Avoid programmatic fraud with these strategic tips
Programmatic ad fraud is a looming problem for marketers, but contributor Soo Jin Oh lays out some strategies that can help you combat it.
It seems as though you can’t read about programmatic these days without the mention of fraud. A recent study commissioned by two WPP media buying agencies estimated that fraudulent traffic could cost digital advertisers upwards of $16.4 billion in 2017 alone. That figure is staggering and rightfully makes the topic of fraud a constant in industry narratives and digital marketplaces — and it doesn’t seem to be disappearing anytime soon.
Marketers face a dilemma when it comes to programmatic technology: embrace the benefits of scale, efficiency and targeting, and expose yourself to the fraud lurking in the background.
Luckily, fraud can be consciously avoided and isn’t something you simply have to surrender to in a programmatic campaign. It all relies on campaign execution. After all, the campaigns that experience a large percentage of fraud are typically suffering from poor execution strategy.
Although it may seem as though your anti-fraud choices are limited, marketers, in fact, have many. Savvy marketers use the tools at their disposal to limit their programmatic campaigns’ exposure to fraud. Specifically, they make the following smart strategy decisions that fuel both design and execution in anti-fraud initiatives:
Rely on meaningful success metrics
Click-through rate (CTR) is one of the easiest metrics to fake, so it’s an area where fraud is plentiful. A campaign that’s optimized towards this metric, then, is exposing itself to more fraud.
Pixalate’s latest report on “programmatic click fraud” shows click fraud to be prevalent across all screens and growing at alarming rates.
The report also proves fraud follows dollars and that there’s a proliferation of click fraud happening, not just in display, but also in video.
These stats are not only eye-opening, but should also make us take immediate action around how we define and award good performers. Marketers should rely on other success metrics to drive campaign objectives.
Measurable engagements such as site navigation or sign-up rate for a service or product are not only less susceptible to fraud, but they provide a much more meaningful analysis of your target audience. And tracking CTR doesn’t show much value in the efficacy of the ad spend anyway.
Penalize the perpetrators
Fraud has many catalysts, one of them being the crowded programmatic marketplace. There are many players involved in the space, and a single impression could pass through many hands before reaching your trading desk. Fraudsters use varying tactics across different devices and channels, making it important for marketers to utilize fraud protection at the device and channel level.
As a marketer, managing your relationship with other players is critical. An open dialogue, along with routine and thorough fraud measurement reports conducted with all of your vendors, is imperative to eliminating campaign fraud. These relationships will provide transparency into which vendors are doing the work of eliminating junk. The companies that promote and can report 100 percent fraud-free environments will obviously limit your campaign’s exposure.
Promote the tools
Today’s marketers have a plethora of technologies to choose from. The choice is both limitless and overwhelming.
Eliminating fraud will be the result of a harmonious industry effort. Marketers specifically can play their part by promoting the tools that work — and conversely, holding those that don’t work accountable.
Good tools exist — it’s simply a matter of sifting through the marketplace and finding them. I suggest using third-party verification companies that are certified by the Media Rating Council. The more industry players rely on each other to identify fraud-protecting players, the easier it will be to defeat fraud.
Maintain a universal blacklist
Marketers have the advantage of using both whitelists and blacklists when purchasing impressions via programmatic channels. Blacklists are particularly useful in combating fraud. You may find that some sites deliver the majority of fraudulent impressions. These websites could have URLs with anything from a seemingly believable title to www.newyokrtimes.com.
If you didn’t catch it, it was intended that way. Fraudsters are clever — they will invert one or two letters to make it seem like you’re purchasing impressions on a reputable site. It’s an easy mistake to make, but one that could cost you thousands.
Do the due diligence of detecting fraudulent behavioral patterns — fraudsters are always changing their tactics, but they do leave fingerprints. You can use these fingerprints to build a strong blacklist that should be refreshed and updated regularly. Flagging something like the inverted letter sites is particularly helpful, as a blacklist will automatically block the site from the pool of available inventory you see for purchase.
Other options include private, invite-only marketplaces where inventory is more transparent and definitive, from both the buy and sell side.
The options are quite numerous, and each plays an important and varied role depending on the campaign objective. Programmatic campaigns that strategically leverage the tools at hand to avoid fraud will be best positioned to combat it.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.