Ad fraud is a constant battle for advertisers, agencies, and publishers alike. We’ve seen who commits online advertising fraud and where it hides, but how do we get rid of it with the rise of programmatic advertising? In short, you don’t, but there are ways to help mitigate the damage.

Programmatic advertising has led to the beginning of the end for the traditional manual ad purchasing model. With programmatic, exchanges are all digital and completed within milliseconds of a page being loaded on a website, allowing purchase decisions to be made automatically.

However, with any automated process, there’s a level of uncertainty.

Robot with the text 94% of digital marketers said programmatic marketplace quality was a very or somewhat serious issue.
Source: eMarketer

Ad fraud breeds and multiplies when advertising works well. Programmatic advertising brings a tremendous amount of positives to the industry, but it’s a natural alignment for ad fraud to run rampant.

So how do you keep ad fraud out of the programmatic funnel? You don’t. But you can limit its effects. Here’s how.

Domain Identification in the Programmatic Transaction

Fraudsters thrive on hiding their identities and morphing themselves into someone they’re not. Some create websites that have a high-volume of bot traffic and others spoof a trusted website to surpass the whitelists. In both instances, they can breach the whitelist, becoming a trusted advertiser, until they’re caught and placed on a blacklist.

This simply stops that source from tricking the system, but doesn’t stop fraudsters’ other domains from continuing to breach the programmatic transaction.

By making the domain known, programmatic buyers can better understand patterns that pop-up with programmatic purchases from certain domains. Since it’s hard to keep up on the rapidly changing environment, sharing this information will help the entire industry weed out the unscrupulous performers.

Use Dynamic Fraud Elimination Techniques as a Standard

Many advertisers routinely filter traffic through a third-party scoring system to identify what’s considered fraudulent traffic. While this is helpful, it’s only as effective as the filter they’re scoring through.

It’s well known that fraud scoring technology can help remove some fraudulent traffic; but what one company considers fraudulent, another might consider legitimate. And since there’s no set standard among these companies, the programmatic funnel passes muddied results right along through the supply chain.

The digital advertising industry needs to agree on a dynamic fraud elimination standard, and insert it into the programmatic funnel. Once all impressions are judged equally earlier in the supply chain, we can all reduce the bids on fraudulent impressions, taking fraudsters down in the area they benefit the most.

Robot image with three points about what brands can do to help reduce ad fraud in the programmatic buying cycle
Source: BuzzCity

For brands, if they’re consistent with asking suppliers about their ad fraud practices, a standard will emerge in time. But this needs to be a consistent conversation, not one brand turn a blind eye to when the metrics are outperforming the standard. The old adage “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is” couldn’t be more true with digital advertising.

Include Transparency in Programmatic Supply

Programmatic thrives on split-second decision making and automatic placement of advertising on websites. But, how transparent is this process? It’s not, not at all.

If the process itself isn’t transparent, how are we supposed to understand what’s happening in the marketplace? We can’t.

Brands want that transparency and want to know exactly where their advertising is displayed and what websites it appears on. Think of programmatic supply as one big puzzle:

  • Advertisers focus on one section of the puzzle, failing to move forward until that section is complete.
  • Publishers rush to provide all the pieces even before the advertisers might need them.
  • Brands step back and look at all the pieces of the puzzle, how they’re arranged, and what’s different or missing.

Brands want the transparency that the advertisers and publishers are missing out on by focusing only on one part of the puzzle. Brands understand that to be truly transparent, they need to know where the puzzle pieces originated, how they fit together, and where the missing pieces lie.

Find a Common Ground Between Quality and Convenience

Quote - Given the choice between quality and convenience, convenience always wins.
Source: AdExchanger

Paraphrasing Clear Channel’s Bob Pittman at the recent IAB annual meeting, advertisers love the convenience, and given the choice between it and quality, the quality will fall to the wayside every time.

But advertisers are also the first to point out when quality is not up to par. So what gives? Currently, there’s no common ground between quality and convenience, and there needs to be.

Using dynamic fraud elimination early in the transactional process will help, but it won’t eliminate any fraud that slips in after this step in the process (e.g. scrapped sites, spoofing, etc.). To best conquer this problem, publishers and advertisers have to meet in the middle:

  • Publishers need to take responsibility for providing premium, quality traffic inventory. Fraud-free traffic can drive more demand and higher CPMs.
  • Advertisers should stop hesitating when investing their ad spend. Once you look at your results, you can (and should) reinvest in true, premium traffic. This will encourage publishers to offer more of this quality inventory.

Once advertisers hold publishers to a higher standard and demand consistent fraud elimination metrics from third-party providers, ad fraud overall will be reduced. Advertisers must hold quality to as high of a standard as a convenience to help eliminate the ad fraud issue in programmatic, and elsewhere, once and for all.

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