Tackling online Ad fraud


Online Ad Fraud has long been the elephant in the room for brands and website owners alike. With billions of ad spend being wasted each year on non-human traffic, many in the industry are still concerned little is being done to prevent and in-time cure the problem. Ad fraud can take many guises, including bots being able to generate false ad impressions and clicks, fill out forms, serve spam or malware and trigger retargeted ads.

What is the impact?

Estimates vary, but it’s significant. The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) earlier in the year forecast the advertising industry overall could lose approximately $7.2 billion globally to non-human traffic (bots) in 2016. (Source: www.ana.net/content/show/id/botfraud-2016)

The ANA, in a research white paper with White Ops (a cyber security company), found that the worst-hit advertisers had served 37 per cent of its online ad campaigns to bots. With the advertisers most at risk being those who purchased ads through technology platforms that aggregate large numbers of websites.

What can be done?

In the short-term, ad tech companies are being looked to for solutions as well as the larger agencies, who are starting to take a much more proactive stance. GroupM, for example have named John Montgomery as a Brand Safety Executive, where he will be taking best practises for online safety and viewability from the US and implementing them in other markets.

“Clients want to know their brands are safe and that the digital components of their media plans are effective in every region in which they operate. And importantly, they deserve to get what they’re paying for—the engagement of their targeted audiences with their brand messages, accountability and safety,” Rob Norman, chief digital officer, said in a statement.

Other solutions focus around being able to analyse data for signals and real time blocking to prevent ads from being served on fraudulent web pages before impressions hit the creative server, so advertisers aren’t charged.

What are Smartology doing for their clients?

Combating ad fraud is key for Smartology, and we have developed a number sophisticated strategies and techniques to enable us to remove bot impressions and clicks, programmatically from our systems. In line with the filtration guidelines set out by the IAB, (http://www.iab.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Ad-Impression-Measurement-guideline-Global.pdf), our approaches both filter where we have been able to identify suspected non-human activity and are also based on pattern analysis (where the activity is seemingly different from how a human would behave, such as generating a large number of clicks in a short time window). We also verify our impressions and clicks against a number of independent systems, such as MOAT, DFP and DFA.

With bots prevalent across all devices, the aim for the industry must be to use emerging technologies and to encourage best practices among publisher websites and service providers in order to combat the issue. Advertisers can then focus on the real performance metrics of a campaign with confidence.

Gary Neal

Chief Operating Officer – Smartology



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