Digital ad fraud: Separating facts from fiction

01/02 By IAS Team
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Digital ad fraud.  It touches everyone in the online industry, and therefore it has become one of the most talked about topics in digital advertising.  The IAB, the ANA, and the 4As are on a mission to fight it, yet very few who are impacted truly understand it.  Think you are up to snuff?

Combatting ad fraud in some ways is like auto care.  If you are like me, your background and education did not include automotive training.  When I get my car serviced, I’m at the mercy of the mechanic.  The mechanic will explain the problem, I can get a second opinion, but I don’t have the knowledge to evaluate the real needs.  At the end of the day, I will go with what seems most logical, which under the circumstances, is my best way of making an informed decision.

The same is true for digital fraud – you hear different things – but who can you trust?  Let me share with you some recent real-life examples.  At Integral Ad Science, we encounter these often, both from the solution providers as well as those who try to (sometimes openly) outsmart fraud detection and enable fraud practices to continue and thrive.

The first example that comes to mind is creative marketing. Recently, I read about a new fraud operation that was discovered.  Usually the story involves new forms of ad fraud with new names to go along with it.  To make it an even a juicier story, brands who were “victimized” are named, and to complete the story, ad fraud technology vendors who missed the new form of fraud are thrown under the bus.  This is great marketing (and as a marketer, I applaud the news making).  However, turns out there is nothing new about this type of fraud, except for the name.  More times than not, it is a well known problem, addressed by many.  As for the brands who were allegedly victimized and the vendors who didn’t catch it? Well, the media is hardly a court of law and they are not given the opportunity to present their case.

Another classic (and clever) example is a vendor who turns technology limitations into a perceived advantage (again, brilliant marketing).  Have you heard that blocking non-human (bot) traffic is bad for the industry because it tips off the fraudsters, thus enabling them to outsmart the technology? The simple truth is that if you are only using one particular detection method – Session Based Signals – it might be possible for botnet operators to learn how to avoid your detection.  However, if you layer in additional methods such as anomalous pattern detection based on deep traffic analysis, it becomes a lot more difficult if not impossible for the other side to reverse engineer the solution.

And what about those who are happy to avoid accountability, and will continue to buy and sell very cheap inventory turning a blind eye (or not) to it being fraudulent? We see those who try to sell traffic that “fools” the vendor technology.  Well, they will have hard time doing it with Integral.  We dynamically detect both bots and inventory sources, so the games with using new sites and traffic sources will quickly fail as our solution is smart enough to identify the machine as bot even on a site never seen before. If it’s a bot, we know it.

What I’ve shared with you is only the tip of the iceberg.  There are many more examples and misconceptions about digital fraud, some of which were previously addressed.

The reality is that only a select few who are well versed in both the technology and applications of digital advertising will be able to separate facts from fiction.  Digital fraud is here to stay, so we can’t ignore it.  The best advice that I can give you is to do your homework, “look under the hood,” ask questions, and find the solution that is right for you.

Read more here.