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For years, site traffic has been a key metric for most businesses that advertise online. Unfortunately, CMOs can no longer assume that potential customers alone are generating their site traffic.

Our 2013 Bot Traffic Market Advisory showed that suspicious web activity peaked at 61 percent in Q4 2013 (thanks, in part, to larger digital ad spend around the holidays) and suspicious mobile activity peaked at 27 percent in Q3 2013 in the US. Suspicious traffic includes bots (often fraud), which are bad news for advertisers – a bot can’t buy your product or remember your brand.

To combat this problem, a new standard of advertising has emerged – Secure Media.

The NAO robot

Secure Media can be bought with complete assurance that ads are actually seen by real people, thereby creating a zero-waste digital ad investment opportunity. Ideally, Secure Media also has an engagement component, like asking consumers to prove they are human through a simple act of cognition. Unfortunately, opportunities that guarantee both zero waste ad spend and an engaged audience are still few and far between.

While advertising vendors are striving to provide engagement-based Secure Media, it has yet to become an industry norm. More common, lower-grade proxies include opportunities for viewable media, tracking pixels and the use of social log-ins to maximize human attention and minimize bot fraud.

Companies such as DoubleVerify and Integral Ad Science are helping ad agencies maximize the viewability of their ads, often seeking “make-goods” from publishers. Despite the new standard set forth by the IAB, viewability can still vary dramatically from site to site. These companies help brands keep track of where their ads are delivered, across bot-ridden ad networks.

Fortunately, a new trend has emerged where users are ‘logged in’ to sites through existing social media accounts like Facebook or Google+. Publishers who also utilize the log-ins are then able to link the user to a logged in account, verifying humanity. In addition, social log-ins give advertisers access to a bevy of information about consumers and allow them to serve targeted ads.

While the industry is clearly on track to offer Secure Media, few have found ways to effectively deliver it at scale. Viewability, tracking pixels and social logins are just the first steps to ensuring that humans are seeing ads. Next, advertisers should look for solutions that guarantee an engaged audience – one where people are required to use their brains. Identity, coupled with reputation scoring will be highly prized by marketers.

Ari Jacoby

Above: Ari Jacoby

Across the adtech, brand marketing and marketing automation industries, the onus can’t be put on publishers alone to create a secure environment for marketing budgets. Marketers must demand these zero-waste opportunities. While that may very well mean a momentary decline in the classic “up and to the right” traffic chart, this is a case where quality truly beats quantity. Online brand-building requires personalized, human participation.

Bots will never remember your ads or talk about them at the watercooler or buy your products, but real people will.

Ari Jacoby is the CEO of Solve Media

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