A Guide for Safe Programmatic Advertising – Identifying Threats and Implementing Ad Fraud Protection

Programmatic advertising includes multiple parties and middlemen between advertisers and target users, opening doors to potential ad fraud. Most common of these are cookie stuffing, bot traffic, click and impression fraud, domain spoofing, and hidden advertising. You need to implement ad fraud protection solutions to help mitigate these threats by using proper ad fraud detection tools, secure networks, policies, and educating your team.
Advertising involves way too much money for it to operate without a hitch. Fraudsters and fishy middlemen are always on the lookout to snatch a buck or two from advertisers and publishers. It isn’t a small thing either, Ad fraud has led to a loss of $81 billion last year. So, if you’re just getting into programmatic advertising, you need to know everything about ad fraud protection.

What is Programmatic Advertising Fraud?

Programmatic advertising fraud is the malpractice of manipulating ads in any way to scam the advertiser or publisher with a malicious or financial fraud incentive. Most fraudsters target ad campaigns using bots or glitches in programmatic advertising platforms.
The worst thing about ad fraud is that you can’t really notice it if you aren’t looking for it specifically. Especially with frauds like fake traffic and user imitation. Some of the most common ad fraud types are:
  1. Cookie Stuffing
  2. Bot Traffic
  3. Click and Impressions Fraud
  4. Domain Spoofing
  5. Hidden Advertising and Ad Stacking
5 Common Types of ad Fraud

1. Cookie Stuffing

Cookie stuffing is bad on multiple levels for different entities involved. It is basically the practice of placing cookies on a user’s device without their knowledge or consent. You can also say that cookie stuffing also involves padding stats. This leads to misleading figures that can seem amazing, but in reality, they’re inflated numbers to make advertisers think that they’re getting a good return.
Cookie stuffing doesn’t just violate a user’s privacy, but it also frauds advertisers of their ad revenue.

2. Bot Traffic

As the name explains, bot traffic is just that; fake bots disguising themselves and visitors. The obvious reason for this ad fraud is to scam the advertiser of their ad revenue without actually displaying the ad to the target users.
Bot traffic eliminates the need for complex ad targeting and making an effort to drive genuine users to the intended website. If an advertiser is getting fake traffic, that can result in ad revenue losses without seeing any impact.

3. Click and Impressions Fraud

The main purpose behind advertising is to achieve any desired action by the user. That can be getting clicks to your CTAs or just impressions for brand awareness. This is very similar to bot traffic. The only difference here is the specific action that the bot or imitater takes.
So, if you’re paying for clicks, a scammer can just use bots to add clicks and drain your ad budget. Likewise for impressions. Another way that fraudsters commit click fraud is by using click farms. These farms are dedicated to clicking on ads either manually or by programming.

4. Domain Spoofing

Domain spoofing is all about masking a poor-quality website to make it look like a more popular and trusted website. The purpose behind this ad fraud is to extract higher CPM for the ads than you would get otherwise using genuine programmatic media buying.
This can trick advertisers into buying the ad inventory from a poor website. So, they spend an exorbitant amount of money on ads that will never give them a good result.

5. Hidden Advertising and Ad Stacking

Hidden advertising and ad stacking are two different, but very similar ad fraud practices. Hidden advertising involves scammers showing the ad to users in a way that is invisible to them. This can be done by compressing the ad into a single pixel. If the advertiser is paying for impressions, they will see the numbers going up. But in reality, the user’s views that are considered as impressions are not really serving their purpose.
Ad stacking also follows the same principle of hiding the ads. Here, the scammers hide the ad under another ad or banner. This allows the platform to record impressions but doesn’t help the user see the intended ad.

How to Protect Your Programmatic Campaigns with Ad Fraud Protection?

Ad fraud protection starts with preventing foul play from happening in the first place. Detecting and preventing ad fraud is all about being vigilant, implementing security policies, working on trusted networks, using the most reputable tools, and educating your team.

Using Reputable Fraud Detection Tools

Manual monitoring is great, but it is impossible to rely on it without experiencing fraud. So, you need a stack of ad fraud detection tools. You need to find one that has all major detection and prevention features like:
  • IP Blocking: A good fraud detection tool can assess IP addresses to find any association with ad fraud. For example, click farms are usually identified by their IP addresses and they can be blocked.
  • Anomaly or Pattern Detection: Since most fraudsters use programming, tools can identify certain patterns or anomalies in campaign data. This can help you point out any ad fraud happening with your campaigns.
  • Proxy and VPN Detection: Scammers hide their activity using proxy servers or VPNs. Your ad fraud protection tool needs to identify such activities and block them before losing control.
  • Click Verification: Avoiding click fraud eliminates a majority of issues you’ll face while implementing ad fraud protection. A detection tool can help you identify genuine actions by verifying clicks by tracking the user’s session, referrer analysis, and time-based validation.
  • Ad Viewability: Want to know if your ad is being displayed properly? A detection tool can help you assess and rank the ad viewability to avoid hidden advertising or ad stacking frauds.
Remember, you don’t have to stick to just one ad fraud protection tool and compromise on certain features. Use a mix of multiple solutions in case you need comprehensive fraud detection.
Apart from using the right tools, your team needs to understand how programmatic advertising works, to practice it safely.

Safe and Secure Programmatic Advertising

The concept of programmatic advertising confuses beginners and raises several question marks. If you want to have a safe and effective experience with it, you need to understand how it works.
Read our Beginner’s Guide to Programmatic Advertising to learn about the process, types of media buying, and much more.
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Michael Frost

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