Preventing Fraud in Programmatic Advertising

Fraud in Programmatic Advertising

Marco Muzzi from AcquityAds is one of the good guys in the digital advertising Industry. His educational video is spot on in educating the public about what digital advertising fraud is in Programmatic, also known as Real-Time Bidding (RTB) and the preventative measures used to combat fraud.

Dr. Nathan Mekuz, the CTO of AcuityAds defines online advertising fraud as:

Any transaction of digital media where misrepresentation or tampering of the metrics take places from either party.

Ad fraud can be found rampant among both buyers and sellers of ad impressions, making a huge issue that has plagued the industry since the dawn of online advertising.

Segments where ad fraud is found:

  • Display (Banner Advertising)
  • Social Media
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
  • PPC (Pay Per Click)
  • Search
  • Mobile
  • Email
  • RTB (Programmatic)

Why is there fraud in digital advertising?

Programmatic has exponentially grown at a rapid pace with more advertising dollars being spent programmatically every day. Int he world there are always villians who are try to game the system and make a quick buck. Think of Digital advertising as a wild west of sorts; so complex and nearly impossible to keep track of billions of ad impressions being served every day in real time.

Dr. Mekuz gives some compelling insight into the different types of ad fraud:

Right now the greatest impact we see is fraud committed against the buy side. Part of the problem is the metrics that we use to measure campaigns. We see impressions that are billed but no user ever sees the banner. We see clicks that are automated and we even see scams that hijack CPA credits.

What are the different types of ad fraud? 

  1. Click Fraud – The most basic of ad fraud. This is when clicks are generated from humans or non-humans (bots) that have no intention of interacting with the advertiser creative. This is very damaging for an advertisers ad campaign as it dilutes the value of the dollars they are spending.
  2. Banner Fraud – Another very common form of ad fraud. This is when the # of ad impressions billed is not a true reflection of the actual impressions viewed by users. This can occur when banner ads are placed in 1×1 pixels, in places that are not visible to users, or layered behind other ads.
  3. Conversion fraud – The most common fraud in the CPA (cost per action or acquision) model. This occurs when a conversion is credited from a human or non human source with malicious intentions. Also known as “fake conversions”

These fraudsters are damaging the ecosystem and taking away potential for real publishers to thrive.

How to Minimize fraud in Programmatic

  • When working with an RTB company, choose one that offers real time reporting so you can effectively monitor key metrics at any given time.
  • Make sure the vendor utilizes advanced algorithms that can tell human from non human traffic.
  • Ask your RTB provider what 3rd party vetting technologies they work with.

NYC Anti-Fraud Advertisement

NYC Anti-Fraud Advertisement

Botwatch Anti Fraud Logo

Global digital media holding company CPXi created a service and resource called Botwatch to educate the industry about robot ad fraud and aggregate the collective knowledge and resources to fight it.

List of companies fighting digital ad fraud

Here are the most widely used and trusted anti fraud vendors in the ecosystem. Please let us know if we are missing any.

IAB Small LogoIAB

IntegralAdScience LogoIntegral Ad Science


Google Tiny (Google)

Whiteops small logoWhiteops

Comscore Small LogoMdotlabs (Comscore)

DoubleVerify Small LogoDoubleverify

Themediatrust Small LogoThe Media Trust