eMarketer recently released a comprehensive online paid media fraud report that’s very eye opening. Our industry is rife with fraud – sketchy players around the world building bot-platforms and various software to drive what appears to be real ad unit clicks, impressions, app downloads, and in-app purchases. Mostly known as invalid traffic (IVT). Ad fraud last year globally on display advertising alone was $5.8 billion minus social media and others. Looking at all fraud, last year was somewhere around a $42 billion loss worldwide.
The total global ad fraud estimates for last year from White Ops show that it’s trending upwards. On the other hand, the Association of National Advertisers’ estimates of online display advertising is trending down. While some would attribute this downward trend to the adoption of the IAB’s Ads.txt project, it’s also been decelerated by slower growth in spend from advertisers over time. This reflects that fraudsters are expanding the ad platforms they target. They’re not just focused on display advertising anymore. Social media, apps (mobile and other networks), influencer networks, attribution measurement and SSPs are all targets today.
“There are forms of ad fraud that haven’t been detected or discovered yet,” according to Dr. Fou, independent ad fraud researcher. “So, it’s hard to estimate fraud correctly because you don’t know if you got everything. In my experience, what can be said is that fraud is way higher than people assume because there are so many dollars at stake—bad guys are drooling.”
Integral Ad Science did an end of the year survey last year that showed 38% of US-based paid media professionals had concerns about the increased level of ad fraud in 2020. More than half of publishers in the US surveyed by Advertiser Perceptions last year said they were limiting their ad inventory because of fraud, waste and abuse.
How to Protect Yourself from Ad Fraud in Content Marketing
Guess what? While the IAB is coming up with somewhat mediocre solutions to paid ad fraud like Ads.txt and App-adds.txt as a patch for this problem, there’s a much simpler solution. Ad fraud is centralized around the way advertisers pay for impressions and clicks in a programmatic fashion. Mobile fraud is a little bit more complex, but the mentioned generalization above holds mostly true across channels. Let’s explore the solution.
The core to this problem is how most paid media is paid for – clicks, impressions or downloads. The vast majority of this fraud is being done with technology that looks to trick websites into thinking humans are viewing and clicking on content and downloading apps. This technology is robust and very sophisticated so the fraudsters can make money in a criminal way.
The way to massively eliminate this fraud is to evolve from a click, impression or download-based cost structure for advertisers. Supply providers won’t admit this fact because it cuts into their bottom line. Paid media based on time spent engaging and/or scroll depth using sophisticated technology with artificial intelligence is a technique the fraudsters struggle to game in today’s age.
Content amplification platforms that charge advertisers based on cost per engagement, as opposed to impressions, clicks and downloads, mostly eliminate fraud compared to the numbers above. Why the IAB or other organizations and companies won’t realize this is unfortunate. They all know it. Unfortunately, that slight adjustment, from a content amplification prospective could have huge impacts on their revenue. That’s not the right way to treat the customer, let alone, the brand advertising industry. While delivering actual content engagement and only charging for it is our guiding principle, it’s very uncommon for other companies to agree with us. Don’t pay for clicks, impressions and downloads anymore. Work with those that only charge on actual content engagement.