December 22, 2021

TAG Today - December 2021


TAG YEAR-IN-REVIEW: Milestone Accomplishments Highlight Industry’s Success in Tackling Common Challenges in 2021

For the advertising industry, the last year was a blur of continued dislocation, adaptation, and unpredictability, as companies across the supply chain tried to navigate the year’s fast-changing economic, political, social, technological - and even epidemiological - shifts.  

Amidst that broad uncertainty, TAG was proud to serve as an anchor of stability and continuity for the industry, helping its members tackle common challenges by fighting criminal activity and strengthening brand safety. Since January, those collaborative efforts have resulted in a series of milestone accomplishments for the industry around the world, including record-breaking metrics, new partnerships, and groundbreaking legal victories.

Eliminating Fraudulent Traffic

  • For the first time ever, the digital advertising industry was able to hold invalid traffic (IVT) below 1% in TAG Certified Channels worldwide, according to the 2021 US Fraud Benchmark Study.  A key measure of ad fraud, IVT fell to a record-low 0.86% in US channels where multiple participants have adopted TAG’s anti-fraud standards, marking a fourth straight year of improvement and a nearly 50% drop from the rate first measured in the US study in 2018.
  • Record-low fraud rates in TAG Certified Channels were confirmed in Asia-Pacific markets, where TAG’s second annual regional fraud snapshot found a 0.41% rate for invalid traffic (IVT) when advertisers used TAG Certified distribution channels. a further drop from the already- low 0.82% rate for IVT in the prior year.
  • Validating the global nature of the accomplishment, TAG’s third annual European benchmark study found an invalid traffic (IVT) rate of just 0.69% in TAG Certified Channels across the five largest European markets, a non-material change from the minimal 0.53% IVT rate measured in 2019 and 2020. 
  • A major agency executive put the sub-1% metrics  in context:We don’t have clients asking about fraud anymore. They see the 1% number over and over again, and they’re aware of all the levers we’re pulling on their behalf.”

Promoting Brand Safety

  • To increase the impact of its anti-piracy and brand safety programs while reducing redundancy between them, TAG merged its Certified Against Piracy (CAP) requirements into the Brand Safety Certified (BSC) program this year. By consolidating the programs, TAG was able to streamline the number of certifications required of companies while creating a global juggernaut of major companies implementing strong anti-piracy safeguards around the world. 
  • In coordination with longtime partners The 614 Group and the Brand Safety Institute (BSI), TAG helped launch a new annual "Brand Safety Week" in New York City to focus industry attention and foster dialogue around brand safety, brand suitability, and brand sustainability. The inaugural Brand Safety Week was held in November with a robust lineup of speakers, along with panel discussions and educational sessions designed to address top issues, trends, and solutions in brand safety.
  • Expanding their research initiatives, TAG and the Brand Safety Institute released a first-of-its-kind survey of UK consumers on brand safety. The survey found more than 85% of UK consumers would reduce or stop purchasing a product they regularly buy if they discovered an ad for it had run next to COVID-19 conspiracy theories or misinformation. Validating the importance of TAG’s efforts, four in five consumers in the survey said they were more aware of brand safety issues than 12 months ago, and an overwhelming majority (91%) said that it was important for advertisers to make sure their ads are not placed near dangerous, offensive, or inappropriate content. 

Sharing Threat Intelligence

  • More than a dozen of the largest ad tech and anti-malvertising companies in the industry spent 2021 sharing real-time intelligence and partnering to shut down malvertising attacks on a daily basis within the TAG Threat Exchange (TX), resulting in shorter and less impactful attacks across the digital ad supply chain. This year marked the second full year of successful operations within the TAG TX, which holds the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designation as the Information Sharing and Analysis Organization (ISAO) for the digital ad industry.
  • In a landmark victory for law enforcement, United States District Judge Eric R. Komitee sentenced Aleksandr Zhukov to a lengthy 10 years’ imprisonment for his role in creating and leading the “Methbot” ad fraud operation. TAG member companies played a critical role in assisting law enforcement with the Methbot investigation that led to Zhukov’s conviction and sentencing, and TAG praised both the verdict and the threat-sharing collaboration that led to the successful prosecution. Prior to sentencing, TAG provided the US Attorney’s Office with background on the vast financial impact of Zhukov’s crimes and encouraged the Court to “treat this case with the same gravity as past fraud cases and to issue a sentence that matches the severity of the crime.”  
  • TAG and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) released a joint white paper, “Best Practices for Working with Law Enforcement,” offering information and advice to the ad industry based on the organizations’ close work together. In an interview with Business Insider, John Lynch, chief of the computer crimes and intellectual property section at the US Department of Justice, praised the industry’s collaborative efforts: "We're looking to help the industry understand what law enforcement does, how to interact with law enforcement in a productive way, how we can understand their business models, and what they're looking for from law enforcement when they report." 

Developing Innovative Solutions

  • Just last week, the ANA announced that TAG TrustNet would be part of a powerhouse alliance conducting an in-depth study of the programmatic media buying ecosystem, which it has described as lacking transparency and hobbled by mind-numbing complexity. The group - which includes TAG, PwC, and Kroll - will conduct the study and focus on how advertisers can eliminate waste throughout the programmatic marketplace and supply chain. 
  • Earlier in the year, TAG TrustNet announced a global expansion to bring new partners into its efforts to build a single trusted record – i.e. a shared truth – for transactions involving TAG Certified inventory by using distributed ledger technology (DLT). TAG TrustNet was formally launched in February, following a successful cross-industry pilot program and subsequent industry consultation last year, both in coordination with TAG’s technology partner, Fiducia.  TAG TrustNet focuses on two industry challenges: 1) Making it easier to transact on TAG Certified inventory and 2) Creating a single, trusted record for such transactions to make reporting reconciliation easier, cheaper, and more transparent.

Developing the Global TAG Community

  • Among a series of regional partnerships announced to develop TAG programs, TAG and the China Advertising Association (CAA) announced the launch of TAG’s global Certified Against Fraud and Brand Safety Certified standards in the Chinese market. A year ago, the two organizations announced a collaboration to promote TAG’s certifications in China, and this marks the formal launch of two of TAG’s primary programs in the country.
  • The Japan Advertisers Association (JAA), Japan Advertising Agencies Association (JAAA), and Japan Interactive Advertising Association (JIAA) launched a new organization, JICDAQ (Joint Industry Committee for Digital Advertising Quality), to introduce standards for digital advertising in Japan. As part of the launch, JICDAQ announced that it has partnered with TAG to increase seal adoption and extend the reach of TAG’s certification programs in Japan. 
  • In a new partnership with The Advertising Business Group (ABG) and Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB GCC), TAG announced plans to launch its international standards in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region of the Middle East, which includes United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain.
  • Adding to the global momentum of 2021, TAG also partnered with the Interactive Advertising Bureau Hong Kong (IAB Hong Kong) to tackle ad fraud and brand safety challenges in the Hong Kong market. After a six-month public education campaign, the organizations plan to launch TAG’s Certified Against Fraud (CAF) and Brand Safety Certified (BSC) standards in Hong Kong in 2022.
  • IAB Ireland included the TAG Brand Safety Certified Seal as a core requirement to achieve its Gold Standard, which was developed by IAB UK as a rigorous set of criteria for companies to improve brand safety, tackle ad fraud, improve the digital advertising experience, and assist in compliance with the GDPR and ePrivacy law. 

In short, 2021 was a year of dramatic progress for TAG. In collaboration with hundreds of companies from across the industry and around the world, TAG and its members successfully reduced criminal activity to low, predictable, and sustainable levels, while increasing trust and strengthening brand safety across the ecosystem. 

Thank you for your leadership and support in protecting the digital advertising industry in 2021. We wish you a happy and restful holiday season, and we look forward to working together to further advance our common goals in 2022. 

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