Ad fraud is a $51 Million a day robbery that affects everyone.
We live in a world where people are constantly being bombarded by online ads. If you’re streaming video content on YouTube, searching on Google, browsing your NewsFeed on Facebook, you are viewing a constant stream of advertisements that are placed there by the biggest online advertising platforms in the world.
Marketers rely on these networks to promote their goods and services. They design campaigns based on your interests, needs, and desires, and spend considerable amounts of their hard-earned dollars hoping that when you see these ads, you will be interested enough to click through and learn more, sign up, or buy.
Every time someone sees an ad, the marketer is charged a fee. Every time someone clicks through an ad to visit the advertiser’s website and learn more, they are charged a fee. This is called Pay-Per-Click advertising.
But the whole system has been hijacked by online scammers who have developed sophisticated programs and bots to co-opt ad serving platforms and generate fake clicks, insert hidden ads on websites that are invisible to the human eye, force people into viewing ads without their consent, and take people’s hard-earned money.
What it is and how it works…
At tribeOS, we define ad fraud is any engagement or click on an ad with zero chance of conversion.
This could come from click bots designed to click ads over and over again to inflate campaign metrics, pop-unders that open new browser tabs or place illicit ads behind other content to boost engagement rates, and malware– software design to hijack the processing power of your device in order to serve you ads, create impressions, and generate clicks while your streaming content or reading an article online.
Still confused? This video might help:
Ad fraud is extremely profitable, with some of these types of fraud schemes earning their creators $100,000+ per day. But because of their sophistication, it has been very difficult to actually bust the scammers behind fraud operations parasitic to digital advertising.
Recent investigations by independent watch dogs revealed an elaborate fraud ring owned and operated by some of the most prominent advertising agency execs in the US.
These whistleblowers discovered a network made up of dozens of websites who’s sole existence was design to serve up ads to capture fake impressions and generate income from fake traffic.
Fraudsters were selling fake traffic to third party agencies who advertise on behalf of companies and brands and they were using these websites to serve up ads under shady circumstances, which generates ‘cheap, junk traffic’ but boosts campaign metrics like session duration, click throughs, and overall impressions.
So these marketers who were hired by brands to advertise on the behalf, purchased fake traffic for their campaigns in order to inflate KPIs, and took the profits generated from their click fraud sites.
The made money directly from the client and indirectly from the network of fraudulent websites that were, at the same time, stealing the ad-dollars from campaigns that they themselves were running.
How shady is that?
Here’s How ad fraud Hurts You
Are you an advertiser?
Chances are you’re running campaigns on networks and exchanges that are infected by scammers and spammers. That means that your hard-earned ad dollars are being spent to purchase impressions and clicks without any way to verify whether the ad was actually viewed by a human being.
You also have no real way of knowing where your ad appeared. Analytics reports might say that your ad was served up to users visiting the International Business Times, for instance, but how can you know if that’s true? How can you know that even if it was placed on that site, it wasn’t served up behind other content rendering it invisible?
Are you a publisher?
Then you’ve probably experienced first hand what people are calling the ‘disappearing ad dollar.’ In theory, publishers are supposed to receive a 50% – 70% share of the total revenue generated by their online properties. However with so many players in the game– you have the agency, the buying platform, the trade desk– that by the time everyone takes their cut there’s very little left over for the publisher to claim.
In a system where publishers are already competing for table scraps, malicious players are hijacking online properties to piggyback on traffic from legitimate users simply exacerbates scarcity and compromises your livelihood as a publisher.
Are you a person who uses the internet?
I hate to tell you this, but you’re actually the one paying for all of this. It’s your battery life, data, time and dollars that are being used to run the entire operation.
Think about it, mobile browsing trumps desktop traffic twice over. Your device’s bandwidth is being used to bombard you with banner ads, some of which you can’t even see, bloating your data usage, draining your battery, and costing you money. According to researchers, carriers are making more money from mobile ads than publishers are and costing you roughly $23 a month.
The whole system is completely warped and it’s time that we do something about it.
Enough is Enough.
The industry is so corrupt that it can be hard to stay hopeful and have faith in a brighter future.
But as the public becomes more aware of how pervasive a problem ad fraud is, the incredible amounts of money stolen from marketers each year, there will be a rising tide of voices– from all sides– protesting against the issue and demanding that some form of governance and accountability be put in place.
And with this resistance we are starting to see visionary teams create alternatives for advertiser and publishers designed to shut down fraud, protect their campaign budgets, and increase their ROI.
We are a movement, and we are growing.
P.S.> We just released a new research study called Ad Fraud Awareness: How much do marketers really know about ad fraud? To get a free copy of the full research report, click HERE