Predictions2021: Ad fraud, by Dhiraj Gupta, mFilterIt #Marcomms360

Dhiraj Gupta from mFilterIt shares his brand safety predictions for 2021.

2021 will be the year of helping organisations to streamline their digital operations. It will keep digitally evolved brands busy with solving brand safety issues and combating ad fraud. The main issue they will risk is of brand infringement, as fraudsters want to leverage their brand equity and trick legitimate audiences.

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Below are some of the trends we predict in ad fraud and brand safety:

Direct-to-consumer: D2C poses an increasing challenge of brand infringement, as fraudsters can lure genuine users to a parallel fake digital world in disguise. Restructuring for D2C means bringing the entire business process over to digital, where a user can connect, communicate and do commerce with the brand directly. This opens up the chance of ad-fraud techniques being used for business fraud, where fraudsters could siphon off millions through potential partners besides end customers.

Regionalisation of digital marketing: The present tools are mostly English-friendly and can perform content analysis of the English language. However, with brands using digital to reach out to all target groups, they will be leveraging regional content mediums for higher engagement and effectiveness. This means, with present brand safety solutions in place, advertisers will have very feeble control to uphold the reputation of their brands. Also, with increasing D2C sentiments, brands will have to gain early control of brand reputation as new users will potentially come through regional engagement, and will be difficult to reconvince if they notice a brand safety issue during their first exposure.

Increase in ad-fraud and brand safety issues: As brands reboot in 2021 and push their spending levels up, the dollars they lose to ad fraud and brand safety will increase in absolute terms. This will be despite the ad fraud rates remaining static around 25-30 per cent, similar to 2019. Advertisers will increase their digital market spending to drive D2C and increased reliance on e-commerce.

User-generated content for advertising: UGC-platform advertising will grow in 2021 and beyond as it offers an engaging and digitally active audience. However, being an unregulated channel, it has a high risk of brand safety issues, which brands need to monitor, manage and control in real-time. Though there are basic guidelines that users have to conform to, the control mechanism isn’t very strong or vigilant.

Privacy will provide a veil for ad fraud: With a cookie-less environment and IDFA, fraudsters will be able to ‘hide’ ad fraud behind the veil of privacy and data security measures being taken to make digital a reliable and trustworthy space. The ad-tracking and ad-measurement techniques will need to be redesigned. With present tracking and measurement techniques becoming redundant, the differentiation between a bot engagement and human engagement will also become challenging for most of the solutions available. Increasing voice for respecting privacy and data integrity could be exploited to veil the fake results achieved through fraudulent engagement. Advertisers will have to be demanding and seek more transparency from their partners and enablers about how their solutions are helping them recognise genuine engagement.

Digital advertising spend outlook

A quick poll done by mFilterIt across the globe suggests that seven out of 10 advertisers have already planned or are contemplating D2C as a strategy. Brands, which can be categorised as two main groups, ‘Digital Novice’ and ‘Digital Mature’, are set to increase their advertising spend in 2021.  While Digital Novices started off their journeys by spending a minimum of 20 per cent of their budgets on digital marketing, in 2021 they plan to double this to 40 per cent of their ideal marketing spend. As the learning curve and teething troubles are sorted out by these Novice brands, they will gradually increase the levels. These constitute 30 per cent of the total brands spending over digital.

Digital Mature brands had come down to an average of 40 per cent of their former spending levels due to Covid-19, and have been gradually increasing this as the ending of lockdowns favour business sentiment. These brands hope to increase their digital advertising spends by 50 per cent in 2021 taking the levels to 60 of their pre-Covid spending. These brands, already present in the digital space, contribute 70 per cent of the total spend on digital.

For both Digital Novice and Digital Mature brands, advertising spend level will increase in 2021 compared with 2020. So even if the ad-fraud rate and the percentage of inefficiencies due to brand safety challenges remain the same, the absolute loss of marketing dollars is set to increase in 2021.