The net is closing in on fraudsters preying on the online advertising industry with indictments brought against those allegedly involved in perpetrating such crimes in recent years, notably the recent 3ve case is a high profile example.
This awakening was brought on by increased action from public bodies such as the FBI aided by help from some of the industry’s most significant names, such as Google, and perpetuated by some of the most powerful marketers in the world voicing their dissatisfaction over the problem.
Much of the recent public discussion on fraud in the marketing industry has centered on the phenomena of offenders using malware to run automated ad fraud schemes–understandable given that such deceits are forecast to cost the industry more than $50 billion by 2025, according to the World Federation of Advertisers. But, thus far, comparatively little has been spoken of efforts to crack down on the issue of fraudsters employing bots to perform similar malfeasance in the realm of social media marketing.
However, this is beginning to change as marketers in charge at some of the largest-spending brands on social media speak publicly on the matter. For instance, last year the soon-to-depart Unilever CMO Keith Weed voiced his displeasure/suspicion over online “influencers” buying fake followers to inflate their audience reach at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.
Add to this a growing public awareness of the role that bots play in powering social networks and the need for industry-action is clear, failure to do so risks the complete loss of trust, ergo legitimacy, according to Weed.
Launch of BFPC
That’s why companies including media agency OMD, Oracle Data Cloud and Influential are among the founding members of the Bot Fraud Prevention Council, an initiative geared towards restoring trust in social media as a marketing medium.
Organized by social media marketing firm Influential, BFPC aims to do so by agreeing on tech and measurement standards that can help marketers identify bot accounts, ensure their removal from social media platforms and also devise authoritative audience engagement metrics.
BFPC plans to achieve such goals by working with Trustworthy Accountability Group, a cross-body trade organization commissioned by the ANA, IAB and 4A’s to help combat fraud, to form a centralized hub for advertisers and TAG members where they can share management techniques such as measurement methodologies and a blacklist of major offenders.
Other founding members of BFPC include blockchain specialists Ludicity, measurement outfit IRI and WME, with Ryan Detert, CEO of Influential conceding there is a “massive problem” in measuring the effectiveness of social media, adding that the goal was to have conversations around transparency on media, not just on social.
“We took it on ourselves, along with OMD, to go out and speak to a larger community of people that each has a level of expertise in their own domain to provide a level of insight that others cannot,” he said.
Primarily, the participants’ activity will begin with sharing their respective expertise to help aggregate benchmark levels of fraud in the wider space and then help marketers gain a broader understanding of how to achieve a better ROI on their social media activity.
Kerry Perse, OMD, managing director, told Adweek that concerns from advertisers over fraudulent activity on social had begun to “bubble up” over the last two years and that much of the conversations she has with clients are around mitigating risk when working with influencers on such platforms.
“When we think about what type of influencer to work with there are a couple of factors that we consider and bots, either the composition of bot followers or bot activity [from an account itself], are definitely an aspect of it,” she said.