. (The New York publisher says it attracts 30 million monthly visitors across its properties such as CafeMom, The Stir, MamasLatinas and Baby Name Wizard.) Patrick McCann, vp of data science at CafeMedia, said Authenticated Digital has helped it clean up 80 percent of the misrepresented data. 

"Authenticating ads allows us to offer a better quality product, both in what we offer on the open market and in any audience extension efforts we engage in there," McCann said. "We are really expecting this to help our sales on the sell side as adoption takes off."

Mobile ad exchange Axonix is also using the system, though it's performance results weren't available. Authenticated Digital told Adweek it will announce new clients in the coming weeks. Eighteen other companies are already using the program, which is meant to bring transparency to display, mobile and online video ads. 

Authenticated Digital 's pitch to publishers: With data, you can assure buyers that their ads are being placed appropriately and charge a higher cost-per-thousand rate. If the system works as well as CafeMedia says it does, Authenticated Digital's program could be popular among agencies that want to protect their brands' digital budgets.

If a company could offer 100 percent authentication, of course, it would be in serious demand. But Reeve's outfit is probably wise to leave itself 10 percent wiggle room since the digital-ad ecosystem is so fraught with bad actors. 

After all, the Interactive Advertising Bureau just last week said ad fraud, bots and ad blockers are costing the online world around $8.2 billion a year.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that Authenticated Digital was owned by OpenX, but they are two separate companies.