The Five Questions That Will Eliminate Ad Fraud

It’s been said it can’t be done. So we really want to do it.

And by ‘it,’ we mean eat a dozen donuts in one sitting, but also, completely eliminate ad fraud in media buys. If scientists can declare the world free of smallpox by 1979, we think something can be done about fraud.

Today, ad fraud is incentivized within the digital advertising industry, so agencies and publishers are better off blissfully ignoring the issue. They make revenue when traffic and click volume is high, so sometimes it can be better to turn a blind eye to the fact that ~40% of ad revenue is spent on bots and not actual humans.

So who’s losing out? Clients: The brands that pay advertising agencies to buy online real estate. According to Digiday, “It’s their ad dollars being wasted, after all, so it’s up to them to ask the right questions of their partners.” That’s $6 billion annually wasted from showing ads to bots.

Here’s our list of top 5 questions that need to be asked to eliminate fraud:

1. How many real humans are seeing the ads?
Differentiating humans and bots is key in eliminating fraud, as bots can inflate the volume of views by over 40%.

2. How is engagement measured?
This is ideal: knowing that a real human is interacting with the brand. Interaction leads to greater brand recall and proves that the ad was seen.

3. For how long are real humans engaging with the ad?
Was the ad accidentally seen or clicked? Or did someone intentionally choose to further explore the brand? Only time will tell.

4. Will the ad boost brand favorability?
We’re constantly getting bombarded with ads and our brains have figured out how to ignore most of what we see. Clients hope their brands will seep into the subconscious and surface when people make purchasing decisions, and it’s important to know if the ad was favorably seen or hated when passing into the subconscious mind. Whether someone has a positive or negative feeling about the brand will factor into whether or not they’ll ultimate make a purchase.

5. How are all of the above metrics measured?
The industry-standard measure of ‘viewability’ is highly flawed. An ad counts as viewed if at least 50% of an ad’s pixels appear on the screen for at least one second. That’s the best the industry can do. We wrote a recent article on the problem with viewability. New, better metrics are a must for the industry if we want accurate data.

Ultimately, most ad fraud is not a case of one party directly ripping off another, but rather the result of a number of different factors interacting in a variety of complex and sometimes unexpected ways. Eliminating ad fraud won’t be an easy journey, but the first step towards a fraud-free world is simply to ask the right questions.


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