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ARTICLE

Ad Fraud is a Problem We Can Solve

July 12, 2018 — by Rahul Vasudev

This article originally appeared on CMO Innovation

Ad fraud is a major concern in the media industry, being rated as anything between a mild annoyance to the very death knell of programmatic advertising, depending where one sits on the issue. And if you thought this was a programmatic issue, studies show that direct to publisher campaigns also have 12% fraudulent impressions.

In the Asia Pacific (APAC), this is increasingly a critical issue, as the region’s total digital marketing spend is expected to reach $61 billion this year. As the market grows, the need to keep ad fraud at bay remains even stronger, especially when two out of the top five countries targeted by fraud on mobile are right here in the Southeast Asian region – Singapore and Malaysia. As consumers in Southeast Asia spend more time on mobile than any other market, the issue of fraud prevention warrants increasingly more attention.

With advertisers globally expecting to lose $19 billion to fraudulent activities this year, platform providers are certainly taking this issue very seriously. Beyond financial losses, what is even more valuable and can’t be measured is the loss of trust within the industry, which makes it evident that we need to take serious steps to address this issue.

Everyone has a part to play

While regulatory bodies work on achieving a set of common operating standards, ad tech platforms have the power to get on board and make serious inroads into cleaning up the industry.

As part of the industry’s efforts to curb ad fraud, Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB)’s ads.txt initiative, for example, gives content owners the power to deny access to fraudulent and spoofing sites. It is even more encouraging to see platform players jump on board and bolster antifraud suits with the addition of ads.txt across supply footprints.

Yet, adoption is still slow. For a publisher, removing part of the market is a potentially costly exercise and marketers ultimately want to reach as many potential customers as possible. The balance lies between a market that is more trustworthy and an industry that has much to gain from optimising buyer experiences.

Leverage data to clean up the ecosystem

At the same time, marketers need to have a strong company-wide position on what constitutes their programmatic strategy. It is incumbent upon marketers to understand exactly who they are targeting, know where to find those consumers and have a clearly defined set of high-quality, target inventory that matches their interests.

The knowledge of who the audience is, what they are interested in and what they’ve browsed recently is today radically enhanced by data from programmatic platforms. The same concept can then be applied to avoid fraudulent inventory, by leveraging algorithms that ensure an ad runs alongside authentic content that is most relevant to a brand and is being viewed by human consumers.

Other examples include partnering up with either blacklist or whitelist providers, or a combination of the two, to prevent the buying of false inventory. For example, marketers can blacklist pornographic, gambling or piracy sites to ensure that their ads are not featured on such websites. On the other hand, whitelists allow advertisers to assess a page and its suitability before placing an ad, effectively minimising the risks of fraud.

Working with programmatic platforms and brand safety vendors, the more the ecosystem pulls in the same direction to curb fraud, the closer the market will come to be a safe place for marketers to project their brand image.

Chase the right goals

Additionally, it is increasingly apparent that inappropriate or irrelevant goal setting can lead to an increase in fraud for a campaign. It’s easy for a bot to mimic a click, generate non-human views to a video with high completion, and drive downloads of an application. However, it is extremely challenging for them to purchase something, or use the application. In essence, bots cannot drive true business outcomes.

The better marketers get at clearly linking media spend to business outcomes, the lower the chances of them getting caught up in the vicious web of ad fraud. This, of course, isn’t easy and requires a lot of effort, but the prize is well worth it.

Education – the way forward

The final piece of the puzzle is education for the ecosystem to understand and address this challenge. There is a need for stakeholders, such as brands, advertisers and agencies, to come together and push for the understanding of ad fraud. As marketers arm themselves with the necessary knowledge, they will then be able to question their agencies on the measures in place to tackle ad fraud.

Ultimately, a multi-faceted approach such as the deployment of ads.txt tools, well-defined metrics, education and ensuring a clean supply chain is the way forward to eliminate ad fraud.