Guest Column: Digital Ad Fraud, the biggest threat for marketers today: Sachin Uppal, CMO, Play Games24x7

Bot-driven traffic, pixel stuffing and other such tricks are outright fraud and make less than 50% of all online ads seen by a real human

e4m by Sachin Uppal
Updated: Aug 22, 2017 8:06 AM

Let's talk numbers first. As per a report by CNBC, ad frauds will cost brands $16.4 billion worldwide this year, and around 20% of the total digital ad spends was wasted in 2016. Furthermore, as per ad verification company Adloox, invalid traffic where bots view and click on adverts on websites, cost advertisers $12.5 billion in 2016. 


Moreover, online advertising campaigns bought using automated or programmatic technology is at a higher risk of fraud, as per The&Partnership's research. The firm states that 29% of the $27 billion spent on this kind of advertising globally in 2016, was on invalid traffic, equivalent to $7.8 billion. On the other hand, 12% of online adverts that are bought directly from publishers suffered from ad frauds, equalling $4.65 billion.


The World Federation of Advertisers went as far as to state that digital ad fraud can become the second biggest organized crime enterprise, behind the drug trade. Experts say that there is no doubt that malvertising is costing digital ad companies and networks 5–10% in revenue every year.


Keeping such a scenario in perspective, many companies in India are upping their battle against ad frauds to instill transparency, efficiency and trust in their online advertising efforts. 


The country today is the second largest internet and smartphone using nation, and the Indian online gaming industry is projected to add over 190 million gamers by 2021, as per a report by KPMG. Thus, the report emphatically corroborates a sea change in mindset where online gaming has become a way of life, rather than a mere choice. While games are primarily created to provide entertainment and deliver freedom from boredom to users, the companies which are offering those games, consider them as serious business as their very existence is pivoted on that. Companies should ensure complete end-to-end transparency when it comes to promoting digital games via media buying and digital advertising platforms. They should take a bold stand against invalid and fraudulent web traffic generators. The only marketer who will not need a verification system is the one who has something to conceal.  


Let us look at how a typical online fraud takes place. In a general scenario, systems are infected with malicious software or malware that instructs machines or bots to visit a web page and click on an ad or watch a video. Sometimes the bot spoofs the legitimate human organic traffic from an affiliate through cookie stuffing on browsers. Sometimes the app installs are driven by fake mobile devices and this is done by continuously changing the device identifiers. The fraudulent traffic often fools a marketer that he is getting a high volume of interested visitors and hence ends up paying a fee in order to place ads or links on the website. 


Therefore, having a non-transparent or opaque advertising funnel where ad spends can be lent redundant on fake views and publishers can lose money to spoofed domains, should be stopped. Digital advertising needs to be open and transparent, secure and auditable with a balanced and efficient ecosystem.


Though some marketers have been able to retrieve money from such fraudulent networks and publishers, many haven't been able to do so. Marketers need to be fully aware of the sources of web traffic that they are receiving and have a methodology in place to check if the traffic is genuine or not. As a leading advocate in the digital advertising segment, RummyCircle aims to validate its traffic with such tools effectively by running on-going checks, surprise checks, etc.


Vivek Singh, co-founder of Adby Ventures, an opportunity consulting company which specializes in Ad Fraud detection and resolution says, “In my previous avatar of being a marketer myself, I have gotten back money from such fraudulent networks and publishers. However, the priority is not to let things reach that position at the first place.”


As digital advertising expands and become more complex, the supply chain between marketers and publishers will get more elaborate. Many brand managers today have little clarity on where their ad is being shown and who is clicking on the ads. Lack of a standardized industry regulation and client knowledge further add to the problem. Brands should be educated as to how to buy smarter, and the industry should come together and work together as one cohesive force, bring in regulations, rather than operate in silos. 


If a marketer witnesses sudden spike in their ad traffic, they should check for metrics such as page depth and browser behaviour. More often than not, bot traffic does not tend to attain that engaging page depth and browser behaviour. Marketers should spend more time analysing the inventory bought for the brands, rather than purchasing inventory in large quantities.   


Bot-driven traffic, pixel stuffing and other such tricks are outright fraud and make less than 50% of all online ads that are seen by a real human. If such practices are not checked in time, it won’t be long before the online ad market will fall like a house of cards.


The author is the CMO of Play Games24x7

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

Read more news about (internet advertising India, internet advertising, advertising India, digital advertising India, media advertising India)

For more updates, be socially connected with us on
WhatsApp, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook & Youtube