To Beat Ad Fraud, Everyone Must Play Their Part

The “Wild West” days of digital advertising must become a thing of the past. Players need to demand accountability, transparency and standardization across the industry to combat the massive amounts of time and money wasted by fraud.

How big is the problem? Last year, advertisers saw bot rates as high as 37%, up from 22% in 2014. In short, the problem is intensifying.

The solution has to be preventative, and each member of our ecosystem must play an active role.

How do we do that? There are a few key areas of focus we believe can lead to a better system for everyone.

Establishing Responsibilities

The only way to cut fraudulent actors’ air supply is for the industry to agree to a standard methodology for eliminating fraud and determining who is accountable for finding bad actors. If you discover an exchange continues to do business with a bad actor after you've notified them and shown them evidence, you need to end that relationship.

Each player in the equation can contribute to a healthier ecosystem by doing their part.

Exchanges, with the most access and control, should monitor publishers signing up; leverage third-party fraud monitoring; and monitor for suspicious activity with internal tools. If an exchange is alerted to an issue with a particular publisher, said publisher should be denied payment or not issued payment until the problem is rectified. Exchanges should openly share internal processes, systems and their current rate of risk (that is, fraudulent users and pages) with clients (DSPs and advertisers/agencies).

Publishers should have rules, regulations and monitoring in place, as well as tools that prevent and monitor fraud levels and bot activity. Publishers should ensure their traffic acquisition team is held accountable and only buys inventory from trusted sources by leveraging inventory quality technology to sample buys. Publishers should track and scrub users to ensure they’re real people.

DSPs should ensure they’re representing quality advertisers who actually serve the ad declared (and don’t hide behind sneaky tactics). DSPs also must ensure ads from their clients don’t contain malware; that they deliver the ad creative as requested by the publisher (sound on or off); and that they deliver the advertiser identified (not a redirect to some unknown advertiser).

DSPs have a responsibility to share information with their exchange partners (for example, abnormal click activity) linking back to a specific publisher. The partnership between DSP and exchange will add another layer of protection for marketers.

Advertisers are responsible for ensuring they’re building and managing reputable ad creative. They should monitor post-campaign, focusing on where they’re serving ads and looking at price points.

Finally, advertisers should be rational about pricing when setting up campaigns. They shouldn’t expect to get quality pre-roll, viewable video inventory at an extremely low, single-digit CPM. Those who focus only on reach at the lowest cost, have a good chance of feeding fraudsters’ bank accounts.

Engaging in Partnerships

When choosing inventory partners, it’s about quality, not quantity. You need to make sure you’ve tested the technology and the people. Ensure your inventory quality partnerships have a similar philosophy to you, your business and clients, and that they’re staffed for human monitoring, product innovation and client support.

After partnerships are established, find a balance. Make sure you’re not overanalyzing every impression to the point that you’re screeching to a halt. Find a partner with the scale and speed needed to ensure advertisers are protected while allowing the benefit of scale and customization we’ve all come to love from programmatic.  

Setting Guidelines and Managing Expectations

Insist on accountability by getting to know your partners and who they work with. Make sure that no matter where you sit in the ecosystem -- publisher, exchange, marketer or agency -- that you talk to your partners and vendors and set clear expectations.

These aren’t one-time fixes you can set up and ignore. Inventory quality is foundational to the success of our industry. We must all act as good stewards so we can continue seeing massive growth in digital advertising.

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