What Marketers Do When They Find Ad Fraud


Over the years, I’ve heard horror stories from marketers — that they found ad fraud and got their money back. Truly horrible, right? I didn’t think so until they told me further that they then had the problem of “all this leftover money, and nowhere to spend it.” Boo-frickin’-hoo. I can tell you where to stick all that money! 

Where?

Don’t give the money to me; instead, walk it down the hall to your CFO’s office and tell him or her that you just saved X dollars. Those dollars drop straight down to the bottom line. That’s right, those dollars directly increased the profitability of your business unit. Think of all those razor-thin margin businesses. How many dollars would you have to spend in advertising to drive some more sales, only to get a 1 – 3% net profit? That’s right, a frickin’-LOT of money. So, a dollar saved is truly a dollar earned in these cases. CFOs also call it “retained earnings” for a reason. 

Post Mortem Fraud Refunds

When you find ad fraud and then get your money back usually means the advertiser was using fraud detection tech, that just gives an IVT (“invalid traffic”) number with no explanation or supporting data. So the client can’t do anything other than try to get a refund back, after the campaign is already over. The ads were already shown to bots, and you can’t turn back time. Further, note how hard, how long, and how costly it is for that to happen. Uber is suing 100 mobile ad exchanges for fraud — falsifying placement reports or fabricating them entirely when no ads even ran. Of those 100 companies, they could only name 5 of them as defendants; the rest are “John Doe.” Even if Uber won the lawsuit, most of these ad tech companies have already died and gone away and the money’s been gone for years. Once the money’s in the pockets of the bad guys, you are never seeing it again. See: How Will You Get Refunds For Brand Safety and Ad Fraud?  

Pre-bid Fraud Blocking

Instead of avoiding the ad fraud in the first place by buying digital ads from good, mainstream publishers that have human audiences, marketers choose to buy low cost crap from programmatic exchanges. Then they pay extra for fraud detection, brand safety detection, viewability detection, pre-bid blocking, etc. The first three don’t work well, as I have written before [1], [2], [3], so I won’t belabor those points here. I’ll talk about the ill-conceived notion that pre-bid blocking will reduce fraud significantly. At the time a webpage loads, a bid request is sent out to request bids for that page and that user (represented by a “cookie” in the browser). If the page has been seen before and is a known fraudulent site, bid blocking can prevent bids from being made. If the user/cookie or IP address is that of a known bot, bids can also be blocked.

All these decisions have to be made in milliseconds. Note that fake sites and bots are clever enough to trick the detection by dumping the cookies and getting new ones, and rotating their IP addresses. If the fraud detection systems have not seen the page, user/cookie, or IP address before, they “let it through” and the bid happens and the ad is served. The vast majority of bids and ads are let through because every ad tech company in the supply chain makes more money on higher volumes. They don’t want to block too much. So you think you blocked fraud? Not sure? Then pay more for the fraud detection we mentioned in the first section. You thought you were saving money by buying cheap ads? Well, all of this add-on protection money is surely adding up. 

Actionable Analytics — “See For Yourself”

What if there’s a better way? So you don’t have to pay for ill-conceived prebid blocking, which fails to block clever bots and fraudsters, and then pay more for fraud detection, which reports a number to you (percent IVT) and you still have to try to get the money back? What if you could see the fraud for yourself, understand why something is fraudulent or not, see where it came from (what sites and what apps), and turn exclude those sites and apps while the campaign is still running so less money flows to fraud sites and apps and more money flows to better sites and apps — like ones that have humans, so you can show your ad to the humans?

SlideshareHow to Use FouAnalytics For Marketers

Sound cool? Yeah, I agree. Even if prebid blocking failed to block the sites and the bot cookies, you can see where your ads were shown and whether the user that caused the ad to load was a human or a bot. When you find those sites and apps that have a lot of cheating going on, you can turn them off — i.e. add them to exclude list or remove them from your include lists. You use those, right? By avoiding the fraud while the campaign is still running you avoid having your dollar go into the pockets of bad guys and your ads are shown to more humans. This way, you don’t have to try to get your money back after the campaign is over, which is already too late.

With analytics, you can be the marketer who finds the fraud and reduces it mid-flight yourself. You can be the marketer who directly impacts the bottom line of your business unit. You can be the leader who helps your entire company emerge from the “dark ages” of digital marketing, and run headlong into the light of real, better marketing. 



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What Marketers Do When They Find Ad Fraud

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