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Digital ad fraud down 11% globally, lowest historically on desktops

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Ad fraud growth slows for the first time in four years; the marketplace is working better than ever before.

White Ops and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) once again measure bot fraud in the digital advertising ecosystem in their fourth study, 2018-2019 Bot Baseline. They found that illegitimate traffic sourcing is declining and that the marketplace is working better than ever before to fight digital fraud.

Importantly, this year fraud is down 11% from 2017, accounting for a $5.8 billion revenue loss globally. The rates for desktop ad fraud are the lowest historically: 11% in 2014, 9% in 2016–17, and 8% in 2018–19. Fraud attempts account for approximately 20 to 35 percent of all ad impressions. However, actual fraud happens in a much smaller percentage. Still, ad fraud continues to be a problem, taking shape in new, creative, and hard-to-detect forms.

Successful implementation

The digital ad fraud fight has had help from the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG). TAG provides best practices to reduce fraud activity and encourages transparency among participants. TAG also requires the use of ads.txt, which helps reduce domain spoofing. The fact that traffic sourcing has become more difficult and expensive is helping to reduce retail bot buying on the web. However, to keep the numbers moving in the right direction, marketers and agencies must ensure that all ad spending is highly scrutinize and comes with a high level of validatability.

Challenges Ahead

In fact, validatability is critical moving forward. White Ops reviewed more than 50 billion third-party ad server impressions in this study. Less than half of the impressions meet the highest standard of third-party validatability. Some impressions do not support a dynamic fraud detection tag via JavaScript, others offer limited third-party validatability by design (e.g. walled gardens). Selling media under conditions that do not support high third-party validation offers opportunities for fake inventory.

Less than Half of All Impressions Are Fully, Transparently Validatable

Best practices

Increased ad fraud awareness has made it a higher priority among marketers, which has helped slow its growth. It’s important that everyone in the supply chain talks to vendors to find out how they measure for invalid traffic (e.g. using general detection methods, or uses sophisticated IVT detection methods, etc.).

Other best practices include:

  • Work with vendors who have implemented ads.txt.
  • Use an MRC-accredited anti-fraud vendor.
  • Decline to buy a “tonnage” of inventory.
  • Include language on non-human traffic in your terms and conditions to ensure your company only pays for non-SIVT or non-IVT impressions.

Fraudulent impressions are now detected before they are paid for due to DSPs and SSPs filtering out these bid requests. Unfortunately, fraud continues to evolve in new formats. However, if the industry continues its efforts to make this practice unprofitable, there is less incentive to supply ad fraud.

By Rande Price, Research Director—DCN@Randeloo

Republished with kind permission of Digital Content Next, advancing the future of trusted content