Who’s really to blame for ad fraud?

Ad fraud is the ultimate case of who done it? Nobody argues there’s a problem, but as for who is to blame … well, that’s where things get dicey.

This much is for sure: ad fraud, and your definition of what constitutes it may vary, has gone from being viewed as a basic cost of doing business to becoming one of the biggest issues facing the online ad industry. The credibility of the medium is at risk. Anywhere from 30 percent to 60 percent of impressions are fraudulent, depending on who you ask (and who has a stake in boosting the severity of the problem). Still while no one’s quite sure of the exact number, most people on both sides of the buy-sell equation agree that fraud is indeed a big problem.

Here’s where programmatic pros at Adexchanger’s Programmatic IO conference in New York City pointed their fingers.

Andrew Casale, VP Strategy, Casale Media
The rise of automation and programmatic has run alongside the rise of fraud. The unfortunate part of the reality is that machines don’t know better. Machines buy based on data and as we’ve seen data can sometimes mislead. We’ve given automation a lot of control, and as a result, oversight has dropped and fraud has risen.

If you look at pre-programmtic, the media plan used to be made up of media partners that you knew and fraud wasn’t an issue. If you know who you do business with, the instance rate is going to be dramatically lower because the money is going where it should go. We now work in an ecosystem where we don’t know who the money is going to and that’s what’s bred the fraud problem.

Drew Bradstock, senior product manager, Google
There is a huge human element here. It’s not just automation. There are people in the industry who are doing the their see-no-evil monkey routine. They’re seeing bad data, they’re seeing CPMs that are too good to be true, they’re seeing attribution models that just don’t make sense except for financially for their bottom lines and those of their marketers. And they’re looking the other way. Automation will tell you it’ too good to be true, but people will swallow it because it helps their bottom line.

We have to be willing to tighten up our inventory and kick off partners on the publisher side, even if it’s very hard relationship-wise and money-wise. The burden is on the exchange, but buyers can’t look the other way and buy questionable goods and complain when things stop working.

Michael Tiffany, CEO, WhiteOps
There’s extraordinarily pressure to deliver volume, because bots have repriced the entire market. There’s pressure for publishers to set up audience extension programs and to source a bigger audience, and they’re doing that through third parties and they doing that in a way that sells by volume. And the middle men who are providing the framework might be sourcing traffic from several other third parties. You pay a guy who pays a guy who pays a bot net.

The result here is that the performance of these ad buys goes down and the response, so the response is to say that we need to reach more people. The result then is that you end up buying more bots. This obsession with reach makes its extradonarily hard to get off the juice.

Neal Richter, chief scientist, Rubicon Project
If buyers aren’t making sure that they have a good supply chain, that they’re buying sites from exchanges with reputable relationships with publishers, then when buyers buy buy on that high-profile site, there’s a lot of incentive for the people that are manufacturing fake impressions to fake that domain and grab some money. Then supply and demand kicks and and prices fall.

Publishers too. When those sellers become buyers and start doing audience extension programs, it’s on them to use buying best practices and don’t just buy reach and get excited because they’re cookie has been found on a billion websites. Publishers have to know where those websites are as well.


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