By Rosanna Hansford

Ad fraud keeps cropping up in industry news headlines, scaremongering marketers with stats, nightmare stories and creating an environment of fear around digital. But we're here to put your mind at rest, giving you the info on what the industry and your account managers are doing to prevent it from happening.

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‘Programmatic’ has been the word on marketers tongues for the past few years and it has seen considerable growth in recent days, so much so that it’s predicted that UK ad spend on programmatic will reach £2.5 billion by the end of 2016, accounting for 70% of media budgets. Wow! That’s great news for us RTB enthusiasts.

However, as ad spend continues to grow in this area so does the dangerous potential of fraudsters looking to thwart our marketing efforts. Ad fraud has become an increasingly lucrative business, with 1 in every $3 spent on ad space ending up in fraudsters pockets it’s more important now than ever before to be aware of what kind of ad fraud is about and how we as marketers can prevent potentially fraudulent activity.

What is ad fraud and what types of activity are out there?

Click bot

Image Courtesy of Pando.com

Ad fraud can disguise itself in various different forms: through non human traffic like bots, to ads that have no chance of being viewed, and the intentional misrepresentation of publisher sites and ads. To combat this activity the Anti Fraud group, the ‘Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards’ (JICWEBS) was set up in 2014 to shed light on the subject.

Last year JICWEBS released a report to define what types of activity constitutes fraud. They identified 16 types of malicious activity varying from: Hijacked Devices – where ad requests are made without a user’s consent – to Hidden Ads – stacking multiple ads into one inventory slot, resulting in ads that can never be viewed and even Falsely Represented Sites – htmls that try to represent other, more reputable sites that are in fact spoofing them.

So what can we do?

While the stats may leave you losing sleep over your digital media budgets, don’t worry as there are measures we can take to tackle the problem head on.

According to JICWEB’s best practice guidelines the most important things to do are:

  • Educate yourself – Given that you’re reading this blog entry, you’re already taking the first steps to combating ad fraud! The more we know as an industry, the more prepared we are to tackle the issues that arise, so keep up to date with industry news.
  • Set clear objectives with a focus on ROI – clicks and impressions are easy to falsify, but cold hard cash is much more difficult to forge.
  • Use sophisticated metrics that indicate human interaction – such as purchases and subscriptions
  • Use technology to detect and prevent fraud – if you have the option and the budget, pay the extra fee to use platforms that detect ad fraud. Google are partnering up with more 3rd party ad detection companies, so if this is something you’re interested in talk to your account manager today.

What can my account manager do?

It’s all well and good talking about industry measures and guidelines, but at the end of the day you want to know that your account is being well looked after. But have no fear! We here at Periscopix are constantly monitoring your accounts, checking for fraudulent activity. Some of the things we do on a regular basis include:

  • Running reports for dodgy sites – we regularly undertake reports to see what sites your ads are appearing on, checking to see if there are any unsafe ones that we can block to stop them from spending your budgets.
  • Scrutinise our metrics – we love our data and we are constantly looking at clicks, impressions, conversions, bounce rates, you name it. Therefore we know when something’s up; if our data looks too good to be true we go and investigate. If it’s all in the clear we’ll tell you our amazing results. But if there are false clicks, we’ll get on the case.
Sherlock Holmes
  • Blocklist known offenders – our account managers have a wealth of knowledge and experience, therefore we’ve come to know some of the regular sites and exchanges that are renowned for housing fraudulent activity. Consequently we proactively block these from the outset to ensure we only get the best results for our clients.
  • Optimise towards viewability – anyone with a vague understanding of RTB can serve ads and win thousands of impressions, but we’re not just content with impressions alone, we want to know that the impressions we’re serving are actually being seen by real humans. Therefore we optimise our accounts towards viewability, ensuring we win only impressions that are the most likely to be seen. For more info on this check out Mylene’s blog:
  • Set high levels of brand safety – We know that the safety of your brand is one of the biggest concerns that surrounds clients wanting to run programmatic activity. To safeguard your brand we set the highest levels of protection on your campaigns which includes: blocking any dangerous content which you could be appearing on, blocking ‘undefined’ sites which have not been categorised by Google and could be potentially dangerous. Additionally, if you want an extra level of protection we can use 3rd party verification services like DoubleVerify and Integral Ad Science to block out any dangerous sites that may slip through the net. Check out Kat’s blog for more on brand safety.
  • We fight your corner – and finally in the very rare cases where there has been an incident of fraudulent activity, we escalate the issue with Google, providing hard evidence to try and get you your money back. But our regular monitoring of your account and preventative measures are used to stop this from happening from the get go.

At the end of the day ad fraud is the cold hard reality of modern day digital advertising and it’s an issue we must be aware of when running campaigns. Nevertheless, by keeping informed and taking preventative measures from the outset we can ensure that your accounts are in the best hands.

For more information feel free to get in touch with your account manager today.

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