By Chris Ferhmann, VP, Digital Products at TEGNA
Data transparency, consumer choice, brand safety, and fraud-free environments are all looming large in the advertising industry these days. And while there are elements of the digital advertising mediascape undergoing large, sweeping changes (i.e., deprecation of 3rd party cookies), one thing still holds true: brands still expect to have real human beings viewing and interacting with their advertisements. However, as more dollars are proportionally allocated to digital advertising and its many forms, fraudulent players are chomping at the bit to take advantage of an increasingly complex and vulnerable economy.
What is fraud in digital advertising? Ad fraud is the generation of false views/impressions of an advertisement or fraudulent clicks/interactions with an advertisement. Advertising fraud is generally precipitated by dishonest entities looking to make a quick dollar by producing clicks through automation, usually through software robots (aka “bots”) or click farms. Regardless of how ad fraud transpires, it remains an unequivocal cybercrime.
For context, we’ve known about ad fraud for a very long time. In fact, there is an entire industry segment dedicated to the measurement and mitigation of ad fraud, and large ad tech companies even have specialized teams who combat ad fraud every day. And yet, ad fraud persists. As the industry’s most reputable players find ways to identify and eliminate fraud before it has the ability to inflict damage, ill-intended forces look for ways around the protections in place. It’s a constant game of cat and mouse.
The cost of ad fraud is significant. A recent study performed by TrafficGuard estimates that fraud will cost advertisers $87B during 2022. And though 64% of ad fraud will transpire in APAC, that leaves a projected impact of $31B for American advertisers. With the continued growth of digital advertising coupled with the meteoric rise of OTT/CTV viewership, we should expect ad fraud will grow in kind. In fact, Pixalate projects that more than 20% of the OTT/CTV views are from invalid traffic (IVT).
Fortunately, there are steps advertisers and media agencies can take to help mitigate and/or eliminate the effects of ad fraud on ROAS and business outcomes.
1) Being proactive is your first step to combating fraud. Choose your partners judiciously and vet their solutions with a microscope. Choose agencies, media buying companies, and technology providers that have purposeful processes and accreditations that combat fraud. This is where certifications such as the TAG Certified Against Fraud seal and MRC Accreditation take out the guesswork. Ensure that your partners have dedicated processes, technology partners, and requisite training to stop fraud before it starts.
2) Ensure that you and your marketing staff understand the situation at hand and are trained to be critical of your campaign’s performance reporting. Question the “too good to be true” and ask good questions of your suppliers. Understand the warning signs of fraud such as high bounce rates, views of pages that humans typically don’t view, and others. Although there are logical explanations for many irregular traffic patterns, the identification and questioning of patterns that don’t add up to real-life business outcomes for the advertiser should be a regular occurrence of your marketing teams.
At TEGNA, we live by our mission “To serve the greater good of our communities.” We do so not only through our award-winning journalism, but also by helping our advertisers’ businesses grow, along with the local economies they serve. We can’t accomplish this without ensuring that our advertising solutions create real-life business outcomes and a positive return on investment. To do so, we must make certain that we deploy purposeful technologies, processes, and procedures to eliminate fraud. This accountability pertains to our internal systems as well as our vendors and third-party technology partners.
Earning the TAG Certified Against Fraud certification with the Trustworthy Accountability Group, the leading global initiative fighting criminal activity and increasing trust in the digital advertising industry, further underscores our dedication to this commitment to our advertisers. This partnership validates what we have been doing from the onset, providing a brand-safe, fraud-free environment that delivers business outcomes for our advertisers.