Big Brands To Pose As Unsuspecting Advertisers To Nab Bot Fraud, Study Will Serve As Industry Benchmark

Some of the world’s biggest and best-known brands are going to act as bait in order to catch a thief, the digital kind. As part of an initiative being unveiled by the Association of National Advertisers, 30 brand marketers will participate in the sting operation, which will be conducted by online ad fraud detection company White Ops, which will measure precisely how much of their online advertising exposure is comprised of so-called “bot fraud,” or non-human traffic generated by machines posing as actual consumers.

“Bot fraud costs marketers billions of dollars annually,” says Bill Duggan, group executive vice president of the ANA, adding that the goal of the initiative is to benchmark exactly how much of the brands’ online, social and mobile traffic is going to bot fraud in order come up with strategies for eliminating bots and botnet that “target unsuspecting advertisers.”

Duggan said bot fraud is prevalent in all areas of digital publishing, including  on premium publishers, retargeting campaigns (the most sophisticated kind is there), behavioral campaigns and programmatic buys. Bots skew ad metrics and affect virtually every ad campaign.”

The 30 brands participating in the study cover the spectrum of consumer marketing, including automotive, consumer products, financial, hospitality, pharmaceutical, retail, spirits, technology and travel industries. The study, which kicks off in August, will tag each brand’s ads with code capable of identifying bot fraud. Results will be revealed to the industry in October.

The findings should help shed light on a the precise role bot fraud is playing in the digital advertising marketplace. A variety of recent studies and reports have estimated it could account for as much as 50% of digital ad impressions, and recently media-buying giant GroupM cited it as one of the reasons it wants to pull out of the open RTB marketplace by the end of the year.

“We need to break everyone out of thinking about the problem as a bare percentage,” says White Ops CEO Michael J. J. Tiffany. “If a bunch of gangs were getting away with muggings with impunity, and no one could tell which streets were safe, it would be really weird to start the story by averaging all the robberies out and reporting that 20% of the money in everyone's wallets is missing. But that's the question we get all the time.”

Tiffany says it’s not just the long-tail, or even just the programmatic marketplace that are being impacted by bot fraud and that “sophisticated bots affect premium ad buying previously thought to be immune.

“The whole point of this study is to put some hard metrics on the problem, real metrics like where, when, and how much, so we can then do something about it,” he explains, adding, “And we can definitely do something, because it's not X percent  of every dollar that's lost, it's 100% of particular dollars.”
7 comments about "Big Brands To Pose As Unsuspecting Advertisers To Nab Bot Fraud, Study Will Serve As Industry Benchmark".
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  1. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, July 14, 2014 at 10:50 a.m.

    Absolutely idiotic and one more reason the TV guys are laughing all the way to the bank.

  2. Rafael Cosentino from Telanya, July 14, 2014 at 11:16 a.m.

    There needs to be more spot checks just like this to keep everyone honest. Since providing real value in terms of interactions with human's is what online publisher's do, there needs to be an injection of reality as to who is providing real value. I don't know what they get out of even announcing this. I would have announced the results AFTER I did the test. Announcing you'll be testing only puts the cheaters on high alert.

  3. Augustine Fou from FouAnalytics, July 14, 2014 at 11:24 a.m.

    Now that they TOLD all the bad guys what they plan to do and when that "sting op" starts, do you think the bad guys will be dumb enough to get caught?

    Will be interesting to see what happens to traffic on those sites during the "sting" period.

  4. Augustine Fou from FouAnalytics, July 14, 2014 at 11:29 a.m.

    Five Separate Vendors Confirm Bot Traffic in 60% Range
    UPDATE: 6th vendor will be added to the article, data corroborates

  5. Terry Wall from First Impressions VIdeo, July 14, 2014 at 11:48 a.m.

    This is good news, but the BAD news is that we just told the entire solar system what's going on! Looks like my opinion is shared by many on the comment string! D-OH!!

  6. Rocket Smith from WatCom, July 15, 2014 at 10:13 a.m.

    So when will I start getting paid for the Bots that advertisers are using to call my phone. My time is valuable and answering the phone for something I'm not interested in seems to be just as bad.
    I guess stealing by the ad companies isn't as bad in their mind.

  7. Andy Fan from, July 15, 2014 at 11:55 a.m.

    Some data we see from China ad exchanges to share here:
    - 7% from servers (mostly non-human, with traffic peak at 4:00am, bots never sleep)
    - 21% from statics IP address gateways (some non-human, with traffic peak at 4:00am and 8:00am, mixed bots and humans)
    - 72% from households dynamic IP address (peak at 21:00pm, when human back to home)

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