Digital ad spend has seen a drastic increase in the last few years, with over a $100 billion increase in revenue between 2018 and 2020 alone, according to eMarketer. And with more and more people rushing to take advantage of the growing programmatic advertising market by the day, it was only a matter of time before the industry fell victim to ad fraud.
Programmatic advertising scams are a growing problem within the digital and mobile advertising industries. Each year, publishers are losing more and more revenue to various advertising fraud scams. Today, an average ad fraudster makes between $5 and $20 million yearly! Astonishing, isn’t it?
Yes, but what’s even worse is just how much ad revenue is lost to scammers globally. Take a look at it yourself:
As you can see, ad fraud losses are growing yearly, and it is predicted that they will rise to around $100 billion by 2023.
With such massive numbers at stake in the ad tech industry, it’s unsurprising that publishers are always looking for ways to protect themselves from ad fraud. Luckily, there are ways to do that! But before we get to them, there are a few essential things we should cover first!
Digital advertising fraud is a purposeful, malicious act of tampering with digital ad delivery and preventing ads from reaching end users. This action is often performed by various pieces of automated software (bots).
The biggest appeal of this type of fraud is that botting schemes are relatively easy to set up (as long as you have sufficient programming knowledge), hard to detect, and incredibly safe. And by safe, we mean that they are low-risk for the fraudsters.
But how is that possible? The reason is simple — they work in such a way that they don’t necessarily “steal” money, but rather make advertisers spend it incorrectly. That kind of high-payout, low-risk scheme is why ad fraud is so commonplace nowadays.
Programmatic ad fraud works in various ways, such as by manipulating:
Scammers most often achieve this effect using bots or various types of malware. These result in invalid traffic, fake impressions, clicks, and conversions, and imitated user activity. But what does that imply for digital advertisers? It’s pretty straightforward — all of the above factors are crucial to their generating revenue. So having third-parties tamper with these numbers can significantly hurt advertisers’ incomes by forcing them to pay for actions that never took place!
The first step to protecting yourself from ad fraud is to learn how fraudsters may try to scam you out of your ad revenue. Here are eight of the most common ad fraud techniques to look out for:
Let’s look at each of them in more detail.
Pixel stuffing is an ad fraud technique where scammers display an advertisement in a 1×1 pixel area, making it so small that it becomes invisible to the human eye. However, despite its being invisible to users, the fraudsters still receive an impression for the ad.
Likely the worst part about pixel stuffing is that scammers can repeat this as many times as they wish on a given web page. You can probably already guess how detrimental this could be for advertisers!
Similarly to pixel stuffing, ad stacking works on a similar principle — receiving fake impressions. Ad stacking entails fraudsters displaying multiple ads in one ad placement. In other words, they stack several ads on top of each other! By doing that, they receive credits for multiple impressions when, in reality, they’ve only earned one.
Ad injection works similarly to click injection — it is all about faking it! Instead of faking clicks, ad injection places ads where they don’t belong, usually through a browser extension or a plugin. The fraudsters hijack a server to place an ad into a space dedicated to another online advertisement and can sometimes even put them on websites that don’t allow ads at all.
Domain spoofing is undoubtedly the most common form of ad fraud nowadays and entails selling ad inventory on low-quality websites by falsely presenting them as high-profile sites. This ad fraud technique works because most ad networks use a real-time bidding system to sell ad inventory to the highest bidders. Domain spoofing abuses the system by misrepresenting a website’s quality and tricking advertisers into purchasing their ad inventory for higher prices than it’s worth. There are several methods fraudsters may employ to achieve that:
All of the above methods serve to trick advertisers into thinking their ads are being served on high-quality domains instead of low-quality, irrelevant sites via URL substitution. Luckily, advertisers can easily catch most of the above fraudulent activities if careful.
Click injection is one of the most popular types of mobile ad frauds and can cost advertisers tons of money. The way this scam works is by artificially inflating user clicks in advertising scenarios. But how does that happen? Through malware, of course!
Fraudsters take advantage of this scheme through various malicious apps users accidentally download. These usually hide behind seemingly harmless applications or items like wallpapers, photo filters, voice changers, etc.
Once downloaded, these apps often remain running in the background and will generate clicks for fraudsters while browsing the web on your device. This malware simulates the user clicking on an ad, which gives scammers full credit for the fake click.
Click spamming is an incredibly common type of click fraud that focuses on generating fake clicks. This method floods the system with low-quality clicks in an attempt to steal click credit. This strategy isn’t that effective as it’s essentially a hail Mary for a click. However, fraudsters have slowly been perfecting this method over the last few years, making these clicks seem more legitimate.
One of the most widespread click-spamming schemes is click farms. These often entail human workers manually clicking ads or installing and uninstalling mobile apps to generate click credit. Fortunately, these schemes are quite easy to spot as most click farms operate from third-world countries as they rely on low-paid employees. So if you notice a sudden surge of clicks from countries like India or Thailand, you’re likely being targeted by a click farm scheme.
Not all advertising traffic is born equal! Yes — depending on their target audience and campaign goals, advertisers might value traffic from some countries more than others. That is where geo masking comes to ruin their day…
Fraudsters can use this ad fraud method to hide where their traffic is coming from. That way, they can sell non-valuable traffic to advertisers for significantly higher prices. The consequences of this scheme can be massive for advertisers as they will not only spend more money on low-quality traffic but because they’ll earn significantly less from it.
Luckily, if you notice a discrepancy in your conversion rates and impressions, you can notice and deal with this scheme before it causes irreparable harm to your revenue.
Unfortunately, there is no surefire way to avoid ad fraud, but there are ways to minimize the odds of falling victim to it or noticing it early enough not to suffer significant revenue losses. So here are a few tips on how to protect yourself from ad fraud based on its type:
Not even the programmatic video advertising industry is safe from ad fraud. Luckily, we at Brid.TV offer a perfectly safe environment for all publishers and digital video advertisers to host, manage, and monetize (or advertise) their video content.
Our online video platform has recently partnered up with Protected Media to ensure optimal ad fraud protection for all our users. Unlike with most other ad fraud protection companies, our partnership with Protected Media ensures our users will be safeguarded from ad fraud proactively, not retroactively. That means you will be protected before ad fraud takes. In other words, you will not get charged for invalid traffic if any is detected! We invite you to read more about this brand-new security feature and learn how it works here.
If you’re looking to host, manage, and monetize your videos without worrying about falling victim to ad fraud, we at Brid.TV can help you! Come check out what our video platform has to offer!
If you wish to try out our platform and all of its features for free, send us an email and start your free premium trial today!