The Media Buying Risks and Safeguards Every Marketer Should Know

By Susan Kantor


In 2022, U.S. marketers are expected to spend nearly $240 billion on digital advertising, up 57 percent since 2020. At the same time, a recent survey showed that 76 percent of advertising executives are dissatisfied with the level of transparency in the digital supply chain.

As more investment flows to digital, it becomes increasingly important for marketers to know where their ad dollars are spent and understand the areas of risk for ad fraud and wasted ad dollars in the supply chain.

The good news is that many resources are available to marketers to minimize that risk, and different industry solutions work together to help marketers plan and buy media more effectively.

Risk: Incorrect measurement

Safeguard: MRC-accredited measurement vendors

For buyers and sellers to transact, they need integrity in ad campaign measurement.

Advertisers and agencies use ad fraud detection vendors to measure fraud in their campaigns. These services are an important part of how the market transacts because they measure and filter non-human traffic. They typically use in-ad measurement, which means a tag is placed in the ad container. As a user travels to a publisher's site, their browser executes the code and counts that ad exposure as a person or a bot.

To help, the Media Rating Council (MRC) sets industry standards and guidelines to define and measure invalid traffic (IVT). Marketers and agencies use MRC-accredited vendors to detect and measure IVT from an ad delivery perspective and have confidence that their processes and procedures adhere to industry standards for measurement services.

Risk: Supply chain opacity allows fraudsters to operate under the radar
Safeguard: Supply chain transparency and control

Marketers need to have visibility into how their digital ads move through the supply chain from buyers to sellers.

The IAB Tech Lab develops standards and solutions to increase supply chain transparency and control. Tools such as Ads.txt, Sellers.json, and the OpenRTB protocol allow sellers to communicate the details of their transactions. These tools also give marketers insight into the details and better control of their transactions by identifying authorized sellers and resellers of inventory and all participants involved, which helps address domain spoofing.

Additionally, a shared set of standards helps marketers interact with companies across the supply chain. The Trustworthy Accountability Group brings together companies to set standards that promote greater transparency. TAG's Certified Against Fraud program certifies companies — buyers, direct sellers and intermediaries — that meet the group's guidelines and best practices for combating invalid traffic.

Risk: Low-quality sites with bot traffic
Safeguard: Audited publishers

Marketers need foundational assurance that their ads are not running on questionable sites or being served to bots that go undetected by measurement technologies. The AAM Digital Publisher Audit provides greater transparency at the publisher level.

Auditors assess a publisher's business operations and traffic sourcing policies and analyze the quantity and quality of website traffic. Marketers can use the audit as a signal to make more informed media buying decisions through the AAM Audited Domain List.

What this means for marketers:

These solutions each attempt to mitigate specific high-risk areas — measurement integrity, supply chain transparency and control, best practices, and publisher audience validation. Think of these solutions as connected, coordinated, layered solutions that help increase performance.

The assurance provided from these solutions when stacked is far greater than the sum of the parts. The Association of National Advertisers supports these efforts and collaborations to make the solutions work together. Individual advertisers and agencies that implement all layers have the best chance to optimize their results.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Susan Kantor is the VP of marketing for the Alliance for Audited Media.