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A Year-End Message from TAG CEO Mike Zaneis

December 23, 2015

It was barely over a year ago that three of the leading advertising trade organizations - IAB, ANA and 4A’s - joined together to announce a new organization with a mission to tackle some of the most vexing challenges facing the digital advertising supply chain, including fraud, piracy, malware, and lack of transparency.

What a difference a year makes.

In just 12 months, the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) has gone from a glimmer of an idea to a cross-industry powerhouse with deployed and growing programs supported by the largest advertisers, agencies, publishers, and ad tech companies in the world.

I’d like to take a moment to share a few of the successes of the last year with you and tell you a little about what we have planned for 2016.

First, a look back:

In February, just three months after its creation, TAG announced the framework for an innovative cross-industry “Certified Against Piracy” program through which it would use respected third-party auditors like E&Y, Stroz Friedberg, and the Alliance for Audited Media to validate the anti-piracy services of leading ad tech companies. (For more information, see coverage in Wall Street Journal to MediaPost, AdExchanger, ClickZ, Broadcasting & Cable, and Forbes.)

A month later, TAG unveiled a powerhouse Board of Directors, including senior execs from what Adweek called “a host of big name companies,” including AOL, Brightroll, Colgate, Facebook, Google, IPG Mediabrands, JCPenny, McDonald’s, Mondelez, Motorola, NBCUniversal, Omnicom, P&G, Publicis, Unilever, and WPP.

In May, our efforts to combat digital ad fraud began to take shape as we unveiled the first of our anti-fraud tools.  TAG’s “Fraud Threat List,” a shared database of domain names that are known sources of bot traffic, launched as a pilot program lead by AOL, Facebook, SpotXchange, and Yahoo!  (Coverage included Wall Street Journal, MediaPost and AdExchanger.)

This information-sharing approach will be a TAG hallmark going forward, as it leverages the outstanding work being done by individual companies in fighting fraud and other criminal activities and uses TAG as a hub to share that information with the rest of the industry.

We extended those anti-fraud efforts in July by announcing a complementary program to block fraudulent non-human traffic from data centers. With a Google commitment to seed the project with its own list, that new program also drew support from Dstillery, Facebook, MediaMath, Quantcast, Rubicon Project, The Trade Desk, TubeMogul, and Yahoo. (Coverage included AdExchanger, ClickZ, MediaPost, and The Drum.)

In September, GroupM, the world’s largest media buyer, made a splash when it announced that it would require all of its partners to use TAG-certified anti-piracy services by the end of 2015. (Coverage included AdAge, Adweek, MediaPost, AdExchanger, ClickZ, and The Drum.)

TAG’s largest announcement of the year, however, came in October, when we unveiled the “Verified by TAG” Initiative, a two-factor authentication system that combines TAG Registration for legitimate ad companies and a Payment ID program (launching next year) that creates transparency for the flow of money across the digital ad supply chain. Together, these interlocking components will connect every piece of ad inventory to the entities placing, transacting, displaying, and receiving payment for the ad.  By getting TAG Registered and participating in the Payment ID program, marketers and agencies will be able to verify their partners for the first time and to follow where their ad dollars are flowing in order to keep them out of the pockets of fraudsters.

At launch, the Verified by TAG Initiative was supported by all five of the largest ad agencies in the world – Dentsu Aegis Network, Interpublic, Omnicom, Publicis, and WPP – as well as programmatic giants ranging from AOL to AppNexus, Index Exchange, Google, and Rubicon Project. (Coverage included Wall Street Journal, AdAge, Adweek, MediaPost, AdExchanger, and Bloomberg.)

Finally, to close out a transformative year, TAG’s Anti-Piracy program moved from concept to execution earlier this month with many of the world’s largest brand advertisers and agencies pledging to support our anti-piracy efforts, including Allstate, American Express, Colgate-Palmolive, Comcast, GroupM, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg’s, MillerCoors, SMG, State Farm, Vivaki, Unilever, Walmart, and ZenithOptimedia.

We also named the first set of companies to become TAG Digital Advertising Assurance Providers (DAAPs) – providing TAG-validated anti-piracy services to the marketplace – namely comScore, DoubleVerify, Incopro, Integral Ad Science, sovrn, Veri-Site, and whiteBULLET. (Coverage included Variety, AdAge, MediaPost, AdExchanger, and The Drum.)

As you can tell, it’s been a busy year, and it’s never easy to build a plane while flying it. Looking back, however, I think we have assembled an amazing aircraft to show for our efforts, and we’re ready to fly faster and higher than ever before in 2016.

Among our 2016 top objectives are:

  • Expanding the TAG Registry to include all of the industry’s major legitimate players;
  • Building out the Payment ID program to track the flow of funds across the digital ad ecosystem;
  • Helping companies put their anti-piracy pledges into action with a fully-deployed network of validated DAAPs offering effective anti-piracy services;
  • Deploying an aggressive campaign against the malware that infects users' computers with bots;
  • Moving our Inventory Quality Guidelines (IQG) program to a third-party audit process, so companies can demonstrate the steps they are taking to promote transparency; and
  • Educating the industry about the ways they can support TAG’s efforts to build a safe and crime-free digital advertising supply chain.

As a MediaPost columnist said last week, through TAG’s efforts, “the ecosystem is working collectively to make the supply chain clean, well-lit and safe. The work is challenging and cannot be successful without every legitimate business in the supply chain fighting the good fight together.” We look forward to continuing that good fight with all of our partners in 2016.

Mike Zaneis
CEO
Trustworthy Accountability Group

P.S. – Take a few moments to get TAG Registered before 2015 is gone, and start the New Year with the confidence that you are working with trusted parties across the entire digital ad ecosystem.  Simply visit the TAG website and fill out the short registration application – we’ll take it from there!

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