Lack of transparency & measurement biggest hurdle for brand safety: Abrahim Faraj

Abrahim Faraj, Director, Creative Content Protection, NBCUniversal, New York, speaks about critical issues concerning online brand security and the best ways to address them.

AbrahimFarraj

With businesses going digital in a big way, brand safety has become a major area of concern. Annually, millions of dollars are lost to online fraud and so companies are now going the extra mile to ensure greater brand safety.

On a short visit to India, Abrahim Faraj, Director, Creative Content Protection, NBCUniversal, New York, spoke about some critical issues concerning online brand security and the best ways to address them.

Excerpts:

In this age where brands are going digital first, how important has brand security become?

It is a relatively new thing that brands are taking seriously now. Before the internet, you could have precise control over your brands. But with the internet now, it is like you are throwing your brand into a blender and you don't know where is it going to line up afterwards. It was not until 2015 that trade organisations started coming together and talking about restricting where brands showed up in terms of legal businesses and context.

What are the three biggest hurdles for online brand security?

I would say a lack of transparency, lack of measurement and lack of cooperation are the biggest hurdles. These are the three biggest challenges to brand security today.   Measurement is such a critical component; it is impossible to know anything without it. There are entities in the advertising world that do not want measurement and transparency.

They just want to maintain a certain status quo. When it comes to cooperation and collaboration between advertising and media has become all the more important with the coming of ad technology and there has to be greater cross-collaboration than before. Failure of any of these three can result in the brand being hurt in a number of ways.

Talking about revenue loss due to ad fraud, can you share some numbers with us?

In 2016, a trade organisation in the US called TAG did a study with Ernst and Young (EY) and found that 111 million dollars were made by 600 pirate sites. And if it was not for the industry action, it would have been 230 million dollars. The amount of damage that each one of those ads caused its brand by appearing on a pirate site cannot be assessed. 

The sheer fact that advertisements are appearing on sites where they do not belong is actually the biggest cost that brands pay when they do not have enough security. If you see worldwide, Virtual Private Network (VPN) service providers want to appear on pirate sites.

VPN is often used to circumvent oppressive governments so it has a potential customer in the pirate. If you look at the long-term damage of being associated with those sites, I would say that for brands, it is better to reach the market in better ways than go straight to the pirate site and advertise. 

What is the prevalence of malware on pirate sites?

It is a significant issue. The ads on pirate sites look like normal things happening on your computer but they are intended to mislead you. That is the first bad part. The second bad part is that once they mislead you, they manage to get access to all your information. There has not been a clear-cut disaster around malware but it is a huge target and waiting for something terrible to happen. No one ever suspected the scale to which global interference is happening on social media. So it is important that consumers become very conscious about security, it is not about fear mongering but awareness. So I would say that it is best to pay for legitimate services and keep oneself safe. And people are getting aware day by day about these critical security issues.

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