Courtesy of the IAB’s Traffic of Good Intent Task Force, the guidelines explain how to cut down on robotic traffic (or “bots”) infiltrating legitimate publisher inventory.
While estimates vary, traffic fraud has never represented a greater threat to online advertising, according to Steve Sullivan, VP of advertising technology at the IAB.
“It is currently getting worse despite the efforts of security, brand safety and other market players because not all sellers and buyers are able to and/or willing to be in lock step as we move down a path to filtering fraud,” Sullivan told Online Media Daily on Friday. “In other words, the incentives from the buy side are to achieve reach as cheaply as possible … Therefore, if one seller blocks all fraud then the buyer will go to the seller who does not block fraud so they can achieve their target scale.”
How much is traffic fraud costing the industry?
“Many believe that the industry has seen rapid growth in traffic fraud over the last couple of years approaching 23% to 50% of all digital transactions, depending on whose report you read,” Sullivan said. “There is speculation that given the focus on the large dollars found in the video marketplace, this translates to a minimum of $6 billion to $7 billion a year wasted on fraud.”
Unfortunately, the solutions to traffic fraud are not always intuitive, according to the IAB. For instance, simply blocking fraudulent traffic gives information to fraudsters, which can help them “blend in better and become more difficult to identify,” it warns.
Advertisers are advised to clear objectives for their media campaigns, which focus on the measurement of real ROI -- difficult for fraudsters to falsify. Measures such as click-through rate, completion rate, and last-touch attribution are easy to game.
It is also suggested that advertisers practice safe sourcing; trust only business partners who have earned trust; implement technology to detect and prevent fraud; and filter traffic through vendors who prioritize fraud detection.
Buyers in online media, meanwhile, have much to lose when it comes to traffic fraud. Yet taking steps to inspect the quality of their buys can go a long way toward preventing fraud in the digital marketplace.
Setting goals before buying media is generally a good practice, according to the IAB.
Specifically, buyers should list specific objectives for their media campaign, and avoid leaving objectives broad and open to interpretation.
Buyers should also be willing to pay the “real price” for the media they want. For example, pre-roll video targeted to a specific real human audience with good attention will cost more than linear video ads placed at random simply to increase views, the IAB notes.
“Be aware of the stats around traffic fraud and how the risk profile increases the farther you get away from premium sources of inventory and the more you focus on broad yet targeted reach at any cost,” Sullivan warns. “Then hold your agencies accountable for working only with sellers and vendors who are taking an active stand against profiting on fraudulent traffic.”
Added Sullivan, the IAB's ultimate goal is to unify the agents of both buyers and sellers against profiting from fraud so that no single organization will be punished by the market for filtering out fraud that is then transacted by their competitors.
Along with the new guidelines, the IAB has also published an educational backgrounder on how digital advertising fraud takes place, and why industry leaders should take action to eradicate such criminal activity.