Advertising Technology

Scott Knoll, CEO of Integral Ad Science on Fraud Prevention

1234 Scott Knoll is CEO and President of Integral Ad Science (formerly AdSafe media). Integral is a global media valuation platform that is integral to the buying and selling of quality media . Scott was most recently the founder and President of Aperture, the audience targeting and measurement technology platform that provides business intelligence to blue chip brands, agencies and online publishers. The Makegood recently spoke with Scott about Integral’s new real-time fraud prevention software.

The Makegood: Integral Ad Science just launched the first real-time fraud prevention software. How does this product prevent fraud and save advertisers money?

There are two important elements to any strong and scalable fraud prevention solution.  The first is real time detection.  This involves access to a lot real time data as well as a world-class data science team that can make sense of this data.  One thing that sets us apart is our strength in both areas.  Our team is made up of experts from all areas of science, and we have been working on impression fraud since 2011 and have developed a lot of intellectual property around fraud detection.  Secondly, we see billions of ad impressions on a daily basis and this gives us a distinct advantage over anyone else currently providing solutions to fraud.  Put these together and our ability to detect fraud is second to none.  Having said this, the ability to recognize fraud is only one part of the puzzle.  The second part is the ability to act on this data immediately, which we refer to as real time prevention.  The legacy way to stop fraud is to detect the sites in which fraud has been present and to stop advertising on these sites going forward.  This is typically enabled through a blacklist.  The problem with this approach is that it eliminates a large amount of good inventory – thus both buyers and sellers don’t like it – and it assumes that fraud is not dynamic.  Well it turns out fraud is incredibly dynamic and the bad guys keep changing the domains where they sell inventory in order to stay one step ahead of blacklists.  Integral’s solution leverages our world class technology stack to stop an ad from being served at the time we detect that the ad impressions is triggered by a bot and not a human.  By stopping it before an ad is served, we are also ensuring that an advertiser is not paying for the fraud.  This is a huge leap forward for the industry because it not only eliminates the challenges and restrictions associated with using blacklists, but it also stops revenue from flowing to the fraudsters.  We believe that as we roll this out, it will make it significantly harder to make money in fraud and thus create a big disincentive to focus on fraud going forward.

The Makegood: This type of technology is unprecedented in this industry. Where did the idea originate from and how did it come to be?

The idea was a collaborative one with a handful of our most progressive clients.  In fact, these clients were ad exchanges who realized that unless they pro-actively took a stand against fraud, the long-term growth of the industry could be at stake.  We had not thought about leveraging our real time ad decisioning technology for the sell side, but quickly realized that sellers could use it to screen out non-human impressions prior to putting them up for auction.  This will go a long way in cleaning up the typical hiding places of the majority of the fraud.

The Makegood: What are some of the challenges that have come across in your attempts to stifle and even eliminate fraud in the advertising world?

There are a few challenges that come to mind immediately.  First, unlike click fraud where most of the supply and thus problem was contained to a few large players, impression fraud is much harder to stop because the supply of pages with ad inventory is nearly limitless.  Thus we can’t rely on one or two big publishers or content aggregators to put an end to it.  Second, our industry measures success with methodologies such as “last touch” that actually falsely credit fraud for an alarmingly high number of conversions.  Why is this?  Because “last touch” makes the basic assumption that every ad exposure is of equal quality and served to a human.  The bad guys prey on assumptions such as these and have created their technology to perform well for anyone optimizing against last touch.  Finally, up until recently, the industry wasn’t talking much about the fraud issue.  I don’t think people realized how big and pervasive it was.  This of course played into the hands of those perpetuating fraud as they could operate under the radar screen and keep stealing without advertisers knowing.  Fortunately, over the past 9 months there has been a lot written about the problem in the press and the IAB as well as industry leaders such like John Battelle have taken a public stand against this theft.

The Makegood: How do you think those that perpetuate this fraud will respond to this new technology?

At first it’s doubtful that the bad guys will be concerned.  Many vendors claim they have a “real time” solution and yet the bad guys’ businesses have thrived despite this.  So there is no reason for those perpetuating fraud to worry that our new technology is different. In fact, several of the other providers of fraud solutions have quickly tried to claim that they have similar technology within 24 hours of our announcement. Our industry is a unique one indeed! The difference in our technology from others sounds subtle, but in fact it is very significant.  We make ad delivery decisions based on whether the browser calling the ad is a bot or human, where others leverage historical information on an impression or site.  Our technology is a completely new weapon in the fight against the bad guys and they no doubt will start to feel the hit in terms of shrinking revenue almost immediately.  We expect that they will scramble to quickly try and enhance their technology to fool us as well, but fortunately the way we prevent fraud is much harder for the bad guys to trick.  In any case, we are confident in our ability to stay one step ahead of them and their tactics.

The Makegood: How do you plan to develop this technology further to stay ahead of fraud?

We are continually investing in our team and our proprietary technology to combat impression fraud.  We are not just six people in a garage and fortunately have the resources, infrastructure and team to attack fraud with actionable and scalable solutions.  We are fortunate enough to already work with over 70 of the Ad Age’s top 100 advertisers, understand the extent of the issues they are facing better than anyone else out there. Now we have the technology to immediately help them stop the bad guys from stealing their precious ad dollars.

 The Makegood: Thank you, Scott