Ad Fraud: What It Is and How to Stop It

As stewards of our client’s marketing efforts, it’s our job to ensure that your advertisements have the opportunity to be seen and heard by your target audiences. When we place ads in traditional media (e.g., TV, radio, outdoor), we’re confident that they run as ordered and have safeguards in place for any discrepancies.

Digital is a little more complicated. In 2019, eMarketer predicted digital media would reach $129.3 billion and over 54% of total media spend in the U.S. As digital media has slowly overtaken traditional media spend, fraud has developed into a complex issue that the advertising industry is working to eradicate.

What is digital media fraud?

Fraud, in the context of digital media, is the practice of falsifying traffic to charge advertisers for impressions, clicks or other actions that never occurred. Experts estimate that globally, fraud is costing advertisers anywhere from $6.5 billion (Association of National Advertisers) to $23 billion (CHEQ).

Cybercriminals have been able to infiltrate the advertising exchange ecosystem and generate impressions (cha-ching) that advertisers ultimately pay for (ouch). Some ways the fraudsters manipulate the digital ecosystem include:

  • Posing as a legitimate publisher or app
  • Generating bot impressions designed to mimic actual human web behaviors
  • Ad stacking (hiding multiple ads on top of each other and “serving” them to audiences simultaneously)
“Digital media fraud is the practice of falsifying traffic to charge advertisers for impressions, clicks or other actions that never occurred.”

How do you protect yourself?

Fraudsters are constantly innovating, so there’s no way to be sure you’re 100% protected, but there are multiple precautions you should take to keep your campaign as effective as possible. Ask if your digital media team is doing the following:

  • Partnering with vendors that have sophisticated ad technology. Many demand-side platforms (DSPs) have technology that can identify non-human traffic patterns and immediately block suspicious traffic from your campaign.
  • Using an accredited MRC anti-fraud vendor. Media Rating Council (MRC) provides a list of accredited companies on their website.
  • Monitoring campaigns directly. For a third layer of security, your digital media team should also be constantly monitoring your campaigns for anomalies.

The next media platform to watch will be CTV – Connected Television, or TVs that connect to the internet for streaming content. As advertisers increase their spend on this emerging channel, the cybercriminals will follow.

To ensure your media spend is being delivered to an actual human capable of buying your product or service, our media team is here for you! Just give us a shout.

Tags: Media Planning & Buying

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