At current rates, online ad fraud will cost display and video advertisers more than $6 billion next year in frittered away spending.
This is according to a report released by Association of National Advertisers in partnership with WhiteOps, a platform for weeding out fraudulent ad traffic.
This study was quite massive. It comprised of 181 campaigns from 36 advertisers, which looked at more than 5.5 billion impressions over 3 million domains.
The expected losses make up more than 12 percent of the roughly $48 billion spent on display and video ads worldwide.
For a time, cash lost to ad fraud was thought of as an inconvenient tax on the system. But as that “tax” is now clearing 10 percent (a higher rate than any single state in the U.S. collects for sales tax, by the way), all industry players are trying to figure out how to stamp it out.
This report offers a little more insight into how these fraudsters work, how widespread the problem is, what sites are most targeted, and even some information the industry as a whole might use against them.
First, the infiltration: 11 percent of all display ads were served to bots (17% of the serving was done programmatically), and 23 percent of the video impressions were served to bots. Bots were even re-targeted for 19 percent of the ads served.
When it comes to which publishers are being targeted, the findings may come as a surprise. It turns out, premium publishers serve almost 20 percent of bot traffic. And some campaigns are completely trash.
“One premium, well-known publisher in the lifestyle industry vertical employed a web page layout consisting of a single large video player at the top of the page. Seemingly random selections of content surrounded the autoplaying video on the page,” the report stated. “On this publisher page, video ads for an auto participant in the study were consumed by a 98 percent bot audience. Out of almost 4,000 total video impressions from the placement, fewer than 100 were
served to humans.”
Small percentages of many campaigns going to bots might be something the ad buyers have been willing to put up with that in the past. However, the chance that an entire campaign could be served to bots could cause some serious concern for those on the buy-side.
In order to cut out the bots, the industry must first have an understanding about where the traffic is coming from.
One thought is that much of bot fraud came from huge computer farms, just creating false clicks around the clock. ANA’s report, however, showed that a majority of the fraudulent traffic came from infected home computers. More than 67 percent of the bot traffic came from residential IP addresses.
The report also came with it some actionable data.
One interesting datapoint was that there was unrealistic amounts of middle-of-the-night traffic, with the report stating about “half the bots caught were not sophisticated enough to keep daylight hours.” Traffic spiked between midnight and 6 a.m. This would seem to be a finding that could help reduce traffic fraud. Older web browsers were also represented higher in the bot traffic.
Also take note that traffic purchased from third-parties, usually not even a good idea, came with it as much as 52 percent bots. This was the top trackable source for traffic in the study.
The report also concluded with possible action plans for both the buy and sell-sides of the online ad ecosystem. Those suggestions included using traffic-monitoring services and update blacklists frequently.
Download a copy of the full report here.