Industry Forum: Does the regional industry need a watchdog for ad scams?

Industry Forum: Does the regional industry need a watchdog for ad scams?

Ailidh Smylie

Managing Director, Socialize


Let’s see watchdogs as superheroes and not oppressors. Trust is absolutely crucial in a landscape where misinformation and false claims are rampant. The presence of an advertising watchdog is vital to build trust and credibility among consumers who shouldn’t have to tolerate shady promises or false claims. I think we all agree on that.

But we also know the Middle East is like no other region, and ultimately needs its own ‘hero’ to regulate and standardise advertising in a rapidly advancing market. The UAE has the highest internet penetration rates in the world, and the region’s rapid shift to e-commerce sees the majority of brand purchases either starting and/or ending online. It’s no longer a luxury but a pressing need to uphold ethical standards and safeguard consumers into making informed, safe purchase decisions for any brand.’

Elie Chammas

Digital Manager, Fusion5


The regional industry would greatly benefit from having a watchdog for ad scams. Such a watchdog would play a crucial role in monitoring and regulating advertising practices to ensure transparency, accountability, and fair competition within the industry. By actively investigating and exposing deceptive advertising practices, the watchdog would protect consumers from misleading claims, false information and manipulative tactics. Additionally, it would foster trust among businesses and consumers, promote ethical advertising standards, and contribute to a healthier and more competitive marketplace. Ultimately, the presence of a dedicated watchdog would help maintain integrity and credibility within the regional industry, benefiting all stakeholders involved.

Hadi Abu Khuzam

Group Account Director, FP7 McCann


Net zero ad scams are not achievable, but we can bring them down and most importantly make fewer people fall for them. 

We need private watchdogs, besides the governmental regulations and the option to report suspicious activity, to catch those; something along the lines of the ‘verified user’ tick or the ‘fulfilled by Amazon’ marks, that can assure users that whatever it is they are buying is verified by trusted bodies. Education to be careful alone won’t be sufficient. A collaboration developed by the government and the private sector would provide a safeguard against deceptive advertising tactics, as well as foster healthier and more responsible advertising.

Leyal Eskin Yilmaz

VP Personal Care, Unilever Arabia


The regional industry needs a watchdog for ad scams. The high prevalence of fraud violations in the GCC is a staggering 93 per cent more than the global average, clearly indicating the urgent need for a dedicated body to address the issue. Ad quality is also a significant challenge, with brand suitability violations at 14.5 per cent and fraud and sophisticated invalid traffic at 2.8 per cent, both surpassing global averages. 

Without a specific framework and organisation to measure, report and take corrective action against ad scams in the region, advertisers face substantial financial loss and a compromised ability to engage with consumers. Given the region’s high digital inventory, establishing a watchdog would be crucial to safeguarding the industry and ensuring a safer and more reliable advertising ecosystem.

Mohammad Al Sayed

Regional Account Manager, Gambit Communications


As professionals from within this industry, we have a better radar for the types of ads that could be scams, so I would go as far as saying that we have a moral obligation to identify them for the average consumer. An industry watchdog that helps make people aware of ad fraud could save people millions of dollars while providing valuable assistance to the authorities responsible for pursuing cases of advertising with criminal intent. In addition, an environment with more consumer trust in ads benefits all advertisers, so it’s a win-win for the industry and the consumer.

Paula Zambrano

Art Director, TBWA\RAAD


But more than a watchdog, the problem is the lack of information out there and how everyone in our region is so confident of being safe and protected. I see an opportunity for the industry to educate and regulate. Nowadays, some of the ‘solutions’ for these problems are heavy messages that nobody reads. If we join together as an industry, we can create digestible and useful resources in touch points where ad scams are happening, we could change the game. Each ad scam is like a real-time trend that we should be prepared to counterattack.

Rui Quadrado

Social Media Manager, Hashtag


As adspend increases every year, due to brands wanting more awareness and selling more on social media, we definitely need a watchdog for scams.

Especially with AI getting a bigger share in today’s world of social media and the professional market in general, we need to be aware of the huge and increasing level of scams we face on a daily basis on our phones. 

With more fake comments and ratings, fake influencers and profiles, along with infected applications getting into our social environment, we need to create a protective system capable of tracking and removing misleading or deceptive scam advertisements before anything happens.

Mina Sadek

Associate Media Director, Havas Media Middle East


The MENA region’s industry urgently requires a watchdog for ad scams. While research specifically focusing on ad scams in the region is limited, broader studies highlight challenges that could contribute to the prevalence of ad scams. 

For example, the growth of fintech startups has led to major challenges such as privacy issues, cybercrimes and non-compliance with regulatory authorities. According to the DoubleVerify Global Insights Report 2021, fraudulent ad impressions in the UAE increased by 37 per cent in 2020. That translates to billions of impressions that clients pay for.

Implementing a dedicated watchdog – similar to successful models in other regions – can substantially reduce ad scams, leading to increased trust, enhanced transparency and safeguarded investments and fostering a healthier advertising ecosystem.

Mitin Chakraborthy

Head of Marketing – Babyshop, Landmark Group


The escalating incidence of ad fraud is indeed a serious concern for marketers. These fraudulent activities are not only inflating advertising costs but also eating into marketers’ abilities to generate a substantial return on ad spend (ROAS). Given the substantial budgets allocated towards digital advertising, it is paramount to ensure that every dollar spent contributes to genuine engagement and isn’t misused for fraudulent activities such as click spamming, domain spoofing, or fake installs.

The urgency and severity of the situation indeed necessitate the need for a dedicated industry watchdog. This organisation could safeguard the interests of advertisers and marketers, leveraging advanced technology and machine learning algorithms for real-time fraud detection.

To counter ad fraud effectively, a united effort from the entire industry is required. By tackling this issue collectively, we can ensure that every advertising dollar is well-spent, yielding tangible results, and fostering genuine user engagement.

Rahul Bhatia

Platform Solutions Consultant for MENA region, Adform


In this ever-changing landscape of digital marketing and how consumers consume content – the security of both brand identity and consumer data are two of the most crucial entities that must be safeguarded. Because not only is the industry changing but ad scams are more prevalent these days. In order to combat that we need watchdogs in the region such as regional regulatory bodies, brand-safety and ad-fraud steering committees that work in conjunction with independent auditing companies and brand safety verification partners.

This collective effort will foster self-regulation, educate advertisers to prioritise factors beyond media and business KPIs, protect consumer data and allow transparent and fair competition within publishers and ad networks in the region.

Today, we are fully equipped with tools such as blockchain, fraud detection, ad verification or traffic analysis. But the need for watchdogs to exist, educate and enforce better brand-safety standards in the region has now become more crucial than ever.