New Ad-Industry Antifraud Group Works to Weed Out “Bad Actors”

A coalition of advertising groups have launched a new entity, the Trustworthy Accountability Group, intent on fighting the ongoing fraud problems that have plagued the industry.

Earlier this year, Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Chairman Vivek Shah offered a blunt reminder to the ad industry of what its biggest problem is: a high level of fraud, much of it caused by automated traffic.

“The ability to buy cheap bot traffic and arbitrage it via ad exchanges has created enormous financial incentive for bad actors to engage in a deception that threatens the very integrity of our business,” he said at a February event.

The industry thinks it has a solution to the problem, and it comes in the form of a new trade group: the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), an initiative launched in September by IAB, the American Association of Advertising Agencies, and the Association of National Advertisers. And the organization now has a leader to help push its agenda forward, which consists of eliminating fraudulent traffic, combating the proliferation of malware, fighting internet piracy, and promoting brand safety through greater transparency. (To honor the occasion, the group even changed its name, throwing out the somewhat clunkier IAB Trustworthy Digital Supply Chain Initiative.)

Linda Woolley, TAG’s new president and CEO, has experience in both the association and advertising spaces, spending three decades in policy, public affairs, and government relations, along with almost six years in executive roles at the Direct Marketing Association, including as the group’s president and CEO. Most recently, she served on the board of the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council.

During a presentation at the IAB Ad Operations Summit in New York City on Monday, Woolley said her goal is to use the penalty-box approach, strongly self-regulating an industry that’s constantly changing. “TAG plans to call out bad actors,” she said.

But her role will also be to emphasize the industry’s ethical players.

“My hope is that legitimate companies will use this information to make decisions about who they do business with,” Woolley told Ad Age in an interview. “If a company doesn’t have a TAG seal of approval, they’ll think twice about doing business with that company. Why don’t they [have a seal]? Are they willful? Are they ignorant? Are they profiting from doing bad things?”

In her comments to Ad Age, she emphasized that the group’s goal was to get ahead of Washington by focusing on self-regulation efforts before Congress decides to do it for the ad industry.

“These are not easy problems to tackle. Everybody has kind of turned a blind eye to them for a long time, but at this point everyone knows we have to do something about them,” Woolley told the Wall Street Journal.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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