Not a year goes by — let alone a quarter — in the ad tech industry where we don’t find brand safety and the corresponding wave of industry initiatives from organizations like the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) among the most talked-about topics.
At this point, we know it is a never-ending cycle starting with a chicken and an egg scenario — the “chicken” and “egg” being insufficient tech and bad actors finding and exploiting the cracks. This leads to security innovation and new standards of operation which then spread like wildfire through the industry as a new line of defense.
Buyers, sellers, and the companies in between get smarter with each cycle, but the underlying issues continue to crop up. While we can’t — and won’t — guarantee this is the last time our industry will deal with brand safety issues, our achievement of Platinum status by completing all four TAG certifications is another defense in our arsenal of brand safety tools.
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With nearly 30 years of combined industry and SpotX experience, the Brand Safety Team at SpotX deftly handles all the uncomfortable conversations. They have an unparalleled grasp of current industry standards and realistic technical capabilities, and they have the historical experience and context to back it up.
Our team also understands that not all types of brand safety and fraud issues are covered via verification solutions alone. We pride ourselves on looking beyond data points on paper and taking a human/manual approach to combat these issues. At the end of the day, we understand if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Making our industry more transparent through TAG certifications
SpotX has worked closely with TAG from the outset, starting with a 2015 information-sharing pilot program. This pilot program developed into a Certification Against Fraud, an Inventory Quality Guidelines (IQG) Certification, a Certification Against Piracy, and finally a Certification Against Malware. Additionally, recertifications for each seal were released in 2018.
A tedious process in an ever-evolving industry, it was no easy lift for the Brand Safety Team. As TAG continues to release new and updated versions, our internal team never lets the required yearly recertification stray too far down their to-do list. In fact, SpotX is going a step further in 2019 and is currently going through the auditing process to become independently validated for all four TAG programs.
Each certification comes with an individual list of tasks, requirements, and thresholds; mandates a dedicated compliance officer; and requires annual trainings. TAG often includes existing industry standards, such as ads.txt and Media Rating Council (MRC) Guidelines, as part of their certifications — which many times require product development, process changes, and operational training.
The Certification Against Fraud (V3.0) is focused on employing various types of traffic threat filtering, ensuring payments are only made to legitimate parties via payment ID protocol while also ensuring inventory is only sold from entities listed within ads.txt files.
The IQG Certification (V2.2) runs a similar vein, with an added focus on outlining the nature of each transactional relationship and employing specific disclosure mechanisms in various digital environments. Promoting transparency, this program ensures SpotX is providing accurate insights and tools to ensure inventory is labeled accurately.
As ad tech intermediaries have often been the target of malware attacks, the Certification Against Malware program (V2.0) aims to eliminate the distribution of malware throughout the ad tech ecosystem. This is done by having contractual agreements with partners as well as tools and processes in place to identify and eradicate any threats, whether that be within creative assets or media owner properties.
Lastly, the Certified Against Piracy program aims to eliminate ad placements and payment to any entity facilitating the distribution of pirated content or counterfeit products.
Creating a “new normal” for brand safety
Studies have shown that TAG members have reduced fraud rates when compared to non-certified channels. At SpotX, TAG is just one individual layer in our protections. We also hold partnerships with leading verification companies to assist our team in identifying and eliminating sophisticated forms of fraudulent traffic.
Following the 2018 buzz and controversy around unclear auction mechanics housed within black-box tech providers, SpotX made a joint statement with five other leading companies establishing a few core principles for programmatic advertising. This statement specifically mentioned ongoing work with TAG to create yet another “compliance and accountability” certification with a focus upon efficient transactions, transaction transparency, and fair-market principles – work which has already begun in TAG working groups.
While our work with TAG is far from complete, we’re happy with the status of our long-term relationship and are extremely proud to be one of their first five Platinum members. SpotX recognizes that trust and communication is key and pledges to continue to collaborate with industry counterparts, working to establish total transparency as the new normal.
To validate if the partners you’re working with are registered and/or certified with TAG, please visit the TAG Registry.
Click here to learn more about brand safety at SpotX.
This article was written by Mic Roske, director of platform training at SpotX.