2019 YEAR IN REVIEW:
Cross-Industry Collaboration Drives Measurable and Growing Success
The legendary football coach Vince Lombardi once said, “People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses or the problems of modern society.”
For the digital advertising industry, the past year was a validation of that premise. With accelerating global adoption of TAG’s certification programs, our industry continued to drive measurable success in fighting the once-intractable problems of fraud, malware, piracy, and lack of transparency.
In particular, TAG research over the last year demonstrated the concrete accomplishments that resulted from the collaborative efforts of hundreds of companies across the supply chain to raise standards, adopt best practices, share information, and address common challenges. Of note:
The 2019 TAG Fraud Benchmark Study showed an 88 percent reduction in fraud when companies used TAG Certified distribution channels compared to industry averages. Those results also showed significant trending in the right direction, as invalid traffic (IVT) rates in TAG Certified Channels dropped from an already-low 1.68 percent in the prior year to just 1.41 percent in this new study.
A TAG White Paper on Winning the Fight Against Ad Supported Piracy highlighted comparable progress by the ad industry in addressing that challenge. Through a joint effort led by TAG and Creative Future, the number of ad impressions served on US pirate sites has been reduced by 90 percent over the last two years, while the number of premium advertisers identified at high volumes on those sites was cut from 60 to zero.
A recent TAG Malware Scanning Brief illustrated the significant steps being taken by TAG members to raise the bar against malware. Not only were all TAG Certified Against Malware companies in compliance with program requirements for scanning assets and landing pages, most were employing more rigorous scanning protocols, with 83 percent scanning all assets and landing pages before campaign launch and half using a daily rescan methodology.
The measurable success of TAG’s efforts across its major program areas has been driven by continuing industry adoption of TAG standards, worldwide expansion of TAG’s programs, and growing engagement in TAG Working Groups to raise the bar on certification standards.
The TAG community now includes more than 570 member companies representing every part of the digital ad ecosystem, with 145 of those members joining in 2019 alone (a remarkable 25% increase over 2018’s membership growth).
The number of TAG certifications has seen commensurate growth, increasing by more than 30% in 2019 with 204 total certifications earned by 154 companies. There also has been record year-on-year program growth in TAG’s Certified Against Fraud (+33 percent), Certified Against Malware (+40 percent) and Certified Against Piracy (+44 percent) Certifications.
The number of companies holding multiple certifications has grown significantly as well, with the number of TAG “Platinum” companies holding all four TAG certifications increasing by 60 percent in 2019.
While TAG members include a “who’s who” of nearly all of the largest and most influential companies in digital advertising, the program has also rapidly diversified to include a growing number of small and mid-size businesses. Nearly half of TAG members (258 companies) now participate in the TAG community under the program’s small business exemptions, including 100 companies that joined in 2019.
One driver behind TAG’s overall growth has been international expansion of the membership. More than 25 percent of TAG’s members (142 companies) are now based outside of the US, with 53 of those companies joining in 2019. Similarly, more than 50 percent of TAG certifications awarded cover global operations, and more than 75 percent of TAG’s anti-piracy and anti-malware certifications are global.
Supporting those global efforts, earlier this year TAG launched Project Brand Integrity, a European anti-piracy initiative modeled on the success of the US program. Through Project Brand Integrity, TAG is helping to protect European brands from association with illegal stolen content by alerting advertisers or their agencies to ads running on pirate sites in Europe.
TAG also released the results of its first analysis of the impact of its anti-fraud efforts in Europe. Conducted by The 614 Group, the study showed that the use of TAG Certified Distribution Channels reduced fraud in Europe by more than 94 percent from industry averages.
Record numbers of companies are now engaged in direct policy development through TAG Working Groups, leading to notable successes in building common approaches and raising TAG’s program standards to tackle industry challenges.
Through the efforts of its Working Groups, TAG developed and released updates to its Certified Against Fraud, Certified Against Malware, and Inventory Quality Guidance Programs in 2019. TAG also released updates to the Technical Best Practices Against Malware and the IVT Taxonomy. TAG also expanded its engagement with companies across the ecosystem to address new and emerging fraud threats through its December 2019 OTT Summit.
Among some highlights of the new standards developed through TAG Working Groups that went into effect in 2019:
- TAG’s Certified Against Fraud (CAF) Program now requires Independent Validation through an independent auditor to certify European or Global operations,
- TAG’s existing CAF requirement for publishers to implement ads.txt has expanded to include advertisers, agencies and adtech companies,
- The IQG Certified Program now incorporates the 4A’s Advertiser Protection Bureau (APB) Brand Safety Floor and Framework in its Brand Safety Ratings and Prohibited Content requirements,
- All IQG Certified companies must now ensure that their programmatic buying disclosures fully comply with OpenRTB specifications v.2.2 or higher, and
- TAG’s Certified Against Malware (CAM) Program now requires advertisers, agencies, ad tech companies, and publishers to employ SeatID attributes in their bid responses and confirmations.
Another sign of the success of TAG’s engagement with members was the increasing use of TAG’s shared compliance tools. Over the last year, there has been a 10 percent increase in subscription to TAG’s Data Center IP List, and a 50 percent in subscription to TAG’s Pirate Mobile App List.
In short, 2019 has been a year filled with continued, measurable progress against TAG’s four core goals. As successful as we have been this year, it’s worth remembering something else that Coach Lombardi said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.”
We will never reduce fraud or piracy or malware to zero, because there will always be criminals who try to profit by exploiting the weaknesses of any system. If we continue to work together as an industry, however, we can build a set of unified and integrated defenses to make such criminal activity rare, unprofitable, and inconsequential across the supply chain. We look forward to continuing to work with you in that important effort.
Trustworthy Accountability Group