Ad fraud has been menacing the digital ad industry for years and has grown beyond critical mass…Though one study by the Bot Baseline report predicts that fraud will fall 10% this year, not everyone agrees. An estimate by Adloox claims that ad fraud will cost the industry $16.4 billion this year, up from $12.4 billion last year.
The report details that nearly 20% of digital ad spending was wasted in 2016 and up to 29% of programmatic spending ran on invalid traffic.
From my vantage point, as head of Inventory Quality at MediaMath, I would agree that this industry problem is bad. In part this is because fraudsters are ingenious about inventing new ways to rob advertisers and steal from the ecosystem. Here are the three biggest trends I’ve seen this year:
1. Counterfeit/”spoofed” domains. In a sleight of hand, fraudsters show premium domains during the bid request (like www.abc.com) but when the impression is served it actually arises from something like www.joesfraudsite.com, which is phony. This may lead to putting the legit domain (www.abc.com) on an advertiser blacklist. One of the tools available to mitigate this issue is ads.txt, a tech tool developed by IAB Labs that helps to identify fake or unauthorized sellers. MediaMath supports ads.txt and is eager to see publisher adoption grow.
2. Invalid traffic. Also known as “non-human traffic,” this is a bit of a misnomer as it can actually be created by humans. Whether generated by bots or people, malicious invalid traffic wastes marketers’ money and undermines confidence in the digital media ecosystem. The scope of such activity is huge; security firm Imperva found that 28.9% of all web traffic last year came from “bad bots.” MediaMath leverages a mix of proprietary techniques and certified third party vendors to combat invalid traffic, and does not tolerate invalid traffic being sent to our platform
3. Brand safety. This isn’t a new issue, but it garnered new attention this year as journalists highlighted instances of brands advertising on brand-unsafe video content, along with an increased awareness of the challenge of “fake news.” Many advertisers have taken steps to limit their exposure to user-generated content and rely on ecosystem partners to enforce brand safety across their campaigns. MediaMath’s Curated Market guarantees marketers that their messaging won’t run on brand-unsafe properties.
What will fraudsters come up with next year? Unfortunately, it’s likely that the cat-and-mouse game between ad tech providers and bad actors will continue. But we hope that this year will represent a turning point in the industry’s efforts to combat fraud. Leveraging the right tools and partners, marketers can help ensure that their ads run in clean, safe, authorized, authentic and well-lit environments.
If you’re attending IAB AdTech & Data Brazil, head down to see our General Manager of Supply, Lewis Rothkopf, speak on Inventory Quality and Brand Safety Tuesday, August 29.