Google and Facebook hiding behind customer privacy instead of sorting out ad fraud is a cop-out, says TUI

TUI’s comments come after new figures show the global cost of advertising fraud may have been significantly under-reported, with the cost of ad fraud potentially rising to $16.4bn (£13.4bn) in 2017.


TUI believes Google and Facebook need to stop hiding behind “customer privacy” policies and start taking ad fraud seriously – but warns marketers also need to take responsibility instead of “pointing the finger of blame” to others.

A new report by Adloox, The&Partnership and m/SIX, suggests the global cost of advertising fraud may have previously been significantly under-reported.

Previously believed to cost advertisers $7.2bn (£5.9bn) globally each year, Adloox’s figures show the real cost of ad fraud may have been as high as $12.48bn (£10.2bn) in 2016 – accounting for almost 20% of the $66bn (£54bn) spent on digital advertising.

In 2017, if advertising expenditure grows to $80bn (£65.58bn) as forecast by eMarketer and if advertising fraud continues to evolve at its current rate, this figure will rise to $16.4bn (£13.4bn).

Speaking on a panel at The Guardian’s Changing Media Summit today (15 March) about ad fraud, TUI’s general manager for digital marketing Christian Armond said it is impossible to cut ad fraud out completely, but that TUI does work to minimise the risk. He said he does not recognise current figures around ad fraud, and says that for the brand ad fraud is a “3% to 5% problem, not 30% to 50%”.

We have a responsibility to take control of ownership. Google and Facebook hiding behind customer privacy is a bit of a cop-out.

Christian Armond, TUI

“This could be because we’re doing what we need to be doing, that there are unknown unknowns or if it’s the scare tactics that drive you towards these sorts of solutions,” Armond said.

However, he does believe brands need to have the possibility to view audience profile data and be able to see where their ads are placed.

“We have a responsibility to take control of ownership, and implement the tools to be able to measure that use of the data and see where our ads are appearing. Google and Facebook hiding behind customer privacy is a bit of a cop-out. They’re more interested in protecting what they call their data. It’s more because it’s valuable to them, not because they care so much about customers.”

Mark Finney, director of media at ISBA, also criticised the digital giants and pointed to Sir Martin Sorrell’s recent comments around Google’s efforts to tackle ad fraud.

“Google are monetising unclassified content immediately, which is crazy. Content needs to be quarantined so you know what it is,” he added.

Facebook has recently defended its position, with Facebook’s EMEA boss Nicola Mendelsohn saying the social network is “striving to be the most open and transparent company”.

The tech giant has recently expanded its number of ad measurement verification partners to 24 and has committed to an audit by the Media Ratings Council to verify the accuracy of its data.

Finding solutions

To successfully tackle ad fraud, Armond believes the industry as a whole needs to take responsibility instead of “pointing the finger of blame” at each other. Marketers also need to stop “settling for mediocrity” when it comes to viewability issues.

“As a marketer, we need to take control of the measurement chain. We have to educate ourselves more and ask the right questions. We should not settle for mediocrity. We talk a lot about viewability, but as a UK industry our benchmark is only [ads being seen] 50% of the time. There’s more work to be done there, and for marketers not to be accepting of that and dive into it much more,” he explained.

Meanwhile, ISBA’s Finney believes the security forces needs to get actively involved due to the scale of the problem.

He concluded: “It’s not just advertising that needs to be involved in this. We don’t yet work with MI5 and MI6 and everyone should be involved. We need Jack Bauer. When it comes to tracking down the perpetrators, that would be MI5’s role.”

UPDATE: A Google spokesperson has responded to our article with: “Google is one of the industry leaders at fighting ad fraud. We continue to make considerable investments to protect our ad systems through a combination of technology, strong policies and operational teams. Last year, we took down almost seven million bad ads for intentionally attempting to trick our detection systems.”