2017 TAG Year-in-Review

January 2, 2018

In my 2016 year-in-review update, I told you that 2017 would be a year in which TAG launched a broad expansion of its programs to fight fraud, stop piracy, block malware, and improve transparency across the digital advertising economy.

By any measure, and in large part thanks to your support, those expansion efforts have proven a remarkable success.

Let’s take a look at the numbers. At the end of last year, a total of 136 companies had applied for the TAG Registry, our proprietary screening process to ensure companies are legitimate entities and the pre-qualifying requirement for TAG’s seal programs. Today, that number stands at 473, a staggering increase of more than 240 percent.

A year ago, we announced sixteen companies as the inaugural recipients of TAG’s Certified Against Fraud Seal. Today, more than 50 companies have achieve the Certified Against Fraud seal, and more than 170 participate in the program. 

The reason for that skyrocketing industry adoption of TAG’s programs is simple:
They work.

This year TAG commissioned E&Y and the 614 Group to conduct the first baseline analyses on the effectiveness of TAG’s Certified Against Piracy and Certified Against Fraud programs, respectively, and the results were unequivocal.

Released in October, the E&Y study found that the anti-piracy steps taken by the digital ad industry have cut ad revenue for the criminals who run pirate sites by between 48 and 61 percent, dramatic progress in addressing the $2.4 billion problem of infringing content. Coverage of that study included articles in MediaPost, AdExchanger, WARC, BeetTV, Marketing Dive, Advanced Television, Politico, eMarketer, and Gizmodo.

A separate study conducted by The 614 Group on the effectiveness of TAG’s Certified Against Fraud program was released earlier this month. It found that the levels of fraudulent traffic were cut by 83 percent in TAG Certified Channels compared to cross-industry averages, reducing fraud to an average of 1.48 percent of impressions.

Or, as an AdAge headline succinctly described the results:

Ad Age Title.png

Similar articles on the results of the study ran in MediaPost, AdExchanger, Marketing Dive, MarTechToday, WARC, and Campaign.

Even before those results were released, however, it had become clear that TAG’s programs were having a notable impact in addressing some of our industries’ thorniest problems, prompting some of the industry’s largest companies and trade associations to make TAG participation mandatory for their vendors and members.

One of the first to do so was brand safety leader Proctor & Gamble, which announced at the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting in January that it would require all of its digital advertising partners and vendors to become TAG Certified Against Fraud, a widely-covered move that validated and accelerated the industry’s shift toward TAG adoption.

Around the same time, other major brands and agencies were issuing their own TAG-related requirements and guidance to their digital ad partners, actions which were reinforced by the Interactive Advertising Bureau announcing in April that all 463 of its General Members would be required to apply for TAG Registration as a condition of their IAB membership, news that was covered in AdAge and MediaPost.

The year was full of progress across TAG programs, membership, alliances, and tools.

In April, the IAB Tech Lab and TAG rolled out the ads.txt tool, which allows publishers to post a list of authorized resellers to their sites, so brands and agencies can ensure they only work with legitimate resellers of the inventory they are buying. Coverage of the initiative included AdExchanger, MediaPost and MarTechToday.

Also in April, we announced that TAG had reached the milestone of 200 applications for TAG Registration, and we released a lengthy list of new and returning industry leaders who had been awarded the TAG Certified Against Fraud, Certified Against Piracy, and Inventory Quality Guidelines Seals.

In May, we announced that TAG had become the first and only Information Sharing and Analysis Organization (ISAO) for the digital advertising industry. As such, TAG serves as the industry’s lead information sharing organization around threats, incidents, and best practices, particularly those related to ad-related malware, ad-supported piracy, ad fraud and associated threats. Coverage of TAG’s new role included MediaPost, Marketing Dive, CyberScoop, Inside Cybersecurity, and Cyware.

In June, we unveiled TAG’s Pirate Mobile App Tool, a new shared resource to identify and help members prevent their advertising from appearing on mobile apps that distribute pirated content. At launch, the tool included more than 8,000 apps that violated the intellectual property rights of content owners. Coverage of the announcement included articles in Variety, Billboard, MediaPost, MarTechToday, and Advanced Television.

In July, we awarded the first set of TAG Certified Against Malware Seals – the fourth and final TAG seal program – to companies that had implemented TAG’s aggressive program to protect their customers and the supply chain from ad-related malware. Coverage included MediaPost, MarTechToday, Cyberscoop, and Inside Cybersecurity.

In August, we announced that TAG had blown through yet another milestone with more than 350 companies having applied for TAG Registration, up more than 75% in just four months. Those registrations also showed TAG’s increasing international reach, as more than 80 of the applicants were based outside the United States, representing 26 countries on six continents. TAG’s growing momentum was covered in an in-depth profile in AdExchanger with additional coverage in MarTechToday.

Capping a year of growth, we unveiled the newest group of TAG Certified Against Fraud seal recipients last month, which MediaPost noted more than doubled the number of approved companies since April (with more than 120 still under review).

In summary, 2017 was the year in which TAG moved from a solid proof-of-concept to an industry standard adopted by nearly every legitimate player in digital advertising. As major advertisers prioritized their brand safety initiatives, TAG participation became a baseline requirement for companies to demonstrate they were taking the necessary steps to protect their brands and the supply chain from fraud, malware, piracy, and other damaging associations.

As we move into 2018, the watchword at TAG is “global.” Digital advertising is a global industry, and companies want to ensure that the standards they adopt are equally effective and valid worldwide, while minimizing superfluous country- and region-specific compliance obligations.

TAG is already a global entity, with more than 100 companies who have applied for TAG Registration from countries outside the United States, and this coming year will offer us an opportunity to expand those efforts to build a worldwide system that protects against the criminals and bad actors who steal our money, damage our supply chain, and hurt our brands.

We will also conduct additional research over the course of the year to evaluate the effectiveness of TAG’s programs, using our recent fraud and piracy studies as a baseline to measure our progress and (hopefully) improvement.

All of those future efforts – like our success of the last year – will continue to be driven by the vocal support and leadership of our participating companies. As this year draws to a close, please accept my deep thanks and appreciation, as well as that of the entire team here at TAG.

Your efforts to fight criminal activity and improve advertising are having a significant and measurable impact on problems that were once considered intractable. Working together, we will continue to make progress for each of our companies – and our entire industry – in 2018.

Happy holidays and best wishes,

Mike Zaneis
CEO, Trustworthy Accountability Group

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