How to fight against online ad fraud (in 6 steps)
In the era of fake news and ad misplacement, how can marketers fight back? Columnist Grace Kaye outlines her agency's methods to help you take action.
How do you fight ad misplacement and fraudulent advertising? First of all, it’s hard. No media buyer can guarantee complete brand safety, nor can they ensure that every single impression is from a real person rather than a bot. A percentage of any digital advertising spend, at least for the foreseeable future, will either be wasted on non-human traffic (NHT) or served on inappropriate sites.
The best an agency can do, for now, is keep this percentage as low as possible. The current accepted benchmark of around 10 to 15 percent for NHT on an ad campaign, as Adloox has suggested, is seriously unambitious; we can all aim a lot higher than that.
It is up to agencies, after all, to re-establish trust in digital — something that’s profoundly lacking, as Procter & Gamble’s Marc Pritchard highlighted in his speech at the Internet Advertising Bureau’s annual leadership meeting earlier this year.
Our agency’s system for fighting ad misplacement isn’t perfect; perfection isn’t possible when the landscape keeps changing and the enemy keeps updating. All the same, we have managed to keep NHT traffic down to an average of 0.3 percent, which seems a realistic target for any agency that’s willing to be rigorous in their approach.
As an act of solidarity and, as always, in the interests of complete transparency, I’ve shared our methods below.
Step 1: DBM
Google has a pretty extensive list of banned sites, which continues to expand. Anyone who uses DoubleClick Bid Manager (DBM) gains this first layer of protection.
The fact that we tend to use just one DSP (demand-side platform) — rather than selecting from the 10 or so DSPs that exist — allows us to better optimize how we use it, including our ad misplacement strategy.
Step 2: DBM +
DBM has additional safety settings. We always encourage clients to choose the maximum setting. As the saying goes: “It’s better to be safe than… funding terrorists.”
Also, there’s so much inventory out there. Not serving on any alcohol-related websites isn’t going to prevent you from getting the reach you need. (Sorry, “Guide to the Best Real Ales this Side of Penzance,” but you didn’t make the cut.)
Step 3: Our own lists
Alongside the efficiency of automation, there will always be the need for common sense. The third layer of protection comes from our own lists, plus any extras from clients.
We have a list of blocked sites and negative keywords developed by our programmatic team, which is updated as new bad stuff emerges.
Step 4: Adloox
With great humility, we use Adloox as a rare third-party tool (kudos to Adloox). Adloox checks every site pre-bid (that’s PRE-bid) to make sure we don’t waste a single impression on an inappropriate site.
Step 5: Adloox 2
Our ad has gone through four sets of burly bouncers, and it’s finally having a great time on the digital dance floor. Then a telltale tap on the shoulder: the manager’s found out it’s not supposed to be there. Out it goes, gin and tonic abandoned only a couple of sips down.
Adloox monitors every ad served, providing metrics on viewability, impressions, quality, category, and also domain classification. So if a site starts to behave irregularly, it gets flagged, investigated, and then, if necessary, the ad is removed.
Step 6: The never-ending step
Battles are lost and won, but the war never ends. People will always find ways of sneaking under the radar, so ongoing vigilance is essential.
After a campaign is live, we manually vet sites, create daily reports and consult frequently with Adloox and DBM. The final step is ongoing because new domains are created every day, suppliers change their strategies, government regulation gradually adapts, and new tools become available.
We have to be willing to continually evolve.
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