Enough About Viewability, Let’s Talk Fraud

Avi260The subject of viewability has created a sense of hysteria in the digital advertising space. Of course, viewability is an issue that requires a solution, but to Tom’s earlier point on this site, the issue we really should be talking about is the fraud that serves as the catalyst and makes these false impressions possible. We need to fight issues around viewability from the source—the fraud that leaves us wondering who is really seeing our ads.

In recent weeks and months, we’ve seen a head-scratching move by some companies claiming that their ad inventories are “X percent fraud-free.” These efforts to quantify fraud are entirely misleading, playing on the current frenzy in our industry. Realistically, if fraud has been identified, it should be able to be blocked. What we really need to worry about is the fraud we can’t identify. Marketers must come to terms with the fact that the ad tech space will never be 100-percent fraud-free. Much like cyber criminals who inflict computer viruses upon unsuspecting users, fraudsters will always look for weaknesses in the space to find a way in. Rather than being satisfied with X percent of the traffic being “fraud-free,” companies should accept that fraud will always exist, and commit to finding, developing and utilizing new and  different tools and expertise to fight it.

There are a number of checks and balances marketers can employ to ensure they are mitigating fraud as much as possible and gaining greater insight into their viewability metrics, including:

  • Fresh data is good – transaction data, even better: Sure, it’s great if data is as up-to-date as it can be. But it is purchase or transaction data that is closer to being truly clean. By using transaction data, marketers can feel more confident that they are targeting real consumers. What’s more, these consumers are also the highest-value target customers, as they are currently shopping. A data co-op or other shared data exchange can provide this type of transaction data, and these shared data sources are also a great way to inform campaigns by leveraging real shopper insights that provide visibility into cross-channel behaviors.
  • The right marketplace: Using private marketplaces to purchase media can be a great way to eliminate fraud. However, to reach scale, you still need to buy on the open exchange. The right partner has tools in place to combat fraud, blacklist fraudulent providers, and prevent them from buying false inventory on sites, ensuring ads will be viewable and impressions are legitimate. Having visibility into media and campaigns is an enormous asset in understanding what fraud can look like.
  • Two is better than one: Pairing the above strategies together will yield optimal results. When your data source and marketplace work in concert, it makes the identification of bot-infected browsers much easier. Digital advertising companies that manage both data and media can catch a higher degree of fraud than companies that only look at one of these areas.

With so many opportunities for fraud in the industry and constant mergers in the digital advertising space, it is easy (and justified) for marketers to have suspicions about the reliability of attribution services. It is important that marketers, agencies and vendors all voice support for the development of an independent, third-party, fraud-fighting entity to help validate and track the behaviors, practices, data and media of companies in the digital advertising world. While we will always face issues around fraud in our space, we can all work together to identify the culprits and ensure that as much fraudulent inventory as possible is blocked and removed.

Avi Spivack is Senior Director, Product Commercialization, at Adroit Digital.  Avi brings more than a decade’s worth of diverse digital experience to his role, having worked as a web editor, sales engineer and technical project manager. Prior to joining Akamai’s ADS team in 2009, Avi held multiple roles at Yahoo and Experian CheetahMail. He graduated from Wesleyan University with a degree in English. While not rooting for Boston’s sports teams or watching the movies of Woody Allen, Avi hangs with his wife and daughter, always on the lookout for their next great meal. Catch his tweets @avispiv.