The War on Buy-Side Ad Fraud
August 31, 2018
Match2One envisions an advertising ecosystem where online consumers are shown highly relevant ads in a safe and fraud-less environment. Together with our partners we are dedicated to providing a high level of standards for our customers and publisher partners, whilst ensuring online consumer safety.
Ad fraud comes in many shapes and sizes. The ad industry is usually buzzing around bot traffic and website spoofing on the sell-side, which makes advertisers waste their ad budgets. It is indeed a major issue that is being fought. But there’s a very real problem on the other side of the spectrum, that is rarely spoken of.
It’s time we bring light to this topic and pass on the standards that Match2One uses to stay fraud-free.
Malicious advertising (formerly referred to as “malvertising”), occurs when an advertiser runs fraudulent (yet seemingly legitimate ads) through an ad platform onto a publisher website. The ads are usually in the form of an auto-click (forced redirect) that leads the user off the publisher website without the user clicking anything.
This accounts for roughly 0.5% of all ads served, but can vary by a factor of five during an outbreak of forced redirect ads (Confiant, 2018).
Malicious advertisers are always concealed as legitimate businesses, in most cases as media agencies. They usually only run their malicious ads at low frequencies, making them hard to detect through automation and prevention software.
The main hot spot for these fraudulent advertisers detected by Match2One have been located in Southeast Asia, but they can occur anywhere in the world.
On the 9th August, 2018, Match2One implemented the following practices to prevent malicious advertisers (these should be considered the best practices for any DSP or ad platform):
- Doubling down on Customer Qualification
As malicious advertisers are innovative and can slip through automated prevention software, it’s critical to have humans lead the due diligence and vetting process. Value the importance of knowing your customers, their products, and goals to support them in reaching their objectives. Ensure there is no abnormal behaviour in what they do or plan to do.
A customer account manager manually runs the following checks:
- Public business information and reviews
- Check social profiles and legitimacy
- Checks public trading information (business trading number, address, and available references)
Once the advertiser has passed the first level of vetting, an interview is scheduled. This allows the customer account manager to evaluate the client’s intent (goals, creatives, landing page URL etc.). If the client is identified as potentially malicious or fraudulent, or cannot provide the requested material, this will immediately cause a blocking of the client’s account.
After the advertiser is considered safe, access to the ad platform features are enabled, with limitation of launching campaigns. Once campaigns are submitted, the below process is followed:
- Creative review
– Increased screening of HTML5 ads and 3rd party ad tags.
– Live ad creative tests to simulate end consumer experience
- Scanning campaigns
Once the campaign has been approved and launched, it can get automatically scanned through an automated detection service such as “The Media Trust”.
These processes prevent malicous advertisers to get through to cause harm to online consumers or publishers.
Safety tools that detects malicious ads, including forced redirects:
These tools are often used by publishers and DSPs alike, to combat buy-side ad fraud.
The tricky equation in the world of ad fraud is that it always harms the opposite side of the advertising ecosystem from where it occurs. When bot traffic and website spoofing occurs on the sell-side, it harms the advertisers on the buy-side. Vice versa with malicious advertising occurring on the buy-side, it harms the publishers on the sell-side. This makes it difficult to control and enforce with profit incentives alone.
All actors in the ad-tech ecosystem have an obligation to do their part in keeping the fraud criminals out, and these are steps in the right direction. Match2One values trusted clients, publisher partners and are determined to be a leading force behind building a fraud-free environment for advertisers, publishers and consumers around the world.