Is Digital advertising getting raped by fraudsters?

Now- a- days everybody eats internet, sleeps internet and also shit with internet. Even marketers are not exception they want to place their products or services in internet. I was just wondering why marketers are so desperate of placing their products in internet. Advertisers spend around $500 billion annually worldwide on online advertising. They say this is an internet generation and Internet generation entrepreneurs are like wildcatters of oil booms – instead of digging wells they use their programming skills and business ideas to earn riches. This new invention has unleashed the consumer’s life and has transformed how industry works. Over 472 million people use Google search daily. More than a billion people use Facebook to share about their lives. All of these are funded by advertising, these accounts for 3.7% of US GDP, according to research by Harvard. You being a digital marketer, are you sure the digital ad impressions that you get/would get for your product is legitimate? Advertisers when they advertise their product in digital space expect that all the online content is by viewed human audiences -that is the real audience who has potential to buy their products. But this isn’t the case always. The digital advertising industry is filled with traffic fraud. So criminals exploit the system and get paid for getting more traffic to the website using fake or non-human traffic. Here are some shocking statistics which we should consider to understand the seriousness of the issues

  • Bots account for 11% of display ad views and 23% of video ads.
  • Between 3 and 31% of programmatically bought ad impressions were found to be from bots, with an average of 17%.
  • Up to 50% of publisher traffic is Bot activity, just fake clicks from automated computing programs.
  • Digital advertising will take in $43.8 Billion next year and out of which $6.3 billion will be based on fraudulent activity.
  • More than half of traffic from 3rd parties claiming to lift publisher’s traffic numbers comes from Bots.
  • Almost one-fifth of all re-targeted ad impressions (high-CPM ads directed at consumers who’d earlier clicked on a company’s ad, form or content) are fraudulent
  • Two-thirds of all fraud comes from the computers of everyday consumers whose machines have been secretly hijacked.

Don’t think you are spared just because you are a “premium” publisher with a terrific reputation that you are immune. 10% of your traffic and ad impressions are probably fraudulent, according to the ANA study. Who the hell are these Bots? Well Bots are the sophisticated software programs which are installed on customers PCs in seemingly unknown ways (e.g., offers of cool toolbars or browser extensions that, once downloaded, secretly install “malware” on the consumer’s computer making that PC a “bot”). These bots or botnets silently run in the background by clicking or running the advertisements. Which advertisers think they are paying for the actual human interactions. Well these bots are so sophisticated that these can even fill out a form on behalf of you. Why should anyone worry about it? Ad Fraud impacts advertiser and ad publisher relationships. Even this reduces the confidence of the marketer to promote his product in digital platform. Publishers are worried because until they give confidence and more control and transparency over how much is the actual impact of the advertising, clients would hold back on spending their money. Let’s go over different types of Ad – Frauds:

  • Fake Sites:  Fake sites are built just for advertising and offer no content that real human audiences want to see. Every one might have encountered these websites. Each individual site doesn’t collect an inordinate amount of revenue, which is how they avoid suspicion. But networks of fake sites can derive millions in revenue from their activities.
  • Fake Domains: Fraudsters will spoof the high demand websites. Advertiser thinks they are buying placements on premium publishers, when they are really not. This practice also makes it seem as if premium publishers have more inventory than they actually do, which decreases their prices.
  • Tool bars – While tool bars had their heyday in the ’90s and early 2000s, they’re still around and inject their own ads over the legitimately purchased units on websites. As with proxy sites, they often give advertisers the illusion that they’re buying better inventory than they actually are.
  • Hidden ad impressions: it’s also called as Ad stacking or ad stuffing. In this case fraudsters place one pixel by one pixel windows throughout the web pages and serving ads into those virtually invisible places. It can also be stacking ads on other ads but only top ad will be visible. The end result of this is huge ad inventory.
  • Paid traffic ad : Publishers buy “traffic” from third parties to generate more visitors to their sites. According to ANA study 52% of this traffic is from Bots .
  •  Video Ad fraud: The popularity of online videos has drawn attention of fraudsters. These ads are also stacked in invisible 1×1 windows or played in the background where consumers can’t see it. Fraudulent ads are also as much as 10 times lucrative than banner ads thanks to their higher CPMs.
  • Laundered ad impressions:  Impression from sites with large human traffic are rerouted through fake content sites or pirate sites – where most of the advertisers don’t want to purchase space. This also called as domain spoofing.

          Domain spoofing can be in varieties –

  1.  Fraudsters modifying codes in the ad tags that identify the domain a user is viewing. The managers and   users of ad exchanges must be able to assume that the ad mark-up codes are always accurate. Sadly, such is not the case. Fraudsters can easily delete the mark-up code and replace it with code that enables them to impersonate any premium site they choose.
  2. Involves malware consumers accidentally install on their personal computers. The malware actually injects ads windows onto websites the consumer is viewing. In a nanosecond, the fraudster is able to offer that space on what looks like a premium publisher’s site out for bidding on an exchange. The price the fraudster commands reflects an incredible discount for such a desirable site.
  • CMS Fraud: In this approach, bad guys hack into a publisher’s content management system (CMS) and create their own pages using perfectly legitimate domains. Then they put those pages on ad exchanges with the premium publisher’s mark-up code, but the advertiser who purchases those positions gets pages with no premium content and pays the fraudster instead of the publisher.

If we look at the difference between the supply chain of digital advertising and other industries is its openness – anyone can participate. There are no checks to control quality. Even if we select secure suppliers we cannot be sure about supplier’s supplier. The web is so interconnected that any imperfection inserted into one site – it can cause damage to others. Now how can we reduce traffic fraud?

    • Firstly lets educate ourselves about traffic fraud, The risks that it poses to our business and  identify activities that can help to mitigate them
    • Setting clear objectives for our media campaigns that focus on measurement of real ROI which will be difficult for fraudsters to falsify. Measurements such as click through rate, completion rate etc. which can easily be faked.
    • Practicing safe sourcing by only trusting those business partners who has earned that credibility.
    • Review the URls your ads run on: It’s our brand and you are accountable for its ad placement, so you should have first-hand information about where your ads are running. Get specifics of URls where your ads have run and ensure third party verifier is continually reviewing those URls.

Lastly we can say digital advertising industry needs a standard – setting body which can monitor to guarantee the sanctity of the digital advertising supply chain. So that it can stop getting raped by these fraudsters.

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