battle against fraud
Ad Technologies

Why Fraud Risks Exist in Programmatic Advertising & What You Can Do About It

Many marketers have transparency and fraud concerns about programmatic advertising despite the proven benefits of better user targeting and more data oversight. Let’s face it: There are legitimate risks involved and any advertiser should be aware of them. Here’s what you should know about these risks and how you can mitigate them.

Whether we like it or not, quality concerns are a considerable issue in programmatic advertising. Recent surveys found that marketers view fraud as one of the biggest obstacles to managing ads programmatically: a view held by nearly one in two people who were surveyed. But how legitimate are these concerns really? And what can we do about fraud? The answer is that concerns are somewhat justified considering that between 5 and 10 percent of today’s ad traffic is deemed fraudulent. The good news is that there’s a lot we can do about it.

Non-Human Traffic Is the Main Driver Behind All Ad Fraud

From a marketer’s perspective, fraud is one of the most important things you should address if you wish to improve your overall campaign quality. Programmatic advertising is built on an open advertising environment that allows all publishers and advertisers to participate – regardless of who they are or what their advertising track record is. Unfortunately, this openness also enables actors with harmful intentions to become involved, poisoning advertising quality at large.

The biggest share of all ad fraud is caused by non-human traffic. These are robots that generate fake page views and clicks. In some cases, they even generate fake communication such as a credit card application or request to test drive a car. While non-human traffic counts for the vast majority of all illegitimate traffic, there is also fraudulent human traffic, caused deliberately by illegal companies.  Ad stuffing, domain spoofing, site bundling and ad injection are some of the keywords you may have come across in this context. But for the sake of not going beyond the scope of this blog post, let’s focus on human fraud for now.

Knowing Your Enemy Is the Key to Victory

Crucial to mitigating ad fraud is experiencing how it works firsthand. Today’s programmatic advertising technology is mature enough to help analyze ad traffic and detect the fraudulent activity within it. This in itself doesn’t automatically ensure that it won’t happen again, but it’s an important first step: Knowing your enemy is the key to victory. In fact, there are many things you can do to counteract human and non-human fraud, and we strongly recommend pursuing the following steps:

Use ad verification solutions – Service providers like Integral Ad Science and Meetrics provide real-time metrics across all your delivery channels and help you keep track of suspicious traffic as well as viewability and brand safety.

Actively monitor your campaign data – The above-mentioned providers offer a tracking code that can be combined with your ad tags. This allows you to measure your campaigns and audit their quality. The campaign data reports generated this way can then be used to optimize your campaigns – for example, by adding banned sites to your block list.

Maintain a block list – Your monitoring activities should be regularly updated to reflect banned sites you don’t want to include in future campaigns.  You should also request a global block list from your programmatic partner before starting your campaign. Have your partner explain to you how the list was created and how it will be maintained and updated in order to minimize fraud.

Ad fraud is not an issue that will disappear overnight. But the good thing is that there’s a sense of urgency throughout the industry. All key players are trying to minimize the negative impact of fraud on the quality of programmatic advertising. And thanks to technical advancements and best practices, the detection and mitigation of fraud is continuously improving, creating better results for advertisers.

The bottom line: Fraudulent ads are a critical issue facing the programmatic advertising community today. Especially non-human traffic in the form of robots creates fake page views and clicks. The good news is that by focusing on the detection of both forms of fraud, many illicit activities can be mitigated, and unnecessary ad spending can be reduced.

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