Fraudsters never sleep and neither should the industry, writes Chris Le May, president and managing director for Europe and emerging markets at DataXu.
Our industry is locked in an arms race with fraudsters. The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) at the beginning of this year forecasted that global ad fraud will cost brands $7.2bn globally, up from $6.3bn in 2015. The rapid growth of digital and programmatic has caught fraudsters’ attention and the reality is, fraud is an unfortunate indicator of that success.
Advertisers have been forced to spend more time on fraud strategy than on brand strategy, but they shouldn’t have to go it alone. All parts of the ecosystem need to take responsibility, not just for cleaning up their patch, but for putting aside differences to fulfil our common goal of putting ad fraud to bed, once and for all.
Stepping up and collaboration pays off for marketers
Marketers are naturally questioning how they can have confidence in the marketplace, its suppliers and the value of digital advertising, and we applaud those taking action, rather than branding it solely a supply chain responsibility. As the ANA highlighted at its Masters of Media conference in Florida last week, the marketers who believe it is their responsibility to help combat ad fraud are less vulnerable than those who lay the blame squarely with publishers and agencies.
We thoroughly welcome marketers who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and help eradicate this plague on the industry. While fraud certainly occurs on the supply side, it doesn’t mean it is a supply side only problem – a brand’s own retargeting tools aren’t even safe, and the marketers that recognise this are those that will get ahead in the fraud game. Fraud-laden cookies need to be pruned at the source, so we feel it’s important to work with marketers to filter out bots from retargeting pools in order to generate real traffic, quality metrics and genuine ROI.
Collaboration all round is proving far more effective than taking a piecemeal approach to tackling fraud. We work with suppliers, too, to nip fraud in the bud, as we believe the most efficient way to prevent fraud from entering our ecosystem is by blocking it at the source.
Working in this inclusive way, as part of our 97% Fraud-Free Guarantee launched last January, means we have been able to save advertisers £37.7m ($54.9m) – an overall rate of 2.86%, beating our 3% target, as highlighted in our new ‘DataXu 2015 Fraud Report’. Our report features a review of fraud rates across channels and inventory types, with the most prevalent activity occurring within display buys.
The below table from our report illustrates fraud rates across our platform from the launch of our Fraud-Free Guarantee to the present, partnering with DoubleVerify for third party monitoring of our key pre-bid fraud protection filters – bot filter, site filter, suspicious activity prevention, malware scan, and content blocking.
Fraudsters keep moving and so must all of us
While we are relieved to report a decline across all channels; behind the scenes, we are seeing that video in particular is becoming especially difficult to control.
DataXu has seen the prevalence of fraudulent video grow in recent months and we expect the trend to follow that of display. As publishers and the supply side also crack down on fraud, fraudsters will get ever more creative and find new hunting grounds in the likes of impression arbitrage, rapid auto refresh and below the fold video.
With video, as well as mobile, next in the line of fire, marketers not only need to expand their protection into these areas, but the industry overall needs to raise the bar to keep fraudsters from weaving their web even wider. The fact that TubeMogul will join us in April in providing a money back fraud-free guarantee shows just how seriously the demand side itself needs to take this issue.
“Surely collaboration should be prioritised over competition in the name of defeating such a powerful common enemy?”
With fraud-free guarantees no longer a differentiator, then, marketers must be well equipped to understand and scrutinise what is on offer. We recommend they ask whether it covers their entire investment, whether it is measured by an independent third party and whether the policy is designed with the advertiser in mind. They should be wary of self-policing programmatic partners that represent both the sell-side and buy-side as there will be inevitable conflicts of interest.
On the publisher side, we are excited to see the results of the Swedish media owners joining forces for a month this summer to trial blocking ad blockers from using their sites. The initiative has the backing of the IAB Sweden, who has committed to share the learnings on a wider scale, but the IAB UK has expressed uncertainty as to whether this would work in other markets. Director of data and industry programmes, Steve Chester, has said “it will be a massive challenge for companies that compete fiercely for readership to unify”.
Will it though? Surely collaboration should be prioritised over competition in the name of defeating such a powerful common enemy?
We are proud of how the industry is pushing forward with self-policing efforts against all forms of fraud. But fraudsters never sleep and neither will we.