November 29, 2021

TAG Today - November 2021


Industry Achieves Milestone Victory as Study Shows Ad Fraud Held Under 1% in TAG Certified Channels for First Time

The digital ad industry has achieved a milestone accomplishment in its decade-long battle against ad fraud by holding invalid traffic (IVT), a key measure of such fraud, below 1% in TAG Certified Channels for the first time, according to the 2021 US Fraud Benchmark Study

The study showed that IVT in TAG Certified Channels fell to a record-low 0.86% this year, a fourth straight year of improvement and a nearly 50% drop from the rate measured in the study in 2018. TAG Certified Channels are those in which a campaign runs through multiple companies that have achieved the TAG Certified Against Fraud Seal.


“A sub-1% fraud rate has been our industry’s four-minute mile, a psychological and operational barrier that has seemed nearly impossible to break,” said TAG CEO Mike Zaneis. “Unlike an individual record in sports, however, achieving that milestone in advertising has required close collaboration across the supply chain. When multiple participants in every ad transaction set the same high and consistent standards, there are few cracks left for criminals to exploit, and ad fraud can be reduced to low and sustainable levels.”

The study, conducted by The 614 Group, also involved interviews with executives at agency holding companies and others who helped put those results in context, with many ad buyers expressing comfort with a sustained fraud rate around the 1% level or lower. In the words of one agency executive, “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.”

“The changes in the industry since we conducted the first US Fraud Benchmark Study five years ago have been nothing short of remarkable,” said Rob Rasko, CEO of The 614 Group. “In those days, major market participants often struggled with high levels of IVT in their client campaigns, and there was acrimony and finger-pointing over whose responsibility it was to fix it. Today, it is clear that TAG established standards across hundreds of key participants in the supply chain, and it has delivered confidence to ad buyers -- as evidenced by the commentary -- and data in today’s released research on the results of their process of certification.”

TAG Praises US Department of Justice for Leadership, Industry Collaboration Leading to 10-Year Sentence for Methbot Organizer

Earlier this month, 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 and its member companies played a critical role in assisting law enforcement with the investigation and prosecution of Zhukov, and TAG praised both the verdict and the collaboration involved.

 “Justice has been served,” said TAG CEO Mike Zaneis. “This lengthy sentence sends a powerful message to ad fraud criminals worldwide that the US government is making it a priority to find them, prosecute them, and send them to jail. We are deeply grateful for the leadership and collaboration of the US Department of Justice, US Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of New York, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and New York Police Department in bringing Mr. Zhukov to justice. We also are also indebted to the TAG member companies who helped expose this fraud operation, shared their threat intelligence with their industry peers, and provided that critical information to law enforcement to assist with their investigations.”

TAG also released a letter that it sent to the US Attorney’s Office prior to sentencing that provided background on the 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.”  

As the advertising industry’s only Information Sharing and Analysis Organization (ISAO), TAG facilitates the sharing of intelligence about new and emerging threats such as Methbot with hundreds of companies across the industry through the TAG Threat Exchange. 

The verdict and TAG’s response to it was covered in MediaPost and a range of other industry publications.

TAG Partners with ABG and IAB GCC to Launch Its International Certifications in the Gulf Region of the Middle East

On November 17th, TAG announced a partnership with The Advertising Business Group (ABG) and Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB GCC) to launch its international standards in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region of the Middle East. The GCC region includes United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain.

Ian Manning, CEO of IAB GCC, said: “The IAB is partnering with TAG and the ABG to bring industry standards to tackle serious challenges, such as ad fraud, to the GCC digital advertising market. Not only will this support many international businesses’ existing approaches, but it will also raise the benchmark for local ones – reducing fraud, stimulating growth and driving trust in our industry.”

Elda Choucair, CEO of Omnicom Media Group (OMG) MENA and Vice-Chair of ABG, said: “As digital investments continue to grow, so does the need for increased vigilance on ad-fraud, brand safety risk and malware. By supporting this initiative to encourage adoption of TAG’s certifications, we hope to drive a more sustainable, transparent and trustworthy industry where advertisers and agencies can be confident in the investments they are making.”

Nick Stringer, Vice President of Global Engagement & Operations at TAG, said: “TAG is delighted to work with the ABG and IAB GCC to bring its standards to the GCC region of the Middle East. We believe this will foster greater trust and transparency in the market, reduce the level of criminal activity and introduce a more brand safe environment for advertisers.”

The three organizations launched the standards during a webinar in which companies in the region were encouraged to adopt the standards through TAG certification. Coverage of the announcement included Campaign Middle East, Arab News, and Gulf News.

More details and a recording of the webinar can be found here.

TAG Announces Collaboration with IAB Hong Kong to Promote Its Standards in the Hong Kong Market

Adding to the global momentum of 2021, TAG also announced that is has partnered with

Interactive Advertising Bureau Hong Kong (IAB Hong Kong) to tackle ad fraud and brand safety challenges in the Hong Kong market.

The partnership involves two phases:

  1. An initial six-month education campaign raising awareness around specific brand safety challenges in the Hong Kong market; and
  2. The launch of TAG’s Certified Against Fraud (CAF) and Brand Safety Certified (BSC) standards to reduce fraud and malware, facilitate threat sharing, and promote a brand safe environment for advertisers in Hong Kong.

“IAB Hong Kong has partnered with TAG because we want – and need - to meet these challenges for the benefit of digital advertising in the Hong Kong market,” said Victor Cheng, Chairman of IAB Hong Kong. “We will embark on a specific campaign to raise awareness and welcome TAG’s expertise in helping us to do this, as well as raising industry standards.”

“TAG is delighted to work with IAB Hong Kong to help raise awareness of the challenges of – and solutions to – ad fraud, malvertising and brand safety in digital advertising,” said Nick Stringer, Vice President of Global Engagement & Operations at TAG. “With the support of IAB Hong Kong, we hope adoption of TAG standards will help foster greater trust and transparency in the market and, ultimately, reduce the level of criminal activity whilst boosting brand safety for advertisers.”

TAG Member Spotlight: Meredith

Lisa Pezzuto, Senior Manager of Ad Tech Compliance for Meredith, shared the following thoughts on the importance of TAG participation, the most significant challenges facing the industry, and next steps in protecting the supply chain. Meredith has earned the TAG Certified Against Fraud and TAG Brand Safety Certified Seals.

​​Why does Meredith think it's important to participate in TAG?

Meredith is committed to a brand safe, viewable, non-fraudulent environment for its digital advertisers. We are dedicated to being clear and transparent and to providing our readers with destinations they can trust and rely on. TAG provides a robust certification and verification framework to ensure compliance with industry best practices. In addition, everyone sits at the same table through TAG working groups— including sellers, buyers, and intermediaries. – so we can find common ground during this collaboration. We believe TAG has exceptional standards which is why we took the extra step and became TAG Certified Against Fraud in 2017 and Brand Safety Certified this year. 

What do you think is the most significant challenge currently facing the digital advertising supply chain?

The most significant challenge facing the digital advertising supply chain is to reach consumers with content and ads that are relevant, timely, and engaging, while safeguarding user privacy and identity. Meredith recognizes and supports industry efforts to move to a privacy-led, consumer-first advertising model. Our senior leadership is actively involved in privacy, data, and identity discussions, forums, and groups who are part of this push. 

How can the industry continue to work to protect advertisers from criminal activity and strengthen brand safety in digital advertising?

I encourage our peers in the industry to take several steps to safeguard our supply chain and increase consumer trust. First, companies should join the TAG Registry, which creates a verifiable system to ensure counterparties are legitimate entitites. Next, it’s important to engage with industry initiatives dedicated to establishing accountability standards. Each of us should train our staff and ensure our teams are trained to regularly flag suspicious activity and troubleshoot platform issues effectively. Finally, all companies should utilize Third Party verification through close partnerships with MRC accredited partners.



From “Twitter Focuses on Brand Safety, as It Tries to Keep Conversations Safe to Develop Trust Among Advertisers” in the Financial Express:

Furthermore, Twitter inked several partnerships to curb safety-related challenges on the platform. The platform collaborated with DoubleVerify and Integral Ad Science for providing independent reporting on the context in which ads appear on Twitter. ...

In March 2021, Twitter earned the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) Brand Safety Certified Seal, which covers Twitter’s global operations.

Let's make noise together 🤝

We love it when TAG members highlight our work together to fight digital ad crime and improve transparency. Please send any TAG-related press releases, blogs, or other announcements to Andrew Weinstein at for review before release.


Topics: Blog