Ad-tech companies are racing to keep up with OTT's growing fraud and brand-safety issues - but it'll be slow to catch on without industry standards
Integral Ad Science
- Ad-tech firms Integral Ad Science, DoubleVerify and Pixalate are rolling out new products for advertisers that aim to fix fraud and brand safety issues in OTT advertising.
- After testing OTT measurement with Verizon, Integral Ad Science is pitching a handful of brands on its offering.
- Industry groups are still working towards standards that can compare the effectiveness of OTT ads with digital and mobile ads.
- Fraud in particular has ballooned into a big issue, leading some marketers to buy OTT ads directly from publishers instead of programmatically.
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As advertisers pour money into OTT advertising, ad-tech companies that help marketers detect ad fraud, protect their brands, and measure their campaigns are cashing in.
To justify that spending, marketers are asking ad-tech companies for similar tools that they use to detect brand safety and fraud issues in display and mobile. Firms including Integral Ad Science, DoubleVerify and Pixalate help advertisers manage such issues in digital advertising and are now rolling out similar tools for OTT advertising.
A proliferation of app stores and a lack of industry standards make the stakes high in OTT advertising. According to analytics firm Pixalate, roughly 20% of OTT ad space is fraudulent, equivalent to $375 million in spend.
Today, Integral Ad Science is announcing that it has built technology to track brand safety, ad fraud and viewability issues in OTT advertising. Earlier this year, the ad-tech firm worked with Verizon and eight publishers including NBCUniversal and CBS to track the placements of "hundreds of millions of ads," said Lisa Utzschneider, CEO of Integral Ad Science.
Integral Ad Science is rolling out the program to a handful of other brands this year and plans to make a key part of its pitch to advertisers in the coming months. Next year, Integral Ad Science plans to make it widely available to all advertisers.
"Many marketers in the digital industry today require that verification happens to completion. That's why it's important that we partner with the broadcasters to get it right and understand the fraud scenarios," Utzschneider said. "In every client meeting I'm in right now, this is the No. 1 topic for them and a huge priority - marketers want to be proactive in understanding the technical complexity."
The goal of the pilot program was to verify that Verizon's OTT ads played until completion in fraud-free apps, she said. Since beginning the tests, Integral Ad Science has found several types of ad fraud that scammers are using to rip off advertisers. The most prominent form is device spoofing, where fraudsters constantly switch between OTT, web and mobile impressions to find the highest CPM (cost per thousand impressions).
Samantha Rose, SVP of video investment at Horizon Media, said she wasn't briefed by Integral Ad Science but that the agency is looking for ways to work with tech firms as fraud bubbles up in OTT advertising.
"The shift to OTT can come from either linear or digital, so we need to make sure that we're vetting it either way," she said. "The assumption was that OTT was less fraudulent than other digital activity, but we need to make sure that's true."
Industry groups are still working on specific standards for OTT
Ad-tech firms DoubleVerify and Pixalate say they also track ad fraud for advertisers.
One of the holes in their pitches though is that there are no industry standards to compare the performance of OTT with digital and mobile advertising through trade organizations like the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the Media Ratings Council (MRC).
For example, the MRC is working towards a standard requiring that 100% of a video ad's pixels are in view for at least two seconds to be considered billable, but the standard is not finalized. According to Axios, the standard is controversial among mobile advertising firms who say the standard puts them at a disadvantage compared to TV and digital where consumers watch content longer.
The IAB Tech Lab is also working on creating standards specific to OTT.
Part of the problem is that tracking OTT apps covers more than a dozen app stores, said Amy King, vice president of product marketing at Pixalate. The firm has specifically focused on solving server-side ad insertion, a process that stitches ads together in content before it plays to remove buffering.
During the first quarter, Pixalate looked at data across 25,647 OTT channels and 150 devices.
"You're having to coordinate channels across 15 different stores," King said. "Often within those channels, the bundling ID - what we call the technical name of the channel - is not the same, and there's no standard of truth of what a channel should be named on each store."
That complexity is why some agencies avoid buying OTT ads programmatically and instead buy them directly from broadcasters and publishers, said Gibbs Haljun, total investment lead at Mindshare US.
"If you're buying quality content, then there's less concern about brand safety and fraud," he said. "When you get into the long-tail, it becomes harder to verify everything as being brand safe and fraud-free because those are places where there's a greater opportunity to take advantage of a person's goodwill versus a network app."