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Trustworthy Accountability Group

The Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) has accomplished an incredible amount during its first year, including rolling out a TAG Registry, an Anti-Piracy Initiative, Certified Against Fraud, Certified Against Malware,  and updated Inventory Quality Guidelines. Now the work begins: to round up more participants. The early adopters are already on board: 127 companies are already TAG-Registered. To be registered, companies must complete a self-assessment and attest to having certain processes and procedures in place and a plan to keep them in place for the coming year. TAG Registered companies have been verified as legitimate participants in the digital advertising industry through a proprietary background check and review process powered by Dun & Bradstreet and approved by TAG. Once registered, companies are awarded a TAG-ID, a unique global identifier that they can share with partners and add  to their ads or the ad inventory they sell.

130 people, myself included, have completed Compliance Officer Training, and have been designated Compliance Officers for their companies.

I first became involved with the Trustworthy Accountability Group last January, when it held a meeting at the IAB Annual Leadership Conference. Because I’ve represented ZEDO for five years on several industry initiatives that fit our “high-road” approach to partnership with both advertisers and sellers, I attended the meeting and listened to the plans. I had no idea how fast they would move.

By the end of the year, TAG had released a suite of anti-Malware tools, including “Best Practices for Scanning Creative for Malware,” a glossary of terms that establishes a reference of malvertising types, and a Malware Threat Sharing Hub, where certified companies can join a trustworthy collaborative network that qualifies and tracks malicious ads.

The Certified Against Fraud program, which was the last to roll out,  is open to participation by buyers, direct sellers and intermediaries across the digital advertising ecosystem.  Requirements to achieve the TAG “Certified Against Fraud” Seal differ according to a company’s role in the supply chain.  These requirements are outlined in details in the Certified Against Fraud Guidelines.

Companies that are shown to abide by the Certified Against Fraud Guidelines receive the “Certified Against Fraud” Seal and can use the seal to publicly communicate their commitment to combatting fraudulent non-human traffic in the digital advertising supply chain.

When the group sent out its press release earlier this year on the first hundred companies to get registered, it reiterated its pledge to create industry transformation at scale. It was formed in response to multiple accusations by news sources and participants of lack of transparency. With TAG, the industry hopes to prove that it can regulate itself.

ZEDO Among the First to Go Through TAG Certification

The distance between publisher and advertiser in any transaction, which has widened significantly with the growth of ad tech, is about to grow smaller again. There are several reasons for this, among them the move to private platforms and away from exchanges, the growth of more sophisticated buyers and sellers, and the perception among consumers that trackers violate privacy and slow page load times without delivering any value.

Yet another of the reasons may well be the cross-industry Trustworthy Accountability Initiative, which has spun off into its own entity, and is hard at work on ways to clean up the online media industry supply chain. Several previous standards are being rolled into the work of TAG, including the Inventory Quality Guidelines and the Open RTB standards. TAG has already begun to take companies through a process to become a trusted partner and receive a TAG seal of approval. To begin the process, a company must register, and must self-attest to intellectual property (anti-privacy) and transparent reporting practices.Eventually, self-attestation will give way to their party attestation.

ZEDO, always an early adopter, is deep into this process.

A company that has made it through the process will be given a TAG ID in a database, identifying it as a trustworthy partner with which to do business. Google has apparently already begun to pass these TAG IDs back and forth during transactions.

In addition to the TAG ID, each transaction between a buyer and seller will also receive an ID through which the particular transaction can be identified and reported. This will determine payment.

There has been a bit of confusion so far between the company’s TAG ID, which is permanent, and its Payment IDs, which will vary by transaction.

Remember, all of this has to happen in real tine, without causing noticeable slowdowns in the transactions, especially on mobile. This is why some of the middlemen between buyers and sellers will have to go away.

By next year, look for many companies to lay down the law, as Group M has already done, and refuse to trade with anyone who isn’t certified. The industry hopes to weed out the bad apples this way, before consumers get more annoyed than they already seem to be,