As the rapid adoption of programmatic advertising continues, the industry is seeing a parallel increase in ad fraud, which is causing widespread concern. Wasted, paid-for impressions that fail to meet advertiser objectives are a significant financial loss for brands, making the issue of traffic quality a rising concern for 2015.
The IAB estimates that almost half (40%) of paid-for mobile clicks are worthless to advertisers and an estimated $18 billion globally is lost to fraud and ad wastage. So what can advertisers do to minimise waste and ensure their ads are seen?
In order for the industry to successfully fight bot fraud and wasted delivery, marketers and advertisers must understand the differences between the two. Fraud is an organised online crime designed to deceive advertisers into believing their ads are being displayed legitimately, on genuine Web sites, often by using ghost or spoofing sites. Wasted delivery is when ads are displayed in such a way that their delivery is of no use to the advertiser. This could include when ads are displayed below the fold, crammed into a one-by-one pixel, or when video ads auto-play soundlessly, are invisible to humans, or when they are placed in an unsafe brand environment.
It appears that no brand is safe from fraud, with household names such as L’Oreal and Verizon falling victim to bots and wastage, which can cost millions of pounds in lost revenue. While it is unlikely that fraud can be eradicated completely, there are three positive steps that marketers can take to help reduce wastage and combat ad fraud:
1. Understand fraudulent exchange activity
A key factor in the fight against fraud comes from understanding how fraudulent traffic happens and how to detect it. If advertisers know the signs, they can utilise sophisticated solutions to combat fraud before it happens. As the concept of brand safety can be subjective, brands should determine what wasted delivery means to them and set their own goals for successful delivery.
2. Expect quality assurance
Advertisers should carefully scrutinise advertising packages before committing to purchase. Packages should include:
3. Measure results
Bot fraudsters cheat brands out of millions each year as paid-for ads are displayed on Web sites or in places that are not seen by humans. As bots cannot engage with Web sites in the same way as humans, sophisticated metrics can be used to determine whether bots or humans are seeing ads.
A retrospective look at campaign performance can provide excellent attribution results. Consider gathering metrics across multiple screens using advanced attribution to help determine where campaigns aired, at what time, and if humans could view the ad. Other retrospective metrics should include attribution measures such as purchases, subscriptions, verifiable brand survey results, and validated panels. Bots can easily fake ad views, clicks, click-through rate, video completions, and cookie attribution, making the metrics gathered from these less reliable.
As long as bot fraud is financially viable for fraudsters, it will continue and digital ad campaigns will continue to see wasted delivery. But if advertisers are better educated to recognise the signs of bot fraud, incorporate measures such as quality control of ad spend, as well as use retrospective attribution solutions, they can increase conversion rates and ROI while helping prevent future bot fraud and wastage.