“No economic model in which a significant percentage of the goods sold are fraudulent is sustainable,” IAB general counsel Mike Zaneis says in a blog post. “We must identify bot-generated, non-human traffic and remove it from the supply chain.”
One factor thought to contribute to click fraud is the growth of malware -- software programs that can hijack consumers' browsers and generate clicks. “The industry is under siege from organized criminals who proliferate malware to steal individuals’ sensitive information, turn consumers’ devices into bots that generate billions of fraudulent ad impressions and clicks ... for their own financial gain,” Zaneis writes.
The new IAB anti-malware unit intends to create principles to help companies identify malware attacks. The group also will offer a clearinghouse, where companies can share information about threats.
Even though the IAB has been tackling click fraud for a while, the problem obviously persists -- and the cost to marketers is significant. Consider, Solve Media said earlier this year that click fraud could cost marketers $11.6 billion in advertising, while the IAB itself estimates that around 36% of Web traffic is fake.
In a rare admission, the trade group today acknowledged that the industry itself is partly to blame for the situation. “We have created an overly complex and porous supply chain that is obfuscated from the very marketers we hope to sell to,” Zaneis writes. “And, we have not shown the necessary vision and commitment to effectively fight back.”
Zaneis elaborates that online advertising has become so complicated, with so many intermediaries, that marketers and agencies themselves often don’t understand what's going on. He writes: “The path an ad travels today, from insertion order to the screens of a target group of consumers, is a labyrinthine and far too opaque to the buyer.”
The IAB is touting transparency as a fix -- though whether ad companies will be willing or able to disclose solid information about their operations remains uncertain.