Digital Marketing Tips From El Al

Screen Shot 2018-01-24 at 8.04.41 AMEl Al airlines has never been bombed and only hijacked once. This in spite of being a constant target for well-funded and persistent criminals. An enviable track record. How do they do it?

Isaac Yeffet, El Al’s former head of security summed up the reasons for the airline’s success in an interview in 2010 with CNN:

“Stop relying only on technology. Technology can help the qualified, well-trained human being but cannot replace him.”

We must embrace this philosophy to secure our digital marketing campaigns. Our enemies, ad fraud criminals (who are happy to be identified!), are highly motivated. The opportunity for low-risk profit is immense. They are abetted by an ad tech and martech ecosystem that appears to be intentionally designed to make their criminal activity easy.

Those criminals have the ability to bypass your fraud filters with ease, sell fake inventory via complicit ad exchanges, drive fake traffic with bots, without bots, and even create fake agencies to facilitate their efforts. And advertisers even help them by leaking our valuable user data to the criminals themselves via the placement of surveillance tracking pixels. Don’t believe me on the last one? Read this about how the session replay scripts that might be on your site feed the fraudsters the training data they need for their AI and machine learning-driven crime.

Advertisers won’t beat them on the technology front. The best ad tech fraudster technologists don’t work for us. They work for the criminals. The ad tech industry isn’t going to help us. If digital ad fraud went away, many of the companies on the ad tech LUMAscape disappear. They depend on fraud for their very existence.

Like El Al, advertisers have to take care of things ourselves. We must take a human-powered, zero trust approach to digital advertising. We must embrace the following within our marketing or finance organizations:

  • A marketing security function, well-trained and compensated to detect fraud
  • An interrogation of every cookie, mobile ID, ad ID, ad impression
  • Treating every impression as the “first impression” (i.e. tomorrow doesn’t matter–the fraud that kills your budgets might start today)
  • Believe in the use of technology to support people, not the other way around
  • “If it looks fishy, it is” approach, instead of trusting the vendor (not “partner”) or algorithm

The above must take place within our organizations. It can’t be outsourced to agencies or third parties. Note that even outside of Israel, El Al always takes care of its own security. You should too.

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