Oil to ‘drown’? The International Monetary Fund got a lot of publicity for its downgrading of 2016 global growth overnight — the usual cast of worryworts burst into song to chatter about how worrying this was. But they skated over an even more dramatic warning from another transnational body — the International Energy Agency. In its first report for the year, it warned that “unless something changes, the oil market could drown in oversupply … It could go lower.” The IEA believes the sell-off in oil could worsen in 2016, thanks to the combination of excessive oversupply, the strong US dollar and  the weak global economy. That’s where the IMF forecast comes in and why the worryworts should have linked the two. Together, they do make for a rather worrying outlook.

It is now clear the slide in oil (with other commodities following) is having a greater impact on economic growth and stability than the so-called benefits to consumers from lower prices. Falling investment and employment is clearly a much bigger influence on growth than any boost to consumer sending, which is just not happening in economies such as Japan, Europe and the United States. The IEA warned that the oil market was facing a third straight year of supply exceeding demand, which would lead to “enormous strain” on the system’s ability to absorb the pressure. It does see the pace of stock building easing in the second half of the year, as supply from non-OPEC producers such as the US falls, but absent a fall in the dollar, a jump in demand, the build-up in stocks will continue. — Glenn Dyer

Digi-fraud, billions of dollars of it. Here’s a nasty (and growing) secret from the digital media world. The latest respected survey from America’s Association of National Advertisers and a company called White Ops, which tracks online advertising fraud, has estimated that advertisers around the world will lose US$7.2 billion (around A$10 billion) to fraud of various types this year. That’s up 15% from the US$6.3 billion for 2015. Advertisers and their agencies and others associated with the business (and of course their clients) are being hit by fraudulent viewing by “bots” or automated computer programs that mimic human behaviour. Advertisers pay for those views even though the ads and other material are not seen by real people.

So how did they come to this conclusion? Well, 49 members of the  ANA took part in The 2015 Bot Baseline Study. These companies inserted White Ops detection tags on their digital advertising to measure bot fraud. Data was collected from nearly 10 billion online advertising impressions across 1300 campaigns over 61 days, from August 1 through September 30, 2015. Advertisers in the group included McDonald’s, Nestle, IBM, Mastercard, Walmart, Dell, Pfizer, Mars, Honda, JPMorgan Chase, Unilever and beer giant AB InBev. Of 28 groups in the latest survey that participated in the 2014 study, only nine reported a fall in bot rates from the previous year, so for a majority of the companies there was no improvement in 2015. — Glenn Dyer

Weak points exposed. The survey exposed two major weak points for global advertisers. The first is the rising use of programmatic ad exchanges (computers). For example, programmatic ad buys displayed higher levels of fraud. Programmatic display ads had 14% more bots than the study average, while higher cost programmatic video ads had 73% more bots than average. And so-called sourced traffic (any method by which publishers acquire more visitors through third parties) continues to show a higher level of sophisticated bots, and was over three times more likely to contain bots than unsourced traffic.

“The level of criminal, non-human traffic literally robbing marketers’ brand-building investments is a travesty,” said Bob Liodice, ANA president and CEO. “The staggering financial losses and the lack of real, tangible progress at mitigating fraud highlights the importance of the industry’s Trustworthy Accountability Group in fighting this war.”

The losses are on top of the rapidly growing use of ad blockers by customers, questions about transparency in media buying (such as the use of programmatic exchanges and their accountability) and viewability and whether ads can be viewed by consumers (especially video material) and are actually watched until the end. And we are talking big money — globally advertisers are forecast to spend almost US$200 billion on online campaigns this year (according to US group eMarketeer). That will be a third of all ad spending in 2016.  — Glenn Dyer

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey