Ad Fraud Drives More Click Fiction

by Sara Stevens January 15, 2016   /   Ad Quality
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It’s been few weeks since my last blog, Clicks, The False Positive. And since then, more musings have surfaced in the media about the fiction associated with the click. My favorite was a recent article in Business Insider by Shann Biglione of Zenith Optimedia. He went after the click with more vigor than I’ve seen before. Some of his words of wisdom: “We have produced a click obsessed monster so ugly that even the people who work in advertising cannot stand its stench.”

To Shann’s point, many things stink about the click. Last time I briefly touched on how ad fraud degrades the click even more. It’s a serious topic with serious revenue tied to it. As marketers shift more budget to digital media and adopt programmatic solutions, and as channels of consumption continue to blur, fraud acts as an opportunist—computer-optimized to engage when the opportunity is ripe—and the losses can multiply quickly.

I’ve sifted through oodles of research on fraud. While the numbers vary, a recent study by the IAB estimates the total annual cost of flaws in the Internet supply chain to be $8.2 billion. Invalid traffic tops the list at 56%, or $4.6 billion in losses.

Fraud costs

Click fraud sits in the Invalid Traffic segment. And it’s not just the financial waste that’s the issue: It’s the downstream impact of having bots in the analysis pool of clickers, which is already small. Organizations that emphasize click performance for display engage in a variety of behaviors whose consequences erode understanding of the marketing mix. Here are a few I’ve either heard about or observed first hand:

click-fiction_blog_table (1)

You may be wondering how, with all the advancements in technology, companies work to mitigate fraud. Some of the more talked-about include viewability and other guarantees.

But the key strategy is understanding what you may be bidding on. And that’s done by learning from a strong, robust network that tracks people over time, like Conversant does. The network sends signals that help decide who may be the most viable to deliver an impression to. Some of the red flags we look for:

  • Dead cookies
  • People who never transact
  • People whose only activity is clicking
  • People who are only active between 10 and midnight every night (indicating an artificial surfing pattern)
  • Any other patterned clicking activity that appears to be automated

These are just some of the signals of bot behavior. A network that can recognize them can mitigate fraud and preserve advertiser budgets.

So, even more reason to get off the click bandwagon. And next time, instead of talking about the worst way to measure display, I’ll talk about the best way: Accounting for the view-through and measuring incremental sales.

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