Couldn't make it to New York for the AMM's February Educational Forum
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Learn from Chase, P&G, Uber: ‘Better media equals better outcomes’

NEW YORK – The health care industry should take a lesson on ad fraud from large companies such as Chase, Uber, and P&G, who found that cutting out mobile exchanges for ad placement made no difference in business outcomes, according to an independent ad fraud and cybersecurity researcher.

Because “most of their traffic was bots anyway…they did not see any impact on their outcomes,” said Augustine Fou, PhD, from the Marketing Science Consulting Group.

Fou said that Uber most recently cut $120 million from their $150 million spend and is “suing 100 mobile exchanges for outright fraud where they were falsifying the records … and they were fabricating [where the ads were running] entirely.” With this change Uber saw paid signups drop and organic signups increased dramatically to replace it, Fou said.

“Good publishers, like the ones in this room, don’t have a bot problem,” Fou said to the audience of the February Education Forum of the Association of Medical Media. He said that bots do not come to medical publisher sites in large quantities because they cannot make money, but some will come to steal cookies “to pretend to be the physicians or patients.”

Fou said reports that show zero bot activity indicates possible fraud because search crawlers (non-human traffic) constitute 5% to 10% of traffic.

Fou warned publishers to take a deep dive on what ad tech trackers they have on their sites as the site’s data privacy may be at risk.

“Human audiences are scarce and valuable,” Fou said. “You have those audiences – please don’t give them away.”

He told the audience they should not be charging less for direct buys.

“Programmatic is one of those myths…one to one targeting,” Fou said. “A lot of these big pharm companies … are completely missing out on advertising, good advertising. And all under the guise of one to one marketing.”

“Because the technology allows us to show an ad to one person specifically, they think that’s better,” he said. “It is actually not.” He said marketers still need to do branding.

“Ads bought from ad exchanges vs. ads bought from good publishers…have nearly a 30 times better outcomes, better effectiveness,” he said noting there is a danger selling on open exchanges and “may be incentivizing bad behavior.”

Fou also discussed site viewability.

“A real publisher has an average viewability that is going to be lower than the fake sites because the only sites that have 100% viewability at all times are the ones that fake their measurements,” he said. “So, in fact, when the agencies came to you and said ‘we are only going buy viewable impressions’ they are actually loping off a third of your inventory as unsellable. And now they are increasing their spend with fake sites that 100% viewable impressions.”

“There are positive, concrete steps that publishers can do to protect their advertisers and protect their marketers,” Fou said. “And, hopefully, that is going to get us back to more balance…when the original contract with the internet was between the publisher, the visitor and the marketer, and ad tech was not extracting as much profit for themselves as possible.”

Following Fou’s ad fraud presentation was a digital privacy panel moderated by freelance journalist Jason Carris. Panelists included Stephanie Hanaway from AAFP; Jon Bigelow from The Coalition for Healthcare Communication; David Reim, DMD Chief Privacy Officer; and Fou. Their insights covered the current state of GDPR and CCPA, upcoming legislation and advice for medical publishers.

Reim said “all the publishers that we work with are already doing the right thing,” but did cite three concrete suggestions to improve digital privacy.

“Be privacy forward” and have someone in your organization who is monitoring data privacy. “This is no longer a nice to know but a must-know for anybody that collects personal information.”

Second, “for any data coming into your organization … I am going to strongly recommend that you have it audited by a third party,” he said noting the ad tech should also be audited.

“When we switched to digital, we let [the old school audit] discipline drop,” he said

Third, “buff up your consent management capability,” Reim said. “You can’t just have an unsubscribe at the end of your email. You need to have a web-based consent management platform” and it should be real-time.

The 2020 AMM Nexus & HME Humanitarian Awards will be on Thursday, March 26, at 5 pm, The Yale Club. Details can be found here. – Joan-Marie Stiglich, ELS


February Education Forum on Ad Fraud and Digital Privacy. Association of Medical Media Educational Forum. February 20, 2020. New York.

Disclosure: Stiglich is the Healio Chief Content Officer. She is a 25-year veteran of medical publishing and has been a Healio employee for the duration of her career.