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Understanding Ad Fraud

By: MarketingJul 24, 2017

Everything you need to know about programmatic series featuring extracts from our co-authored guide with ISBA - This extract is taken from Vol Three ... Download the full guides here


With reports predicting ad fraud will cost advertisers $7.2bn in 2016 (ANA 2016), there is no denying it is a serious problem. Buying fraudulent inventory diminishes the effectiveness of ad campaigns and funds criminal activity.


Fraudulent traffic is driven by bots created to mimic human online behaviour and can fake ad views, clicks, video completion and cookie attribution. There are numerous forms ad fraud can take, such as click and impression fraud, ad stacking and domain spoofing. For more information on types of fraud, visit jicwebs.org, the Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards website. By the end of 2016 a number of companies are scheduled to be accredited by this body, verifying their processes to reduce the risk of fraudulent ads being served.


Many experienced buyers will be able to identify the sources of up to 90% of fraud and blacklist them. The remaining fraud can be mitigated through the right technology and campaign management.

Advertisers must spend time defining a robust measure of campaign success that will naturally lead them away from fraudulent sources. Setting targets that can be tied to real value, rather than metrics that can be gamed such as click-through rate and last-touch attribution, incentivises media buyers to avoid inventory prone to ad fraud.

Similarly, implementing blacklists of sites that are heavily affected by fraud, whilst whitelisting the best performing domains, can also help to minimise exposure.

However, it is not just an advertiser problem to combat. The high level of publicity fraud has generated over the last 12 months has led to a number of initiatives by the ad-exchanges to reduce fraud in their inventory. For example, in 2015 AppNexus put controls in place to improve the quality of its inventory, including screening inventory before it is made available to be bid on, and technology that detects the URL of the page serving the impression to impose transparency on media sellers.

Having said this, advertisers ultimately need to be able to rely on their ad-tech partners to protect them from exposure to the criminals.

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