By Mark Andrews
Jan 27, 2020 12:04:55 PM

Constant vigilance

Ad fraudsters are constantly finding new ways to raid media budgets. Right now, many OTT budgets represent a free lunch. Mark Andrews, Senior Digital Consultant at ID Comms, explains how to protect investment in this growing channel.

Ad fraud is the mouse that has worked its way into your home and feeds on your budget, like the food in your cupboards. Every so often it finds something new to feast on and right now it’s particularly enjoying OTT budgets, where many insertions are unprotected.

Marketers might have been lulled into a sense of security on ad fraud as there are a range of tools and services promising to ensure that brands won’t become part of the $6.5bn-$19bn annual global ad fraud take (the actual amount depends on which report you read).

It’s certainly true that the tools developed by the likes of MOAT, Double Verify and Integral Ad Science have come a long way since they were first created and helped to support clients, however, no single provider has a perfect solution against ad fraud.

That’s because fraudsters are constantly inventing new ways to bypass detection methods, often mimicking human behaviour so accurately that they are classified as safe traffic.

One particular area of interest is OTT/CTV, where one in four ads could be vulnerable thanks to a new vulnerability. According to Pixalate, nearly 40% of OTT ads are served using server-side ad insertion, which means they don’t run JavaScript, which is essential for a lot of the existing protection mechanisms.

Not all of that 40% is going to be fraud but what it means is that for advertisers and their ad fraud providers who don’t innovate, 40% of their investment isn’t protected. To continue our mouse analogy, fraudsters just found a new cupboard with far fewer traps and are enjoying a feast.

Many of the traditional third-party companies that focus on fraud detection don’t have an effective way to track fraud in this space. The tools they rely on for mobile and desktop environments simply don’t offer the same level of protection.

This matters because OTT is a growing space. According to PwC, Worldwide OTT revenues will grow at a 14% compounded annual rate between 2018 and 2023 and be worth $72.8 billion annually in three years’ time.

There are some signs of action. This week DoubleVerify announced a certification program to detect CTV fraud and invalid traffic, by getting closer to the publisher side (IAS and MOAT have also started initiatives). Nevertheless the scale of the risk demands that marketers take action in four key areas:

First, they need to be aware of the risks with OTT/CTV insertions. Both they and their agencies need to incorporate this risk into their planning and buying decisions. Creating a risk matrix of investment to include ad fraud will help make this become a conscious decision of where to invest advertiser budgets. Doing this will ensure all parties are aware of the risks and either decide to invest, knowing that the budget not attributed to fraud will still deliver a high level of performance, or in the short term whilst the issue is solved, decide to reduce or redirect investment to other areas that provide a more straightforward ROI.

Second, they should be challenging both agencies and their current providers to solve the technical issues. The advertising technology deployed needs to innovate as fast as consumer habits change but real change will only happen when the paymasters put pressure on providers and the supply chain. Providing a clear understanding of the media channels that the brand is prioritising will enable technology solutions providers to prioritise their product development accordingly.

Third, if your current anti-fraud provider is not delivering the protection required then you need to reassess the market. There are a number of options out there and certain companies are innovating quicker than others to overcome these issues by reducing their reliance on JavaScript tags/behavioural detection methods and integrating directly with platforms and device manufactures.

Finally, they need to challenge industry bodies to provide a consistent and accepted perspective and forecast on ad fraud to ensure that their risk matrix is accurate and regularly updated.

Ad fraud is a constant challenge for advertisers, agencies and technology partners but everyone needs to be on top of evolving issues, particularly when they are shifting money to new channels. Failure to take control of ad fraud will only enable those pesky mice to get fatter and eat up more of your budget.