Kellogg Data Exec Says Digital Ad Fraud Is Unacceptable

'Imagine you buy a dozen donuts, and you open the box and there’s one donut.'

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During a panel discussion today about data validation at I-Com in Seville, Spain, Dean McRobie, chief technology officer for Omincom's data division, Annalect Group, offered an agency view on digital ads fraud: "It's part of the ecosystem that is going to exist no matter what."

Amaya Garbayo, associate director insights and planning at Kellogg Co., wasn't about to let that comment slide. Seated to McRobie's left, she replied moments later: "If we are paying any [cost-per-thousand rate] for an impression, it should be an impression. Imagine you buy a dozen donuts, and you open the box and there’s one donut. I want to understand what I am getting for the money."

Indeed, 'twas a classic brand-agency exchange as well as the buzziest highlight of a four-person panel that candidly grappled with how to improve a digital ads space that's damaged by reports of click fraud. It was just over a week when a Wall Street Journal story stated that one-third of ad placements are bogus.

Garbayo said brands, agencies and publishers need to take a joint-partnership approach to making sure marketers get what they pay. 

"Somebody has to look at it on behalf of the advertiser, but we certainly have all hands on deck," she said, before implying the buck ultimately stops with the brand. "We are in charge of the stewardship of that investment. If not, we are losing dollars—so we have to be responsible for it."

While Kellogg doesn't believe it's getting ripped off to the tune of the WSJ report and will continue to invest in digital advertising, Garbayo said, she added that fraud "certainly gets in the way of allocating more budget there."

Everyone, ultimately, agreed fraud must be tackled head-on. "The mere mention of the word [affects] whether we should move dollars from channel to another," McRobie said. "The discussion gets derailed completely."

Andy Fisher, the U.S. chief analytics officer at Merkle, was the most outspoken panel member on the subject. "We have a problem," he said. "We need to get it fixed. We need to get it fixed now."

On a more granular level, George Ivie, Media Ratings Council chief, mentioned another ad-targeting issue: "People share cookies. You might think you are getting a mom, but you are getting a dad or a child. The child is easier to identify because of certain behaviors….Programmatic doesn't eliminate fraud. In some circles, it may cause more."

Meanwhile, Garbayo said Kellogg has made major in-roads on improving viewability insights for its digital ads with its marketing partners. In a regional test, she said, "it has made such a huge difference in our campaigns. We cannot wait to roll it out across the globe."

Lastly, Ivie rattled off four how-to tips to validating digital ads in the Instagram video below. (His organization releases extensive reports on ads validation and viewability tactics/best practices.) Be warned that it's super techie, but it could be worth sharing with marketing-IT personnel.

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.