To Take On Big Fights Like Ad Fraud, Marketers Need To Smarten Up

Advertisers are trying hard to make the web a better place. At Cannes last week they teamed up with agencies, publishers and platforms to launch the Global Alliance for Responsible Media

It’s a great signal of good intent, but the scale of the challenge in just one area that the Alliance has pledged to challenge -- ad fraud -- is massive.  

Last month, Juniper Research revealed that advertisers will lose $42 billion globally this year to fraudulent activities committed via online, mobile, and in-app advertising. That’s an increase of 21% compared to the $35 billion lost in 2018. 

Fraud attempts amount to 20 to 35% of all ad impressions throughout the year. For every shiny new platform that was celebrated at Cannes, fraudsters are on the case with new sophisticated gambits. New and unregulated channels such as OTT TV offer ripe opportunities to commit cybercrime. 



The solution to these woes is not simple but one element that is often overlooked in the face of glitzy AI-based solutions is the simple act of creating a cadre of better trained marketers. 

Ad fraud affects the entire supply chain, from agencies to ad-tech platforms to publishers. A legacy of bad incentives has produced an ecosystem where scale routinely takes precedence over considerations of quality. 

With fraudulent impressions from advertising offering exactly the same rewards as legitimate ones, agencies, platforms and publishers have had little motivation to amend their behaviors. 

Thankfully, we are beginning to see marketers take action. They are spending more in safer channels. Innovations like ads.txt have been developed to reduce fraud and recent initiatives such as the Conscious Advertising Network, highlight a concerted effort by advertisers and agencies to clean up the supply chain and eradicate bad behaviors.  

Despite much publicity over the years, however, too many advertisers remain ignorant. Dodgy partner incentives, easily gameable metrics, and a general obsession with volume over quality are all playing directly into the hands of fraudsters. 

The concern is that the problem of ad fraud will only get worse. Marketers are on the front line of the battle, but at present, they’re being sent into a technology war with little more than bows and arrows.  

Better education in ad-fraud prevention would bring significant benefits: 

  • Greater internal knowledge and expertise of ad fraud would lead to better and more informed choices in ad tech and vendor selection.
  • Marketers would have the ability to articulate clearer demands from their media partners, including setting appropriate metrics and fraud goals that help mitigate against bad behaviour.
  • Better knowledge of standards and formats would dissuade marketers from buying outdated formats like VAST 2 that lack adequate third-party validation.
  • Greater understanding of ad fraud through training and education would help indoctrinate a broader cultural shift toward transparency in advertising.

Unfortunately, many advertisers are ignoring this opportunity. As the results from ID Comms 2019 Media Training Survey demonstrated, virtually the entire industry agrees that brands can benefit from investing in media training. The problem is rooted in a lack of investment. More than two-thirds of respondents -- 71% -- rated levels of investment in media training as unsatisfactory. 

Marketers should be leading the charge toward building a safer media supply chain, and that includes reducing ad fraud to as close to zero as humanly possible. 

Remedial actions will benefit the entire media supply chain. They will enable agencies to build more trustworthy relationships with advertisers, encourage ad-tech platforms to develop stronger built-in fraud measures, incentivise publishers to achieve better rates of retention, and most significantly, deliver a better user experience for consumers. 

Ignorance might be bliss, but it is no longer an option. Billions of dollars are at stake -- and it is high time that advertisers invested in making their in-house teams smarter.

Better informed and more knowledgeable marketers are critical to winning the war against ad fraud. 

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