Ad campaigns are developed and executed by advertisers with the goal that real human consumers will see and interact with their content. But what if these “consumers” weren’t actually human, but instead, were automated robots, colloquially called “bots”? Not ideal. The Internet, overall, has a high level of this type of illegal and fraudulent activity. This ad fraud or traffic fraud, exploits the advertising system because these “bots” have absolutely no potential to drive real conversions. The worst part is that this activity can cost advertisers and publishers exorbitant amounts of precious ad budgets.
According to a recent study by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and digital security firm WhiteOps, publishers and advertisers with lose upwards of $6.3 billion USD to ad fraud in 2015. The same study found that ad fraud “bots” have the ability to inflate monetized audiences from 5% to 50%. The mechanisms of fraud aren’t always the same, but the end result is: wasted ad spend.
What Does Ad Fraud Look Like?
There are several forms of ad fraud, one of the most common is click fraud. This occurs when robots click on ads in order to artificially push up click-through rates and the number of impressions. Advertisers end up footing the bill for serving impressions to machines instead of humans. 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. And sometimes fraudsters make ads ineffective by displaying them alongside content that’s irrelevant for the context of the ad.
Fraud is widespread because it’s easy for bad actors to “game” the metrics digital advertisers have valued for years—metrics like clicks and impressions served. 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
To combat this issue, experienced programmatic experts take advantage of integrating fraud detection and scoring technologies. These have the ability to draw from a database of known “fraudster” publishers and are able to score any unusual impression activities. Additionally, an advanced buying team is analyzing campaign data and actions to identify impression effectiveness and performance outliers. As an example, fraudulent click publishers tend to spike in their click activities over short bursts of time. Being able to detect unusual click activities over a normalized period of time allows a buying team to flag a publisher.
Another approach to fight ad fraud and fake impressions is to strategically monitor the value of impressions beyond the display or click. A simple example is to overlay site analytics data with your media data to analyze behavioral value of audience clicks. Obviously, a fraudulently initiated click is not capable of showing multiple actions on your post-click pages.
Looking at a sample of 23 ad campaigns that Katana has taken over from previous setups during the last month, we have found that over 86% of campaigns did not have any controls against waste or fraud in place. With our properly managed inventory strategies, we were able to achieve a one-month lift in cost-efficiency.
Moving Forward, Fraud Free
Ad fraud is extremely costly, and can sometimes seem impossible to avoid in the digital ad space. But with proper controls and an ad provider with a solid knowledge and plan for executing campaigns free of fraud, you can make sure that the content you spend money, time and effort on, is seen by real human eyes.