Programmatic advertising has changed the game for small and medium websites. The practice has already at the center of marketing strategies of small and medium publishers, and it has opened the door to new mechanisms that simplify processes, save time and increase positive results.
But the arrival of programmatic advertising has also brought with it new forms of fraud that have become a significant problem for each of its players: advertisers, publishers, ad networks and agencies.
According to industry analyst firm Forrester, budget lost to fraudulent advertisements will reach $10.9 billion in 2021. Another report by Juniper Research estimates that $19 billion in fraudulent online advertising activities will occur in 2018, equivalent to a total of $51 million a day. This same study estimates that the trend will increase, reaching $44 billion by 2022.
There are several types of fraud that affect programmatic advertising that have become increasingly familiar to all marketplace players. One of the most significant is the creation of bots that imitate human web traffic: software prepared to perform automated tasks on a website without the need for human intervention. Another major source of fraud in programmatic advertising is the growing inventory of false websites or digital media that serve to account for impressions that contaminate the entire process.
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Fraudulent practices are not only impacting premium sites, but also small and medium-sized sites which are not as prepared to face these kinds of problems on a daily basis. What measures are then available for small and medium-sized websites to fight advertising fraud?
Ad.txt files: This is a new measure recently launched by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) to strengthen transparency in online advertising. Thanks to this new file, which is installed by publishers at the root of their websites, an additional step is taken to improve trust between publishers and advertisers and guarantee the veracity of a site.
Most advertisers have already stopped buying on sites that have not implemented the ads.txt file. The file contains a list of all the advertising actors authorized to spread or buy campaigns on a website. By integrating this file into the root of a site, it is impossible for fraudulent actors to usurp the identity of the site. The advertiser will no longer lose their budget in fraudulent sites, while the publisher can benefit from an increased budget and sell their media at the optimum price.
Moderation: More and more advertising platforms are subjecting users and partners to a moderation system (manual, in many cases) to ensure a network which is clean and free of fraudulent websites. This is achieved by creating an environment based on trust and transparency in which actors maintain an open dialogue to guarantee an improved transaction process..
Keep up with the latest technology: Ensuring that the tools they use are up to date allows advertisers to best evaluate ads and root out fraud. As advertising fraud grows at an accelerated pace, the technologies to combat it must do exactly the same—focusing in particular on the verification of the ads. Advertisers will find their way to the platforms with the latest technologies to free their campaigns of fraud and publishers will need to deliver against that.
Exhaustive monitoring: This is key to optimizing campaigns and guaranteeing their proper functioning. The monitoring process should focus not only on establishing a filter before, but also during the process, in order to identify fraudulent practices. Many platforms are subjecting their campaigns to periodic monitoring to ensure proper operation, a key tool in the fight against advertising fraud.
With the stakes this high for advertisers, publishers and networks, no one can afford to relax in their efforts to fight fraud. Vigilance, innovation and teamwork are necessary to prevent the loss of revenue and efficiency—especially for small and mid sized publishers, many of whom don’t have checks and balances already built into their systems.