Beat the Bots: an Ad Fraud Masterclass

11/13 By Gerry Marketos

At IAS, we believe that to make digital campaigns successful, marketers need to ensure their ad dollars are used to reach real people. Not bots – people, especially considering brands are spending $333 billion on average per year on digital advertising. It’s our simple mission to help brands be seen by human eyes and drives everything we do here at IAS.

However, ad fraud is a problem that shows little sign of disappearing any time soon. It’s why we recently hosted our Ad Fraud Masterclass in London, inviting guests to learn more about ad fraud and how they can combat it.

We define ad fraud as ‘any deliberate activity that prevents the proper delivery of ads to the right people, at the right time, in the right place’. Digital advertising is attractive to fraudsters because the payout potential, compared to the effort and risk involved, is extremely high – unlike other types of crime such as credit card fraud. However, the result of ad fraud can mean advertisers end up missing out on engaging with consumers and could actually be paying for fraud. For publishers, it can mean revenue loss and reputation damage.

With these serious consequences to consider, at IAS we know that both advertisers and publishers want to be as protected as possible. At IAS, we take a three pillared approach to detecting and preventing ad fraud for our clients:

  1. Behavioural and network analysis – we look at big data (to the tune of over 10 billion impressions every day) which detects patterns and anomalies that no other solution would have the scale to catch.
  2. Browser and device analysis – we use rules to validate whether or not the traffic is truly human (also known as a deterministic method).
  3. Targeted reconnaissance and malware analysis – just as fraudsters can try to reverse engineer security signals from tech companies, malware analysts can reverse engineer bots and other forms of fraud. Our world-class ThreatLab engages with the cybersecurity community to infiltrate hacker communities. This allows us to proactively discover new threats before they emerge as widespread problems.

And now the big question – what can you do to avoid fraud? Here are eight simple steps you can consider to reduce your chances of fraud.

  1. Use verification and fraud solutions that can confirm ads were delivered to the desired place
  2. Use fraud solutions that have been accredited for both General and Sophisticated IVT
  3. Measure fraud across all campaigns to understand performance
  4. Vet your vendors and partners; ask how they measure for malicious bots and other forms of IVT
  5. Offer and request more transparency into inventory and traffic
  6. Implement blocking technology to avoid infected machines or pages with historically high fraud levels
  7. Use pre-bid filtering to avoid fraud in programmatic buys
  8. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Focus less on low CPMs and more on KPIs tailored to campaign goals

The biggest factor to protect yourself is awareness of ad fraud and participation in trying to fight it. It is critical that all members of the digital ecosystem form part of the effort to tackle ad fraud. And hopefully soon, we might just beat the bots.