Top Advertisers Fed Up with Digital Fraud

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Half of the digital reach you are paying for is wasted on non-human digital fraud designed to jack up the analytics and charge you more money! That’s according to a new study commissioned by the Association of National Advertisers.

The ANA enlisted the help of White Ops. According to the study, White Ops is described as;

“A pioneer in the detection of bots and malware on the web, White Ops develops new bot detection technologies to differentiate between bot and human interaction. Bot detection makes bot/human decisions in online advertising, publishing, enterprise business networks, e-commerce transactions, and financial systems. White Ops protects clients from bot fraud by cutting off sources of bad traffic to make bot and malware fraud unprofitable and unsustainable.”

The report defines a bot this way;

“Bots are software scripts in networks of computers that are controlled by a single entity as part of a botnet. The botnet controller can cause the computers in its botnet to execute a variety of behaviors and goals, including advertising fraud, online bank robbery, identity theft, and distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks. When executing ad fraud, the botnet controller causes the computers in its botnet to render or click on ads, requiring advertisers to pay for a click-through or an ad impression that was never served to a real human.”

There have been rumblings about click fraud and “Like Farms” for some time now. It is difficult for the advertiser to detect click fraud and other forms of digital analytics manipulation. That’s why the ANA and White Ops enlisted the help of 36 ANA member organizations to conduct this research project. Companies like Ford, Honda, Budweiser, Verizon, Home Depot and other well-known brands were involved across a wide variety of product categories.

The companies agreed to let White Ops analyze their digital advertising campaign traffic for 60 days from August 1st and September 30th, 2014. White Ops employed their new technology that reveals the bots and shows the true domain source of the advertising impressions. There were 5.5 billion impressions analyzed, the largest public study to date on bots and their impact on digital advertising analytics.

White Ops found hundreds of millions of bots that impact every form of digital advertising including video, in display, in sourced traffic and programmatic and re-targeted inventory. Bots today are programmed to move the mouse over ads, pause and move on to mimic a human interaction to avoid detection.

You would of course expect to find bot-focused websites with nothing but a bot audience, but out of nearly three million websites covered in the study, mere thousands were completely built for bots. Most of the bots visited real websites run by real companies with real human visitors. Those bots inflated the monetized audiences at those sites by 5 to 50 percent.

Among the key findings:

Global advertisers will lose $6.3 billion to bots in 2015

Over 67 percent of bot traffic observed in the study came from residential IP addresses.

Ad bots defeat user targeting.

Once a hacker has infiltrated a user’s computer with malware, the cyber criminals start to make big bucks from their victims when they install the ad bots. When they hack your computer, the bots don’t just blend in with your activity, they act in such as was as to attract more targeted advertising.

These new sophisticated bots were observed to click more often on a web site but not too often to arouse suspicion that a bot had taken over your computer. The really high tech bots could move your mouse so it moved over ads and caused impressions. Bots can even put things in shopping carts and visit lots of sites in order to generate browsing history and cookies so that they appear more demographically appealing to advertisers and publishers.

Don’t think that just because you are using a well-know and reputable publisher that you will be immune from the fraud. In one case in the lifestyle industry, a web page that consisted of a single large video player at the top of the page and seemingly random selections of content surrounding the auto-playing video, 98 percent of the metrics consisted of a bot driven audience. In 4,000 total video impressions, this page only served up 100 views to humans.

The report contains one horror story after another. The ANA has had enough and is calling on the Media Ratings Counsel to institute new policies to bring more accountability to the world of digital advertising. You can download the 57 page report at here at the ANA web site.

The bottom line is that digital advertising isn’t all that accountable as it was made out to be in the beginning. It turns out that you’re not getting what you thought you were paying for. It is like that old story about the legendary retailer David Wannamaker. He famously said over 100 years ago, “Half of the advertising I buy is wasted. I just wish I could figure out which half it is.”

If you want to drive traffic to your web site, pick up the phone and call your local Radio station. Tell them you want to buy 21 commercials a week, Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tell the Radio station you want to run that schedule every week for the next 52 weeks so you want their best price. Then put together a commercial that emphasizes your web site address and then, just let it run and run and run. It may be hard to measure a Radio audience but they haven’t written a bot yet that can listen to the Radio.

Good luck to you. Remember, you’re just one decision away from becoming the person you deserve to be.


Spike SanteeTop Advertisers Fed Up with Digital Fraud

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