Digital advertising fraud has gained some attention recently, and rightfully so. A 2014 study conducted by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and WhiteOps estimated that advertisers were expected to lose $7.2 billion globally in 2016 as a result of fraudulent impressions or bots1.
More recently, WhiteOps (an industry leader combating digital advertising fraud) reports that they have uncovered a new high-tech fraud enterprise called MethBot. WhiteOps states that this highly sophisticated fraud network, originated from Russia and is capable of siphoning up to $3 million per day in video ad revenue from the digital online ad industry. This is considered to be one of the most advanced cyber operations to date as the criminals were able to impersonate a real-life web user, driving up video advertising views (a metric used to calculate cost) on what appeared to be legitimate domains. WhiteOps estimates that more than 6,000 premium domains were targeted and spoofed, enabling the operation to attract millions in real advertising dollars.
It’s clear that fraud is a significant issue impacting digital advertising. Automotive retail is no exception. With that, let’s dive in to better understand how it works and what it means to your digital advertising investments.
What is ad fraud and why is it so lucrative?
Thematically, ad fraud is mostly the same: a user, website or ad impression appearing to be something that it isn’t. A few examples include:
– Spoofing/Laundering: the perpetrator imitates a legitimate website with a fraudulent website (fraudwebsite.com appears to the advertiser as espn.com).
– Hidden ads: ads are rendered in invisible windows on your computer that a human will never see.
– Clickjacking: an invisible layer is placed “on top” of web content. When the user clicks a link to see a basket of cute kittens, he or she is redirected to a different website.
– Fake websites: sites that do not have original content and are a collection of ads. These sites generally do not sell high volumes of ads, which is why they usually go undetected.
Perpetrators have focused on digital advertising because it’s so profitable. As consumers spend more time on mobile devices, advertisers are shifting their spend from traditional media to digital. The environment of buyers and sellers is complex, and this complexity leads to many layers of obfuscation between the publisher (i.e. the entity selling the content) and the buyer (i.e. the agency advertising on a website). Rarely do publishers and buyers deal directly with one another, generally because of scalability and management issues.
In early 2016, Dealer.com registered with the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) to start taking steps to combat advertising fraud. Alongside Google, Facebook, and Yahoo to name a few, Dealer.com was one of the first hundred companies approved for the TAG Registry to support TAG’s mission2. This collection of marquee digital brands provide a framework for digital advertising, and intends to create a protected system of supply chain participants and other advertising technology companies that demonstrate their commitment to higher standards of transparency and disclosure to their partners3.
Take a look: https://tagtoday.net/tagregistry/ (Search for ‘Dealercom’)
Dealer.com is working to stay one step ahead of new fraudulent activity by participating in this unique partnership. Take MethBot for example: we participated in an emergency meeting with TAG and other members of TAG’s Anti-Fraud Working Group to review the situation and identify signals to look for within our platform to gauge severity. Based on this, we were able to identify and block a significant number of dedicated IP addresses associated with MethBot. This partnership with TAG helps us deliver on our commitment to provide cost-efficient and effective ads for our dealer clients while taking steps to limit and prevent display fraud.
As we work toward our official TAG Certification in 2017, here are just a few things we do on a regular basis:
1. We perform reviews of the domains where we are buying ad inventory and blacklist any domains that we identify as participating in fraud or click-bait activities.
2. We interact with TAG’s anti-fraud community where we exchange information on fraudulent domains and the “domain threat list”.
3. We participate in a “data center IP list” with TAG to block fraudulent IP addresses from our system.
Solving the problem of digital advertising fraud is an ongoing cat-and-mouse game. Dealer.com is committed to taking appropriate steps to maintain our standards for quality advertising to help ensure your digital advertising dollars are spent as efficiently as possible.
Eric Mayhew is the Senior Director of Product Management Advertising, Jeremy Irwin is the Senior Product Owner for Display Advertising, and Scott Blodgett is the Product Manager for Display Advertising, all at Dealer.com
2 Source: https://tagtoday.net/first100/
3 Source: https://tagtoday.net/tagregistry/