Abid Hussain Barlaskar

"There is no silver bullet for ad fraud." - Shane Dewar, Essence

Shane Dewar, vice-president, Media Operations - APAC at Essence, speaks about how ad fraud operates in murky waters and there is no single point solution especially in a diverse country like India and a region like APAC.

A panel discussion at our vdonxt asia event in Mumbai, regarding ad viewability, fraud and safety, threw up a host of questions about accountability, challenges and preventive measures against malpractices in the world of digital advertising.

Among the major valid points that arose from the discussion was a revelation that marketers are not shying away from investing in digital advertising. They were, however, increasingly worried about their investments not reaping adequate returns and creating a negative impact. Another major cause of concern that prevailed throughout the discussion was transparency in digital advertising.

"There is no silver bullet for ad fraud." - Shane Dewar, Essence

Shane Dewar

In light of such developments, we caught up with Shane Dewar, vice president, Media Operations, APAC - Essence, GroupM's data and measurement-driven arm.

Dewar points out that the fight against ad fraud is the shared responsibility of all stakeholders. Essence, as an agency, plays the role of identifying the right vendors and applying pressure on publishers and content collaborators to have the right set of measures in place. This will help prevent the placement of ads beside inappropriate or 'un-brand safe' content.

"There is no silver bullet for fraud. India is a very diverse country within a very diverse region. As an ad operations team at Essence, we want to ensure partnering with the best vendors. This is along with our own custom analysis of the data and putting together custom solutions for each individual client, among each of the individual markets that they work in," Dewar says.

Among all the similarities and differences between India and other markets in the region, is its scale and fast-paced growth. "... An obvious match would be China, for its huge growing internet penetration and population. Another is Indonesia for being a mobile-first market," he adds.

Dewar maintains that while the scale brings the promise of growth, it also makes the region a focus area for fraud. Apart from the involvement of the platforms, agencies and marketers, there is also a requirement of awareness from the end user/consumer of the ad, given that a lot of fraud happens via malware on their devices.

"The technology has to evolve. The fraud that was prevalent three years back can be tackled now, but that did not stop it. It is also evolving and has become something new today," Dewar states.

However, in the past, in an attempt to gain more control over brand safety and viewability, major brands like Procter & Gamble and JPMorgan Chase had taken to whitelisting, i.e. limiting ads to lists of preapproved publishers only. Indian advertisers are also gradually including it in their overall plans.

"Whitelisting should be a part of the overall strategy of the advertiser and is one of many solutions. But, it does narrow down and make it more difficult to scale, which is a challenge," Dewar says.

Also, brands are looking towards blockchain technology to enable transparency, fight ad fraud and track ROI. Only recently, Isobar India, the digital agency from the Dentsu Aegis Network, launched a blockchain-powered campaign for its client - CEAT Tyres. The campaign was launched with a promise of enabling transparency in campaign delivery and performance.

When asked about the technology as a solution, Dewar says, "There is potential for blockchain to be part of the solution for improved measurement of campaigns. Application of the technology for fraud control needs to be explored."

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