Multiple vendors with proprietary methods and technical limitations add to confusion surrounding digital ad fraud.
Tom Drouillard, CEO, President and Managing Director
In our three truths blog series, we’re outlining the breadth of the digital advertising fraud problem. As an auditor, AAM has a unique view into the media supply chain and where the corruption occurs. In our previous blogs, we explored two key issues:
- Fraud occurs on both fake and legitimate websites.
- Illegitimate traffic sourcing is the main cause of fraud.
In this post, we’ll explore the benefits and limitations of ad fraud measurement.
Truth #3: Ad Fraud Measurement is Used to Transact but Does Not Minimize Ad Fraud
Digital ad fraud detection services are an important part of how the market transacts today because they add friction to combat the fraudsters. These services measure and filter non-human traffic. When these services are MRC-accredited, the market can have confidence that their processes and procedures adhere to industry standards for measurement services.
Multiple vendors with proprietary methods and technical measurement limitations compound the confusion surrounding ad fraud. To understand the limitations, consider the two techniques used to measure ad fraud today: in-ad and on-page measurement.
Advertisers and agencies use ad fraud detection vendors to measure fraud in their campaigns. They use in-ad measurement, which means a tag (computer code) is placed in the ad container. As a user travels to a publisher’s site, their browser executes the code and counts that ad exposure as a person or a bot.
There are two problems associated with in-ad measurement. The first problem is ad fraud detection vendors all have proprietary methods and calculate measurement differently. Running several fraud detection tags in the same ad will likely result in different measurements for each of them. The second problem is that in-ad measurement can only see what is happening within the ad container, not the other activity on the page. Because the ad is limited to a small area of the entire page, there are fewer data points that the tag can collect to determine whether the exposure was a human or bot.
Publishers also use fraud detection vendors to measure fraud on their sites and face the same issues of multiple vendors and methods. Publishers use on-page measurement, which is much different from in-ad measurement. The on-page method places a tag on the page where an ad is displayed allowing the tag to see the whole page. This method has a better chance of producing a more accurate measurement because it can detect more engagement on the entire page such as scrolling and clicking. This is the reason that an advertiser’s in-ad measurements are normally at odds with a publisher’s on-page measurements.
When you layer technical limitations of fraud measurement and proprietary methods from multiple vendors with the practice of purchasing bot traffic that is engineered to pass fraud detection, it is clear why there is frustration at all sides of the market. The measurements the industry relies on for transaction purposes deliver a false sense of security.
Illegitimate sourced bot traffic can pass through fraud detection and produce misleading metrics. The marketer pays the publisher for ads exposed to this traffic. The agency’s and publisher’s fraud metrics appear to be accurate. The marketer pays the agency. In this case, everyone in the system is making money at the expense of the marketer. But there’s no return on investment for robotic exposures. Marketers are beginning to understand this and want to fix the system.
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