Addressing the perpetual menace of ad frauds: Ashish Shah, Vertoz

Guest Column: Shah, Founder & CEO, Vertoz says the arena of ad fraud is highly dynamic hence one has to be vigilant & updated with the latest happenings & technological advancements

Ashish Shah

The problem of ad frauds has been creating headlines in the advertising industry since quite some time. It is still prevalent and has become a major problem for advertisers. Ad fraud is a broad term and can include any type of online fraudulent activities, whereby advertisers are misled and made to pay for fake and low-quality traffic. All types of ad frauds basically revolve around this same idea. Because of ad frauds, the brands that are investing in digital advertising are heavily losing their monies, which is creating a bad reputation for the industry within corporate circles and creating trust issues.

Moreover, the frauds are continuously evolving and becoming more sophisticated with every passing day. When the industry comes up with some solution to address the problem, fraudsters come up with more sophisticated ways to perpetrate frauds. They leverage the newest technologies to fuel their malicious intentions. 

Sometime back, the advertising industry was rocked by Hyphbot and Methbot - the two ad frauds regarded as the biggest ever. They devoured enormous volumes of ad dollars. Methbot generated around $3 to $5 million in fraudulent ad revenue per day by targeting premium video advertising ecosystem. Whereas, Hyphbot which was detected in 2017, and was 3-4 times the size of Methbot, generated up to 1.5 billion ad requests per day. The sheer volume of the losses is enough to explain the gravity of this humongous problem facing the industry today.

The first step in the direction of finding a solution is taking a brief overview of the different aspects that need to be addressed. So, let’s look at the different types of ad frauds that have plagued the advertising industry today.

Click farms
Click frauds hire people to click on the ads, thereby, increasing the number of clicks artificially. Click farms are also used to create bogus product reviews, views and likes. Entities indulging in such unethical practices run a risk of creating a distrustful environment among their customers. 

Hiding ads/ Ad stacking
Ad stacking is when ads are hidden by other ad(s) which are placed in the same ad spot. This causes the ads placed below to be hidden by the ones layered on the top. However, advertisers end up paying for all of them. Pixel stuffing is another way of doing this, wherein a single pixel is stuffed with the complete ad, that they are completely indecipherable.

Ad injection
Ad injection is the practice of secretly injecting the ads into the web pages, without the permission of the website owners. This can lead to the legitimate ads being completely replaced by other illegitimate ads. 

Cookie stuffing
Cookies are small text files dropped and stored on the users’ system with their knowledge & consent and hold the data about a particular website. But, cookie stuffing is putting a cookie on the users’ computers without their knowledge. It is a technique mostly used in affiliate marketing, to make money without actually referring people to the merchant’s website. 

Domain spoofing
It is a practice wherein fraudsters pass off low-quality inventory as a high-quality or premium site, whereby the ads on the safe content are exposed to the high traffic of the unsafe content. 

These are only a few ways to perpetrate ad frauds. The arena of ad fraud is highly dynamic. With each passing day, the fraudsters find out novel ways of carrying out fraudulent transactions. Hence, one has to be extremely vigilant, and has to be constantly updated with the latest happenings and technological advancements. However, it is extremely difficult for advertisers to be updated on every single topic.

In order to combat this issue, advertisers should start by partnering with the right kind of programmatic platform. They should opt for a platform that has fraud detection and fraud prevention mechanisms in place. They help to filter out fraudulent ads in real-time, thereby ensuring a good level of protection against ad frauds. Advertisers can partner with programmatic platforms that have tied-up with / are members of trusted industry bodies like Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), and The Internet And Mobile Association of India (IAMAI). 

Further, advertisers should measure goals and conversions, not clicks. Having click-based goals makes the brand vulnerable to ad frauds perpetrated through bots. However, if the measurement is based on more actionable metrics, like lead forms and conversions, it increases the chances of detecting fraud. In addition, publishers must implement IAB’s ads.txt protocol. It consists of a text file, hosted by publishers on their web servers, which lists down all authorized dealers who can sell their inventory. Publishers should also monitor the source of their traffic and also let advertisers know about the same. 

Advertisers must also track the behaviour of their visitors. This can be done with the help of third-party traffic assessment and monitoring tools. Advertisers must also make sure that the visitors they are getting on their campaigns are in accordance to their targeting strategy. If the targeting is done for BFSI sector, and the traffic belongs to the age group of 15-20, then that might indicate fraudulent traffic. They can also use frequency capping, which caps the total number of times the ads are shown to a particular visitor, which enables them to limit their losses (if any).  

Ad fraud causes advertisers not only to lose their precious ad dollars but also causes a waste of ad impressions, which could have been shown to a real user and might have generated revenue. Further, it also hampers the publishers’. Fraudsters eat away a chunk of the publishers’ revenue. Ad frauds also hamper the publishers’ credibility. Thus, ad fraud is detrimental, not just to the advertisers, but to the entire ecosystem. Thus, it is the need of the hour that all the entities drive concerted efforts in the direction of combating ad fraud.
 
(The author is the Founder and CEO of Vertoz)

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com

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