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This New Program Aims to Stop Ad Bot Owners From Getting Paid

Google, AOL, WPP, Omnicom and Publicis support TAG

Scores of ad bots line the pockets of online fraudsters. Illustration: Shaw Nielsen

Trustworthy Accountability Group, an anti ad-fraud player, today is announcing a Verified by TAG program that costs $10,000 annually for digital ad sellers like publishers, ad exchanges and agencies to take part in. Their promos will be tagged with unique code to distinguish the subsequent consumer impressions from the ads that ultimately go unseen via fraudulent bot networks. 

TAG, based in New York, also plans to soon release a feature called Payment ID, which will create a record of which publishers get compensated for ad impressions. Such a record will aim to allow buy-side players to see if they were charged for an impression by an honest seller versus a fraudster. In theory, Payment ID would keep fraudsters from getting brand marketers' dollars. 

Thanks to networks of ad bots—machines creating countless nonhuman impressions that brands pay for—marketers are more uncertain than ever about whether their online ads are actually being viewed. Bot developers get paid by creating page views—ad impressions, in other words—that get added to a marketer's bill whenever they occur, which is often, in an automated fashion. According to an eZanga report, advertisers waste more than $6 billion a year due to fraud.

Google, AOL, AppNexus, Index Exchange, WPP, Omnicom, Publicis and Rubicon Project "will implement both programs and encourage their partners to do so as well," a TAG rep said in an email.

TAG chief Mike Zaneis added in a statement that "these programs will serve as the cornerstone of TAG's anti-fraud efforts by providing transparency across the digital ad ecosystem."

Whether or not the program works for ad sellers remains to be seen, but if it does, Verified by TAG will certainly be worth the $10,000 price tag.

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