Data & Analytics

4 Questions You’ve Always Had About Ad Fraud, with Dr. Augustine Fou

August 3, 2016  |   LiveRamp

Ad fraud is a hot topic among digital marketers right now—and for good reason. No marketer wants to serve their most compelling ads to fake viewers, wasting their budget and skewing their attribution.

But what’s a digital marketer to do?

We sat down with Dr. Augustine Fou, digital ad fraud researcher at Marketing Science Consulting Group, to find out.

What’s the biggest concern marketers should have today surrounding ad fraud?

By now, all marketers know about ad fraud and that it causes waste in their ad dollars, but what I don’t think many marketers realize is how the fraudulent activities mess up their analytics.

For example: the fake traffic, impressions, and clicks generated by bots is throwing off their measurement to unknown degrees. If they are optimizing campaigns using this bad data, then they could actually be sending more money to the bad guys and wasting even more dollars.

This should be the biggest concern for them.

What is driving ad fraud?

Digital ad fraud is so lucrative, so scalable, and so automated that cybercriminals can make much more money doing it than other criminal activities.

Furthermore, because many of the members of the supply chain make more money when there is more volume passing through the system, they have been slow, if not reluctant, to do anything that would help curb the fraud and thus reduce their own revenue.

Are the majority of bots coming from programmatic buys or direct to publisher?

It’s not so much about how the media is bought and sold (ie. programmatic vs direct), but rather on the types of sites selling ad inventory on the exchanges.

Most of the bots are in programmatic ad exchanges, because when those bots cause an ad impression to load on a “long tail” website, they earn ad revenue for that site. Bots don’t make money by causing ad impressions on mainstream publisher sites.

What role can resolving identity play in spotting and preventing ad fraud?

Very very simply, bots don’t have offline identities, so if marketers would just make a little bit more effort, and target users who have offline identities, they would already have far more effective media buys.

One key thing for them to realize is that there are only a finite number of real human beings. So when they target real human identities, the volumes of ad impressions will probably be far less than they are buying now—but that is a good thing, because they want their ads to be shown to real humans, not bots.

Marketers know who has purchased from them before, who has signed up for email newsletters, or who has visited their website.

By onboarding their own data, they can more easily achieve the identity targeting we just talked about—and thus make their media much more effective because they are actually getting their ads in front of real humans.

Stay tuned for our the rest of our interview with Dr. Augustine Fou, where we ask him about how marketers can use their measurement capabilities to suss out and out smart bots.


In the meantime, for more of Dr. Fou on ad fraud, its impact on your analytics, and how to stop it, check out our webinar Ad Fraud 101: Impact on Measurement.