Advertisers develop and execute campaigns with the goal that human beings view and interact with their content. But what if these “consumers” are automated “bots,” not humans? Unfortunately, the internet is teeming with this type of fraudulent activity. Ad fraud and traffic fraud exploit the advertising system because they have no potential to drive real conversions. Beyond being a waste of marketing effort, it actually costs advertisers and media buying agencies their precious ad budget. According to a recent study by the AdLoox for The&Partnership, ad fraud is estimated to cost advertisers 16.4 billion dollars this year. This figure is up 3.9 billion from last year. While the mechanisms of fraud aren’t always the same, the end result is always wasted ad spend. And this is not a phenomenon exclusive to programmatic solutions.
What Does Ad Fraud Look Like?
There are several forms of ad fraud, the most common is click fraud. This occurs when automated bots click on ads to increase click-through rates and impressions for the purpose of driving more revenue to publishers. When this happens, advertisers end up footing the bill for useless machine impressions. Other types of fraud are subtler but no less harmful. Buyers get ripped off when their ads load on an ad server, but their target customers never see them. Fraudsters can also make ads ineffective by displaying them next to irrelevant content.
Fraud is widespread because it’s easy for bad actors to “game” the metrics digital advertisers have valued for years. But there has been an industry-wide push for more transparency and fraud controls. Working with the right partner can help connect you with reputable publishers and build a blacklist of fraudulent ones.
Strategies to Fight Ad Fraud
- Utilize ad-fraud combating technologies
To combat this issue, take advantage of fraud detection technologies. These use a database of known “fraudster” publishers to score unusual impression activities. For example, fraudulent click publishers tend to spike in their click activities over short bursts of time. If a buying team is able to detect unusual click activities over a normalized period of time, they’ll be able to flag the publisher. Third-party tools such as White Ops, and Peer 39 are cybersecurity tools designed to preventing unauthorized inventory from being sold on programmatic. These tools are not just an extra layer of protection, they’re a necessity for digital marketers and advertisers.
- Do a valuation of your online impressions and clicks
With search engine marketing solutions, assess the value of impressions beyond the display or click. A simple example: overlay site analytics data with your media data to analyze the behavioral value of audience clicks. A fraudulent click is not capable of showing many actions on your post-click pages. Look at the source of your traffic, do any of your referred domains look fishy? Domain URL’s like get-cheap-online-now.com should raise a red flag. These low performing publishers should be evaluated and excluded from your CTR. Check the duration of each visit to see if there is any activity that deviates from the norm, because it may be a fraudulent publisher. Low performing ad inventory sources can contribute to the burden on digital advertisers. Make sure to use a high-quality DSP to ensure your ads are placing on reliable websites.
- Buy ad inventory on PMP’s (private marketplace)
A PMP or private marketplace is an invite-only marketplace where premium publishers sell their top-of-the-line ad space. This gives publishers more control over what kinds of advertisements appear on their site. It also gives advertisers control over where they want their ad to appear. This is not only good for image-conscious brands, but for advertisers looking for high-caliber, reliable ad space. Overall, PMP’s are a great option because there is transparency in the supply and demand side of what is being advertised, where, and the CPM.
Moving Forward, Fraud-Free
Ad fraud is costly, and can sometimes seem impossible to avoid in the digital ad space. Advertisers need to demand honesty from publishers or invest in technologies that detect fraud. The great news is that there are a variety of solutions to prevent ad fraud from plaguing your campaign. With proper controls and trustworthy publishers, you can ensure real human eyes view the content you spend money, time and effort on.