Note from PubMatic team: Having worked in the digital marketing space for 20 years, Eric Bozinny has been specializing in inventory quality since 2007 when he created the first customer-focused forensic operations team at Microsoft to manage the rising problem of click fraud in the search space.
Before joining PubMatic, Eric built out programs at the video ad network YuMe to reduce the impact of fraud. We are thrilled to have him join the PubMatic team as Director, Inventory Quality and wanted to highlight his work in this Q&A.
What are key industry trends you are seeing around IQ?
Eric: Spend on mobile app inventory is forecasted to increase 3x from 2016 to 2022. It’s a big growth area in digital marketing spend simply because it’s the fastest growing source of digital media consumption.
That said, it’s also the least understood inventory in terms of quality—primarily with viewability and fraud. Why? Viewability and fraud SDKs are needed to gather the necessary telemetry needed to make accurate measurements. However, because various interested parties (e.g. advertisers) utilize different third-party vendors, the logistics and overhead for app creators can be burdensome.
Of course, this lack of standardization in quality measurement plays into the hands of bad actors. It is this subset of apps (and the inventory they supply) that play havoc with quality.
For these reasons, no one is quite sure how much poor quality in-app inventory is underreported.
What was your general impression of the quality conversation prior to joining us?
Eric: Interestingly, the supply-side is often seen as the source of “bad” inventory (fraud, low viewability, etc.). To be fair, there are lots of sources that feed the ecosystem with poor quality inventory.
Advertisers have options and a measure of power to combat poor quality. But, due to numerous issues with conflicting incentives (marketers not wanting to disrupt current models of success), continuing pressure on pricing (agencies under pressure to drive down costs), and an overreliance on the supply chain to solve the problem (advertisers not deciding to solve this themselves), there’s no unified signal to the marketplace that quality is the first priority.
I remember seeing industry headlines about PubMatic’s fraud-free program. At the time, with my quality hat on, I thought it was likely window dressing, not representing a fundamental commitment to quality.
However, as I interviewed with Amar and Rajeev Goel (PubMatic co-founders and brothers), and asked very hard and pointed questions, I gained a new perspective on PubMatic’s quality stance. Now that I’ve been working from within for a month, the business is doing an admirable job balancing short-term revenue against the strategic goal of reliable, higher quality inventory.
What do you anticipate as the next game-changing event for the industry to be on the quality front?
Eric: The true quality of in-app ad inventory is the current industry equivalent to wondering what is on the dark side of the moon. Though the IAB is working on a standard SDK for verification measurement, there is currently no good method to measure fraud and viewability within the app environment.
Combine this lack of quality measurement with the massive growth in mobile-app digital media—a perfect storm is formed where bad actors together can make billions of dollars in fraudulent revenue.
Given your new role, what will be your key areas of focus?
Eric: I split my time between the daily operational needs of managing an effective quality program and working with our product team and global customer operational leaders. Together, we work to identify low quality and fraudulent inventory. Once detected, the suppliers of the inventory are either remediated or terminated, depending on the nature of the violation.
Strategically, I’m working across the organization to position the business for greater success with quality. The industry has slowly been awakening to the quality realities of the ecosystem (systemic fraud, opportunity-to-see issues, etc.). It is critical that PubMatic stay ahead of this learning curve, as this proverbial rising tide will lift all boats that are seaworthy and not tied to old paradigms.
Fraud is a complicated issue with many levels. How is PubMatic addressing the complexity?
Eric: Bad actors can invest 100 percent of their time, effort and capital into developing new methods to create fraudulent and/or low-quality ad impressions. Most companies in the ecosystem, including PubMatic, simply can’t match these levels of investment to fight the bad guys, nor should they be expected to do so.
The solution requires a holistic, creative approach. First off, PubMatic mounts an effective defense, by utilizing third-party detection to filter out fraudulent traffic before advertisers buy it. We then analyze the traffic after the fact and take steps to mitigate future risk (which may include terminating upstream partners).
Secondly, we are researching and designing a creative offense. We focus on the single truth of fraud – it’s all about the money. Cui Bono? Or who benefits?
Before a single impression is served from a site or app, we will soon be able to identify signals that indicate the probability it will generate fraudulent or low-quality traffic and then keep these sources out of the ecosystem. Creating this method of stopping fraud before it starts, a Minority Report approach, will take time, research, analytics and investigation. However, the payoff can be enormous if fraud is reduced at the source.
To learn more about our stance on quality and our products, contact us. If you would like to join us in our fight against fraud, take a look at our open positions. Together, we can clean up the programmatic ecosystem and fight against fraudulent inventory.