Suit up: Big Game advertisers will face big fraud challenges

01/31 By Matt Engstrom

Big Game, big digital spend

The Big Game is more than a sporting event. It’s the largest U.S. media event of the year as measured by TV audience scale. According to Nielsen, the 2017 broadcast garnered over 111 million sports fans offering a huge opportunity for brands to reach, activate, and influence their customers. In fact, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF), consumer spending around the 2017 Big Game was over $14 billion.

Much of that money was spent entertaining and enjoying the game itself. According to the NRF, nearly 8 in 10 consumers planned to buy food and beverage items for the Big Game in 2017. But what can CPG marketers do to make sure that their snack food and beverage brands make the cut for the game day buffet?

For many brands, the answer will be digital video. The Big Game conversation usually focuses on television, but the small screen isn’t the only medium that benefits from football championship ad dollars. Digital video is the perfect format for a brand to amplify its Big Game campaigns beyond the TV screen across mobile and desktop devices, so digital publishers can expect to see an influx of advertising dollars in the weeks surrounding the broadcast.

More money, more problems

In the weeks leading up to the game day broadcast, demand for digital media grows and so do video CPMs. This is good news for publishers, but, unfortunately, it’s also good news for ad fraudsters looking to profit from those elevated CPMs.

Given the massive amount of ad dollars on the line, we wanted to take a closer look at video ad fraud as it relates to Big Game digital campaigns. To accomplish this, we analyzed over 86 million impressions during the two weeks leading up to last year’s Big Game. Our analysis focused on food and beverage advertisers whose products are traditionally featured heavily on game day get-together menus. We were able to gather some insights that can help marketers to avoid throwing good money at bad impressions in the lead up to this year’s contest.

Snacks and soda take the field

For our sample of food and beverage advertisers, we found that impression volume increased significantly starting on playoff Sunday two weeks prior to the Big Game. That increase carried through from playoff Sunday all the way through the Saturday before the Big Game. Total impression volume grew by 221% during this period as advertisers tried to capture tailgaters and game day party planners. Of course, not everyone plans ahead and last-minute shoppers were evidently an even bigger target. Total impression volume for these brands increased an additional 132% on the Saturday before the Big Game, a spike that carried through game day Sunday.

The data also confirmed that fraudsters were drawn to higher game day CPMs like tailgaters to hot dogs. Fraud rates spiked significantly for food and beverage campaigns, rising from 8% on January 22, 2017, to a high point of 19% on January 31 just prior to game day.

What can brands do?

Like other so-called “marketing holidays,” the Big Game presents a huge opportunity to brands as well as huge potential for value erosion through fraud. To position themselves for success, brands must address the fraud challenges that arise during times when CPMs spike.

For many advertisers, the first step is to take advantage of technology from a third-party verification provider. It is possible to proactively avoid the threat of ad fraud. With the right partner, it’s possible to block ads from serving, or in the case of programmatic environments, target ads away from fraud. Preventing the delivery of fraudulent impressions helps brands mitigate value loss as impressions are reallocated to real potential customers. Furthermore,  advertisers should work with their publisher partners to ensure fraud concerns are addressed in advance of the event.

As Big Game audiences continue to diversify their viewing across platforms, brands that employ a digital video strategy will need to make sure they are staying one step ahead of fraud. By proactively addressing fraud concerns, advertisers can increase the impact and value of their Big Game campaigns and take full advantage of this singular audience event.

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