In 2018, media quality was the number-one issue threatening digital performance for brands and marketers. Challenges in brand safety, ad fraud and viewability all grew more sophisticated and complex. From the proliferation of fake news around the midterms to fraud’s rise on CTV to transparency across social media, issues in media quality have continued to rapidly evolve.
In 2019, the stakes will be even higher as advertisers demand clarity and confidence around their digital investment. Here’s an overview of how I see things playing out:
Trust in an ad-supported internet will continue to be tested
Let’s face it: Fake news, digital ad fraud and data privacy are pressing issues threatening the trust and confidence in an ad-supported internet. Advertisers continue to demand transparency of their partners downstream, even going so far as to hold budgets hostage. Meanwhile, consumers who have enjoyed positive, emotional connections with their brands online are reassessing their willingness to share data. Stakeholders will expect even greater clarity and accountability in the media supply chain.
Fake news and false content won’t die
The glut of fake and unsubstantiated content will likely continue. Social media platforms have become targets for pushing unsupported headlines that users are quick to circulate. Fake news and false stories reach more people and spread six times faster than genuine content, according to a massive MIT study released in March. Objective, tech-driven solutions are essential for advertisers to validate the integrity of digital content at scale.
Fraud will follow users to mobile
Third-party verification has successfully reduced desktop digital ad fraud to low single digits. Now with mobile apps commanding more than 50 percent of a consumer’s time online, advertiser demand for quality mobile inventory has swelled. In return, we saw an 800 percent increase of in-app ad fraud last year.
Expect that in-app ad fraud will continue to proliferate as fraud follows the money. Also, expect emerging premium, high-growth media types such as connected TV (CTV) to draw the attention of fraudsters, in line with sharp increases in budget allocation.
Blockchain will not solve ad fraud
Blockchain was a major buzzword in 2018, with headlines proclaiming that the solution is the end of ad fraud. But blockchain isn’t really a technology to identify fraud. Rather, it’s a multi-party chain of information that, today, has its limitations, which are largely due to latency.
The early application of blockchain within ad tech has been to offer margin or fee transparency among intermediaries within the value chain, which can be used for billing and reconciliation purposes. As time goes on, the industry will start to better understand the use case of the technology, helping to convey verification data while increasing industry player transparency through blockchain’s ledger.
Metrics will evolve to become smarter
New standards for marketing performance are emerging and will continue to do so in 2019, from measuring the quality of an ad placement to evaluating the quality of consumer engagement. Engagement metrics encompass richer insights into how consumers interact with online promotion and are important predictors of these users’ likelihood to transact.
The issue of media quality will continue to dominate the landscape in 2019. While the threats are largely the same, they will grow more sophisticated and advanced, spanning new platforms, channels and formats. Fortunately, our industry is no stranger to rapid change. Next year, there will be huge strides in both human ingenuity and technology to support meaningful and long-term improvements to the ecosystem.