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With over $51 Million stolen from digital marketers by online scammers every day, ad fraud is a massive problem on existing major networks like Facebook and Google.

Online advertising is broken.

In an attempt to get around ad-tech’s failings, several companies have emerged with blockchain-based solutions designed to shut down fraud and protect stakeholders using an attention-based model.

The problem is, attention-based solutions to ad fraud simply shift how the act of fraud is carried out from bogus clicks to a new type of phony behavior – browsing the internet just to make money and “giving attention” in return for viewing certain websites and pages. 

Ad Fraud Agony: the Current Landscape

We define ad fraud as anytime an ad is seen or clicked with zero chance of conversion. Zero because the clicks aren’t coming from genuine consumers but from disinterested laborers or bots.

Because of the tangled web of third parties and middlemen throughout the digital advertising ecosystem, chances are your campaigns have fallen victim to at least one (but probably all) of the following scams:

  • Click farms – operations set up with the sole intended purpose of generating fake traffic, clicks, downloads, sign-ups, and so on. Run like administrative offices where employees are instructed to bombard targeted websites and click on the embedded ads over and over, running up the Pay-Per-Click odometer with false engagements. Not only does it inflate ad statistics, but it’s also a predatory operation that exploits vulnerable populations of low-paid workers in often underdeveloped countries.
  • Malware is code – often called worms, Trojan horses, etc. – that infects computers and hijacks their processing power to carry out wicked tasks such as harvesting emails and personal information and simulating clicks on PPC display ads. Malvertisements infiltrates honest advertisement networks and injects malware into ads. It also hijacks your device or browser like a parasite.
  • Spambots generate phantom accounts that riddle email, online forums, and social media with junk postings. They can also be designed to attack specific websites and generate a mass of fake clicks to the display ads served up on key pages.
  • Pop-unders are a common element of spammy clickbait sites. They open browser windows under the one you’re viewing to give engagement rates an artificial boost. The trickery of clickbait may indeed bring users to your site but it’ll never win customers and will only generate mistrust and resentment.

These deceptive tactics result in a nice payday for the unscrupulous cheaters taking the advertiser’s money. Currently, it is estimated that $51 Million is lost to ad fraud every single day and as digital marketing budgets grow, the problem will only get worse.

The rising click count may look good – and that’s why publishers desperate to show results may indulge in them – but it’s empty calories. It’s flushing ad-dollars down the drain and it’s enough to drive an advertiser to walk away from what should be their primary marketing channel.

Blockchain Bliss: the Bright Future

But with new technology comes new hope.

The blockchain promises a bright future for all honest parties in the digital advertising ecosystem. It’s the first legitimate alternative to the major networks that operate within a completely walled-off garden. How can you trust that your ad was placed where they say it was? There’s no way to know for sure. And good luck trying to decipher convoluted analytics reports.

Through the blockchain, digital marketers can leverage the radical transparency of a completely immutable ledger to see exactly where an ad was placed and who saw it. In other words, the entire who, what, when, and where of your campaign is at your fingertips.

These new platforms also come with safeguards against ad fraud such as our bulletproof Ad Protector. In fact, Ad Protector has been stopping ad fraud and protecting ad dollars for over 5 years.

It’s all so promising that many industry experts are predicting advertising will become the first widespread application after currency to apply the blockchain.

This train only goes forward, so make sure to climb aboard soon or you’ll get left behind.

Do I Have Your Attention?

One attempt at leveraging the blockchain for a better advertising model is the admirable but flawed attention-based solution.

The attention-based model uses a type of blockchain currency called tokens to incentivize good advertising practices. Users consent to having their web surfing anonymously tracked in order to determine what ads capture their attention based on factors such as the proportion of space the ad occupies and how long it is kept on screen.

As their attention is measured, users are rewarded with tokens that they can spend on supporting their publishers and gaining access to premium content. Publishers also receive tokens on top of ad revenue for hosting the ads. Advertisers can audit the fully transparent blockchain ledger to optimize their campaigns.

Sounds great right?

Unfortunately no.

But Do I Really Have Your Attention?

attention-based solutions open the doorIn the noble fight to subdue ad fraud, blockchain-based advertising platforms can shut out most notorious schemes but attention-based solutions open the door to a new type of online fraud.

The fatal flaw is misplaced incentives. By rewarding users for viewing ads, the temptation emerges to exploit this system. You encourage a new ‘browse-for-money’ model for online fraud. New fraud rings could pop up akin to current click farms. You don’t have to squint to imagine an office somewhere where people are paid to scroll.

In the end, the same problem would remain. Advertisers would pay for all the “attention” their ads receive while on the other end of the line the eyeballs of potential customers just aren’t there.

They say a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Well in this application of blockchain, the weakest link is attention-based incentives.

Are you interested in a platform that stops all forms of ad fraud including new ‘browse-for-money’ schemes?

Join us.

Matt Gallant

About Matt Gallant

I'm a seasoned, serial entrepreneur who’s built 13 profitable companies. My 20 years of advertising experience has prepared me perfectly for tribeOS. Over 8 million leads captured, over 13,000 marketing experiments performed, over $10 million spent on digital advertising, and over $40 million generated in online sales. My single-minded purpose is to create the most profitable advertising marketplace ever for advertisers and publishers.

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