Ben Zloof
Ben Zloof 26 September 2023

Ad Fraud’s Kryptonite? The Trustworthy and Very Real World of DOOH

Trust in advertising is dwindling. Ad fraud, in particular, has skyrocketed. And who suffers the consequences? Brands. Through the loss of revenue, share of voice and trust. To tackle this landscape, brands must look to safer ways of advertising that are less prone to ad fraud. Step forward DOOH.

“A brand without trust is just a product, and advertising without trust is just noise.”

So famously said the Advertising Association’s president at the time, Keith Weed. It’s no surprise then, that the AA cited “rebuilding the public’s trust in advertising” as the “most crucial issue” facing the advertising industry in the launch of its recent campaign.

And it’s fair to say advertising is a little noisy right now. In fact, a 2022 IPSOS Mori index found advertising industry executives are the second-least trusted profession in the UK after politicians, who secured the bottom spot by a mere 2%. Not exactly a ringing endorsement considering the political landscape over the past several years.

Let's face it, in many ways, advertising has taken a wrong turn. It can be too intrusive, too creepy, and in some cases, untruthful or misleading. Moreover, ad fraud - the act of delivering fake ad impressions - has skyrocketed.

Statista estimates that costs related to digital advertising fraud worldwide will reach 100 billion U.S. dollars this year. In other words, ad fraud will be worth as much as the richest among us - matching the individual net worth of Musk, Bezos, Gates and Arnault.

The billion-dollar question, therefore, is what can brands do about it? Leaving it to the bots and accepting fate is not an option. Instead, brands should look to safer ways of advertising that are less prone to ad fraud.

Step forward DOOH (digital out-of-home). While no channel is immune to ad fraud, DOOH remains far less susceptible. This is because it was designed for one thing only: to deliver ads and do it in the real world.

Since DOOH is anonymised and a one-to-many channel, consumer privacy issues can be marked as a non-issue. Ad blocking, bots, and skipping ads are also not a concern. In addition, brand safety is, by and large, ensured in DOOH because brands have more power and control over site selection. It’s the type of control that just isn’t possible with mobile, TV and CTV ads.

Not only is DOOH busting ad fraud, but it also has a ‘legitimising’ effect. It’s inherently trustworthy. It reaches 97% of all UK adults every single week with the same message, and according to Kinetic’s The Year Ahead report, “knowing everyone else sees the message is a powerful driver of trust”.

If this wasn’t enough, developments in play verification, which offer confirmation that an ad ran as it should - are being added to the measurement mix all the time. For example, an issue can now be spotted and corrected in flight. In fact, DOOH campaign performance can be monitored in real-time and ‘on the go’ throughout a campaign.

The rise in demand for third-party verification services (according to UniLED’s UK DOOH - State of Play Report, there was an almost two-fold increase in the number of campaigns being verified in Q1 2023 compared with Q1 2022) is a sign that advertisers have reached a point of expectation of proof of delivery – and prefer that proof to be provided by a third party, rather than peer-to-peer individual reporting. 

This is more than important. It’s essential. A person cannot mark their own exam paper or award themselves a medal. In the same way, DOOH should not be self-reported by anyone with the ‘skin in the game’.  A third party ensures an objective set of standards and that no bias can interfere with the assessment. 

Moreover, there have been many improvements in the verification space that means proof in performance extends beyond the certainty of ad delivery, which will become an entry-level hygiene factor in the near term.

It can offer reports on plays, audience, value, or a currency of clients' choosing. This level of insight can lead to better planning decisions through a better understanding of the true value of their media investment.  In this same vein, the ability to report on over deliveries (impacts that exceeded what was booked) is another way of adding extra value when these impacts are mapped to media cost.  

The availability of third-party verification solutions drives growth in OOH as the medium of choice. Its ability to demonstrate the strong results DOOH provides is key to its inclusion in advertising budgets and, therefore, the spread of what could be termed ad fraud’s kryptonite.

A channel that can provide more trust and transparency is needed now more than ever. After all, brands suffer the consequences of bad actors - through loss of revenue, share of voice and trust. Considering 54% of consumers will only buy from companies and brands they trust completely, this is a hit to the bottom line.

DOOH may not be an immediate or direct solution to ad fraud. Still, it’s undoubtedly investable territory in a landscape where trust in advertising has been compromised and where rebuilding it is, as the AA put it, “a crucial issue”.  

For brands looking to protect and promote their trusted products or services effectively, the brand-building, the trustworthy and very real world of DOOH should absolutely be taking a bigger slice of the ad budget. And with the help of third-party verification, maybe it will. 

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