I was documenting myself lately on the different types of ad fraud and thought I would do a short article on it.
First interesting figure from the ANA (Association of National Advertisers) is that 9% of desktop display and 22% of Video spend was fraudulent in 2017. That represents roughly $7B. The good news is that it's decreasing (-2% YoY between 2016 and 2017). Advertisers and/or their agencies are better educated and equiped from a strategy and tooling perspective to mitigate that threat. Still, the fight continues! and so does this article.
"Ad Fraud type #1: Traffic sourcing"
Let's start with the biggest fish in the pond.
Imagine a publisher who has contracted with an advertiser to deliver a certain number of impressions. However, for some reason, the publisher doesn't have enough organic (=coming from search engines, social, etc) visitors. The publisher will buy traffic from a 3d party vendor who is going to send users from other sites to the publisher's site.
Now, the issue is that generally the advertiser will buy that specific publisher's audience because it matches the persona it tries to reach (= content based targeting). However, in that case, the advertiser will get an audience not interested in what he/she is selling. Worst case, it could actually be bots instead of actual traffic...
"Ad Fraud type #2: Bots/NHT (Non-Human Traffic)"
Bots or Non Human Traffic (NHT) is about simulating a visitor's behaviour on the publisher's site to generate an impression, a click or even a conversion on the site. A bot can also get retargeted potentially.
Bots can either run from data centres or from people's laptop when contaminated by certain viruses. Pretty nasty...
"Ad Fraud type #3: Click Farms"
This one is pretty self explanatory and you could question whether it should be categorised as a fraudulent activity.
You basically have a warehouse of low cost resources clicking for real on your ads banners. Just like buying fake social share/likes, this has no real value for the advertiser who's supposedly buying high value prospects' mindshare.
"Ad Fraud type #4: Ad Stacking" Ad stacking is again quite self explanatory. Ad placements are loaded over one another, effectively loading dozens of advertisers' ads that are never seen by the visitor.
"Ad Fraud type #5: Cookie Stuffing"
Cookie stuffing is a fraud associated to affiliate programs. Basically, when an affiliate site influences a sales on a merchant site, the affiliate gets $$.
The scam here consists in the affiliate site (=the publisher) calling in the background the merchant site to create 3d party cookies in the visitor's cookie list. This way when the visitor happens to visit and buy on the merchant's site at a later time, the cookie is here and proves the affiliate site's contribution to the sale. This can only work if the merchant is big enough to increase the chances of the visitor to convert on it at some point in time.
"Ad Fraud type #6: Domain Spoofing" Domain spoofing consists in making believe that your useless inventory is premium and have DSPs bidding and buying them over actual premium placements. Those placements would be consumed by bots nullifying all possible impact for your spend. This type of fraud made the news end of 2016 (MethBot campaign) when a group of Russian hackers managed to game the system generating $3-5M a day.
"Ad Fraud type #7: Ad Injection" Ad injection consists into ads being loaded on a publisher's page without his/her consent and knowledge. Those ads are usually injected by malicious browser toolbars or extensions and are either overlaying or replacing existing ads.
"Ad Fraud type #8: Pixel Stuffing" A bit similar to ad stacking, pixel stuffing consist in serving multiple ads on a publisher's site via 1x1 images. Obviously, none are visible to the end user though the advertisers are paying for those impressions.