Methbot’s discovery in late 2016 brought ad fraud to the forefront of the digital advertising agenda. With fraudsters reportedly taking up to $7.2 billion of ad spend in 2016 alone, there are plenty of myths surrounding the topic of ad fraud. We felt it was time to debunk some of these myths.
Fraudsters have a leg up on the industry – FALSE
It is undisputed that fraud is a concern for the industry. While it may seem like fraudsters are always one step ahead, efforts are currently being made to preemptively strike. The next generation of the RTB protocol is currently being discussed by the industry’s best. Transparency, authentication and third party measurement are all driving the discussion. This past year we saw TAG (Trustworthy Accountability Group) form, while anti fraud vendors expanded their offerings and new players joined the game. There’s a broader adoption of fraud detection technologies, meaning the industry is no longer behind in the race, as more actions are being taken to address the concerns of both advertisers and publishers.
It’s either a human or it’s a bot – FALSE
Things aren’t as clear-cut as we’d like. Fraudulent traffic can co-exist with a real user on a device. Using malware, often originating in install-based fraud, fraudsters can hijack genuine users. The infected device’s unique ID is then associated with both real and bot-generated traffic, creating confusing usage patterns and making it difficult to identify fraud in real-time.
All fraud metrics are created equal – FALSE
Without a set industry standard each different player, be they an anti-fraud vendor or a brand, can define “fraud” differently. At a recent IAB Ad Operations Summit, Mitchell Weinstein, Senior Vice President of Ad Ops at IPG Mediabrands, commented that one of the focus areas for the agency in 2017 will be improving third party verification of traffic, with emphasis on mobile apps. Despite an increased adoption of third party measurement services by both brands and agencies, aiming to avoid fraudulent traffic, there still isn’t one measurement metric that sets the standard.
Fraud can be detected in real time – FALSE
Detecting fraud is no easy feat. The current off-the-shelf solutions available are not comprehensive enough, focusing mostly on post-impression. The need for pre-impression fraud detection is on the rise, as programmatic takes a larger share of the available ad spend. Post-impression fraud detection makes it possible for platforms to shut down or flag fraudulent traffic sources after the fact. Despite this, a piece of the advertising dollar is still lost. Only if pre-impression fraud detection tools are developed can this be resolved.
Video ad-fraud is too expensive for fraudsters – FALSE
There’s a notion that video ad fraud doesn’t exist since the inventory is too expensive for your run-of-the-mill fraudster. This is, unfortunately, false. Last year’s Methbot ad fraud ring brought forward further evidence that video fraud is here. By targeting the highly valuable video inventory, this reportedly Russian-based ring managed to siphon between 3 to 5 million dollars a day by spoofing advertisers who thought they were buying premium ad slots. This proves – yet again – that where there is money, there will be fraud. It’s important to remember that no specific piece of inventory is safe from fraud.