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‘Mean Streets’ Shows Peddlers and Buyers of Clicks as Frauds

October 3, 2014

First published on the Zeno Asia blog:

Adobe’s ‘Mean Streets’ videos have been tearing up this week’s Advertising Week. Beautifully summed up by this Content.ly post, it parodies click fraud hilariously.

Like most great videos, it is successful because it speaks to the proverbial ‘unspoken, but human truth’ – that everyone in the industry knows these practices are rife – but also that they’re just dumb! This knowledge should make us all squirm.

Unfortunately, from an Asian context, I’m sad to say our region mainstreamed many of the inauthentic scourges of; buying fake fans/followers, engaging click farms to boost video/banner views and promoted astroturfing (see Chinese Water Army).

Click fraud, inauthentic paid shill and botting have no place in our industry.

Just last week my team sat in a meeting where a mobile marketing agency offered additional ‘value added services’ including; clicks on banner ads, competition entries, page likes, etc. When it was highlighted that these practices were not just unethical, but kind of silly, they replied that it was the only way to demonstrate low CPM and high ROI when benchmarked against KPIs for competitor campaigns. WTF??
Again, this is where the Mean Streets video using the metaphor of drugs gets it spot-on. There are too many in the industry addicted to the output – rather than the power of the outcome that comes from ‘pure engagement.’ People, if the KPIs look ridiculously too-good-to-be true, then they almost definitely are.

Read up on the ethical code of conduct from industry bodies like the IAB and WOMMA – they are there for an important reason. Personally, I have never (and will never) recommend or encourage a client to engage in this kind of behavior. I would fire anyone who works for me that does – even just for the stupidity of recommending something fake.

I applaud agency leaders in our region like Ruth Stubbs, who not only feels the same about click fraud and bottting – but have gone on record to talk about the complexities and how her agency and the industry are seeking to stamp these practices out to deliver certainty to clients.

I close with Ruth’s great advice, which every client and agency should be able to answer:

  1. Clients should be asking their agencies – what processes/technologies do you have to mitigate advertising fraud? How do you work with publishers when suspect activity is detected?
  2. Agencies should be asking publishers – what about make-goods/refunds/traffic quality and sources, and what they are doing to mitigate exposure.
  3. Publishers should be asking themselves – where do these amazingly cheap eyeballs come from? Why do we not offer full transparency? Why don’t we pay attention to ad viewability metrics and just get rid of the dross that delivers all those millions of impressions that will never be seen by a human?

#engagepureyo

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