Online ad fraud is the deliberate practice of attempting to serve ads that have no potential to be viewed by a human user (WARC, December 2018). Worryingly, cybersecurity company, CHEQ, has predicted companies are set to lose out on $23bn in 2019 due to global ad fraud (The Drum, 2019). With this much money at stake, online ad fraud remains at the forefront of attention for marketers.
Whilst this is a big issue globally, there are industry solutions in place to defeat fraudulent activity…
Invalid traffic & the use of anti-fraud tools
The MRC has accredited 12 Anti-Ad Fraud tools against Sophisticated Invalid Traffic (SIVT). These tools detect and may block fraudulent activity, providing reports which identify the detected types of fraud. Sophisticated Invalid Traffic includes hijacked devices, stacked ad serving and adware. These tools also detect sources of General Invalid Traffic (GIVT), including bots and spiders, anonymous proxies and known data centres.
In addition, establishing processes to filter out high risk domains (mobile and desktop), apps and IP addresses can help support the integration of your chosen tool.
To ensure the maximum amount of fraud is detected, these tools should be used against 100% of monetised transactions and an understanding of your tool is important to ensure you’re getting the most value from them.
Sourced Traffic describes any method by which a publisher increases the number of visits to its website through referrals, whether organic or paid. Paid Traffic Sources are the result of publishers providing monetary consideration to third parties for driving traffic to their inventory. Examples include:
- Direct Native/Sponsored Content
- Social Media
- CPC/Paid Search
Whilst genuine businesses can base their revenue models on this type of traffic, if there’s a high amount of paid traffic sources then it’s advisable to investigate these directly with the publisher, so you can understand their numbers.
Buying inventory from valid sources
Ads.txt is a simple aid to combatting another type of ad fraud - domain spoofing. An ads.txt file contains companies authorised to sell a publisher’s inventory either directly or as a reseller. This ads.txt file is made available on the publisher’s domain.
The ‘ads’ of ads.txt stands for Authorised Digital Sellers providing greater transparency through the inventory supply chain and making it harder for counterfeit inventory to be sold. This file ensures companies are working with only legitimate publishers or authorised sellers. When buying inventory, always check the ads.txt file to verify the authenticity.
Whilst implementing all these tactics is great, it’s crucial for companies to maintain their knowledge on the different types of ad fraud and any new fraudulent tactics appearing across the industry. It’s also important to constantly maintain and update your technology implementations to help reduce fraud, impression by impression.
Having one person (or team) responsible also helps to ensure ad fraud is tackled consistently throughout the year, and that any internal strategies are maintained.
An industry Seal of compliance
TAG (Trustworthy Accountability Group) has developed the Certified Against Fraud initiative. The programme covers all the areas mentioned above and additionally introduces a payment ID system.
By adding this ID to the inventory, and identifying the genuine players in the chain, transactions can be traced back and only legitimate companies will receive payment – reducing the billions of dollars currently being inadvertently diverted to fraudsters! This payment trail is especially significant for intermediaries to integrate into their systems as they are often part of a delivery chain where the risk of interception from fraudsters is higher.
TAG Certified Against Fraud is available for media companies worldwide who are committed to minimising the risk of ad fraud. Companies that achieve the TAG Seal outside the US must be independently audited to provide additional assurance that their processes meet TAG’s Guidelines.
In 2019, JICWEBS (Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards) and TAG aligned their Anti-Fraud efforts and TAG Certified Against Fraud is now the primary initiative across the UK and the US. This creates a strong step towards combatting online ad fraud across the two largest advertising markets.
Spread the word
Lastly, if you demand protection from your partners and this demand is replicated throughout the chain, the digital advertising ecosystem will be in a much stronger position to combat ad fraud and provide the assurance advertisers are calling for both locally and globally.
So shout about it! Your partners will only know the strategies you’ve employed if you tell them and ensure they put the same steps in place to achieve the Certified Against Fraud Seal.