The War On Digital Ad Fraud Is Not Winnable -- Let's Reset The Argument

Forgive me for harping on again about ad fraud, but it seems the war against this industry-wide issue is unwinnable.

MediaPost’s Laurie Sullivan wrote about the current state of ad fraud this week: “About three-quarters of U.S. fraudulent advertising traffic is ‘sophisticated’ invalid traffic, according to data released Tuesday. 

“Looking at IP and blacklists no longer works, said Guy Tytunovich, CHEQ founder-CEO, and a former Israeli military intelligence officer. Tytunovich called ad fraud the second-largest organized-crime scheme globally, in terms of revenue generated, including narcotics.” 

We can argue about the numbers: Perhaps it is less than 50 billion, perhaps even more? It all depends on what is measured as part of “digital advertising.” and what you classify as “fraud.” We can argue that the CEO of CHEQ has an agenda, which is to sell his business. 



But let’s put all that aside for now and think about what is really being said here. Advertisers continue to plow enormous amounts of money into digital advertising, and because the space is so complex and profitable, organized crime (let’s call it what it is) is now simply part of it. 

This means all parties have a responsibility to take action against the crime. Advertisers are responsible to fight it because it is their money. Agencies are responsible because it is their fiduciary role to protect and guide the client’s money to those touch points with the highest impact and ROI. And if a large percentage of that money is being siphoned off, that hurts the agency’s credibility and bottom line. 

Publishers are responsible because ad fraud literally costs them millions of dollars in revenue.

Apple CEO Tim Cook talked last year about the “data Industrial complex.” At a conference, he noted,“Our own information — from the everyday to the deeply personal — is being weaponized against us with military efficiency.”

Cook referred to the vulnerabilities of consumer data — and he’s right, because we seem to learn about a new data breach every day. 

The issue is that this data industrial complex is in large part funded by, and feeding off, advertising data. And so we now have a data industrial complex that is vulnerable to data breaches and the funding source is vulnerable to fraud and breeches. Can you say “perfect storm”?

Facebook and Apple argue that the road to safety is to “build that wall.” No, seriously, they would argue that their walled gardens are the safe harbor — except of course they’re not. Every wall will be (and has been) breached; every move will trigger a countermove because the bad guys are just making too much money to let it go.

One could argue that we are complicit in this organized crime scheme if we do not act. And the word “we” in that sentence is crucial. “It’s time to face facts,” said Cook. “We will never achieve technology’s true potential without the full faith and confidence of the people who use it.” 

I think it is time that, as an industry, we shift “the blame game” on ad fraud away from an argument between advertisers and agencies/media companies to an argument between the advertising industry and organized crime. And that we form a meaningful, industry-wide coalition to fight the good fight.

6 comments about "The War On Digital Ad Fraud Is Not Winnable -- Let's Reset The Argument".
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  1. Walter Sabo from SABO media, March 8, 2019 at 1:46 p.m.

    Easily solved. Use only proven media, TV, newspaper and stop wasting time and money on nonsense. swipe up.

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, March 8, 2019 at 2:43 p.m.

    Also, get the digital media people to stop relying so heavily on computers to place ads as a profit making device--and do it the old fashioned traditional media way---using humans.

  3. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, March 8, 2019 at 5:30 p.m.

    I have been in the "Weeds" for over a year now dealing with the bad guys. There are was to win this war but it's a matter of really treating this scum as true terrorist. Meaning, the bad guys if you back track their servers, you will find they are in countries that want good relations with the USA. Many of the bad guys are in Russia, China and Asian nations but use weak servers in Eastern Europe. We can fry a few of those hosting companies in the third world just as a show of force. We have to take the white gloves off and fight them on their own terms.

  4. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, March 8, 2019 at 5:50 p.m.

    Maarten, On, we place every sweepstakes by hand. If the sponsors want us to place a video or picture in their sweep ad, we place that by hand also. We do customize ad creation. If you want a hand made car, go to Farrari. If you want a customed made and placed ad, come to ST. I am not sales pitch here, but pointing out hand placement is superior to programmatic in many cases. We have published over 70,000 sweeps and contest and NEVER had our ads hacked. We are depised by the programmatics because we are a threat to their business, they want our business and revenue and have place my website on a blacklist even though we are 100 percent clean. I will personally buy you a New York steak dinner if you can show me one of those 70,000 plus sweeps has been hacked. Got your big boy pants on and take up the challenge?

  5. David Scardino from TV & Film Content Development, March 11, 2019 at 12:24 p.m.

    Say what you will about the "old three TV network days" (and I worked for two of the three), but no one in their wildest imaginations ever conceived of organized crime siphoning off advertising dollars from ABC, CBS or NBC.

  6. Ron Stitt from Digitec Global Advisors, March 11, 2019 at 12:47 p.m.

    I can't see how this problem can really be addressed as long as the demand side is fundamentally so entirely focused on ever more layers of programmatic tech to try to squeeze more for less.  In other words, "cheap" is so often by far the main focus despite any on-stage rhetoric to the contrary.  I am absolutely not a Luddite saying "throw out the machines" (programmatic and all the attendant "solutions") but there is something to be said for focusing on quality and knowing a little about who (ie; media outlets) you are doing business with.  Can't afford quality?  We already know more than 50% of your digital spend is going to a multitude of intermediaries - and fraudsters.  Not to mention how counter-productive to brands this approach can be.

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