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In the digital world, we have an opportunity to reach anyone anywhere who has access to the Internet. People from all over the globe can read your article, watch videos, or see posts on social media. But how do we know that somebody really saw it? This is where the problem of ad fraud appears.

It is becoming one of the most critical concerns in digital communications. P&G, Unilever, and Uber have cut their digital advertising budgets by hundreds of millions of dollars and didn’t notice any negative change. Facebook deleted 1.3 billion fake accounts. This is the scale of the ad fraud, and it is still growing.

What is ad fraud?

Advertising fraud can take many different forms. But the primary purpose is the same for all types – extract money from advertising budgets by creating artificial, non-human traffic (IAB).

The scale of the ad fraud is impossible to calculate. Estimations for 2022 vary between 44 and 87 billion dollars. In 2019, it was more than $22 billion, and the most affected was the Chinese market, with losses reaching $18 billion.

You can see excellent results from your ad campaign regarding impressions, views, and click-through rates, but somehow it doesn’t influence business. You might think that maybe you should improve your copy or website’s quality, and these are the barriers stopping clients from sales.

They indeed can be the reasons, but most probably, these views and conversions are not even your possible clients! According to dr Augustine Fou, leading anti-fraud consultant and researcher, 99% of impressions on the Internet can be fake. The quality publishers produce only 1%. The rest is everything else. There are millions of pages created only to fake views but also clicks and simple conversions.

On the other hand, IAB estimated that 20-35% of all ad impressions are connected to fraud. It is impossible to say which approximation is closer to the actual scale of this plague. But no doubt, it costs advertisers billions of dollars every year.

How does it work?

Ad space on many websites is cheaper and potentially offers the same or better results. Unfortunately, the reality is not so great. These ads are watched and clicked by bots, they are extremely small (like one pixel), or they are placed on the top of the other. But by coding tricks, they are still counted as an impression, view, or conversion by analytics tools.

Ad frauds are difficult to detect, but it is possible. You can also minimise the chance of being a victim. The first thing recommended by experts is to know your data. When something strange is happening like 100% bounce rate, 0% bounce rate, or the same duration time of the session – do not ignore it. Start investigating and find out the reason – it may be ad fraud.

There are also solutions preventing ad frauds for you. Companies like SpotX or Rubicon will analyse data for you and alarm when they find a possibility of fraud. Moreover, it is crucial to understand how the fraudsters are operating and how dangerous it is for your company. There are also industry standards like ads.txt to help to prevent ad frauds.

The appropriate strategic approach can minimise the risk. KPIs based on impressions and clicks can be unreliable and vulnerable to ad frauds. More conversion-oriented objectives can be an excellent way to assess communications campaigns reasonably. Moreover, buying ad space on recognised websites can drastically lower the chance of fraud.

Unfortunately, the development of new technologies brings not only pros but also cons and ad fraud is one of them. If you would like to read about its danger for graduate-level PR jobs, check it here.

Ad fraud plague and its influence on marketing measurement

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