Ad Fraud – The Buzz Word of Programmatic Advertising Today

What is Ad Fraud?

Advertising Fraud is major risk factor these days in Ad Tech industry. Programmatic advertising being an open ecosystem allows publishers and advertisers of any size to participate. But, participation of some bad actors leads in degrading the quality and trust of the entire sector.

Certain practices adopted by a few Publishers have opened doors to poor quality Inventory at large volumes. These kinds of practices lead to heavy losses for advertisers and marketers, with almost negligible ROIs and also impact on revenue of good quality publishers. To avoid these losses and have a check over such practices, Online Advertising governing bodies are categorizing such practices as Ad Frauds and trying to enforce guidelines that avoids these practices.

The Ad Fraud characteristics can be discussed as follows:

  • The Non-human / bot traffic from the publisher.
  • More number of Ads loading at Less viewed positions, yet triggering valid impression volumes.
  • Impression Misrepresentation like Ad loading in an invisible / 1 x 1 sized IFRAME.

Ad Fraud

Types of Ad Frauds:

Click Fraud:

Click Fraud is an oldest and common type of an ad fraud that generates the fake clicks by clicking programs called Hitbots. Despite of high click through rates there will be zero possibility of this fake traffic will lead to a sale.

Search Ad Fraud:

Creating a website through keyword stuffing to improve the position of the website artificially in the SERP’s. The fraudsters focus will be there on the most popular keywords which yields high cost per click. For the advertisers, these keywords are relevant and they buy the ads on these websites which are temporarily ranking, where the chance of ad is having little chance of being seen.

Ad Stacking:

On a website the publisher sells a given ad spot for multiple ads. All ads are placed in the same ad spot, generating impressions when people visit the page for all placed ads in the stack, while only top one of the stacked ads are visible.

Cookie Stuffing:

Cookies are very important part of ad tech ecosystem to target the audiences. Traffic is available for purchase on inexpensive sources of the internet, cookie stuffing is done to dilute or misrepresent the audience data is a real thing. Cookie stuffing can be occurred for both human and nonhuman traffic. Technically it could fall into either of the categories or both.

Domain Spoofing:

The fraudulent publisher represents one domain in the ad request call, while the advertisement gets loaded in a different domain.

Pixel Stuffing:

Publishers loads multiple pixels on to the page and targets advertisements in to those pixels. Pixel dimension being 1 x 1 sizes, the ad loaded / targeted in those pixels are not visible to the user yet the impression is counted.

Reasons for Digital Ad Fraud Existence:

The main reasons for Digital Ad Fraud existence are:

  1. Then open nature of the programmatic advertising ecosystem allowing both publisher and advertiser to participate. It is giving an opportunity for the bad practitioners to pollute with the poor quality traffic.
  2. As it is not technically illegal and it’s not a sort of activity that provokes from the law enforcement, that means significantly very less risk involved in Ad Fraud.
  3. There is no urgency to fight against Ad Fraud unless any advertiser or marketer demands it.

Who is Responsible for Ad Fraud?

The programmatic ecosystem is very much classified. The seller side and buyer side technologies, each serving their own constituents. But, Ad Fraud is impacting the whole Ad Tech industry and now it everyone’s interest to wipe out. And it’s the time for both publishers and advertisers to own their portion of responsibility.
Every ad agency expects clean inventory from DSP’s. And further DSP’s demand ad exchanges do the better job passing through the clean inventory.

Publishers Role:

Historically, Publishers played the main role in Ad Fraud as they own the Inventory. Some publishers engage in fraudulent activities intentionally, while others accidentally. So the Publishers should proactively monitor their own inventory and keep a check on frauds.

Supply side platform’s (SSP) Role:

Being the technology provider for Publishers, SSP also plays key role in distributing the inventory into Open Marketplaces for Programmatic buying. Hence, SSPs become the first line of defense to stop Fraud inventory entering Marketplace. Having such huge responsibility, SSPs need to enforce high standards.

Combating Ad Frauds:

With continuous enhancements in Ad technology, combating ad frauds became crucial. There are multiple Brand Intelligence and Analytics Tools available in market that helps in detecting the Fake Traffic and Impression Frauds.
Some steps that can be taken to mitigate the Frauds:

  • Usage of Pre-bid Contextual Data Segments
  • Ad Verification vendors (like IAS or MOAT)
  • Campaign Performance data auditing
  • Maintenance of Blacklist

Eliminating Ad Fraud would solve the great challenges that are faced by the advertising industry today. However, enforcing vigilant and strict standards across all players (publishers / SSP / DSP / Ad Exchanges) helps in controlling the Fraudulence. And thereby helping publishers improve their potential revenue that enables creation of better content. Also helps marketers / advertisers improve their campaign effectiveness, resulting in increase in investment and digital channel growth.