Earlier this month, a BuzzFeed news investigation revealed that some of the world’s biggest brands –including P&G, Disney, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Ford and more – were ripped off by a major digital fraud scheme that stole millions of dollars. In this specific scheme, 40 websites used a special code that triggered fraudulent views of video ads. More than 100 brands had ads displayed on these sites.
But that’s not the only recent scheme. In fact, a new sophisticated bot is taking over major sports sites and has also already cost advertisers hundreds of millions this year alone. This bot is using a new tactic that’s siphoning millions of dollars from sports websites, including NFL team domains, ESPN and CBS sports, as well as NBA and MLB properties. The total damage so far: 340 million impressions and nearly $250 million lost this year.
In the wake of these recent schemes, brands, publishers and media buyers are left wondering what they can do to protect themselves from losing valuable ad dollars. It’s clear that the status quo is not enough, and unfortunately, these recent schemes are not outliers; they are common techniques and they will happen again.
As this problem persists, brands need to become even more selective about the publishers and partners they work with, and where they spend their money. We expect this to start a significant trickledown effect on the market – cutting the amount of advertising partners available to the average brand from thousands to hundreds. Anyone that doesn’t take aggressive steps to offer high quality traffic and targeting solutions – clean from fraud and malware – will be pushed aside.
Monitoring for ad fraud is no easy feat – it requires a significant investment of both time and resources. However, taking simple steps like frequently reviewing your traffic history on comScore and researching publishers and sites you’re working with can go a long way to reduce risk. Another simple step: insist on only working with TAG certified publishers and partners.
The bottom line: everyone needs to do a better job monitoring and policing the digital ad industry. The integrity of the ad ecosystem is at risk, and unless we all do our part and invest more time and energy to combat ad fraud and monitor performance, fraudsters will win, and we will lose.