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The Fight Against Ad Fraud: A Publisher’s Role

With an understanding of how ad fraud works, it’s easy to see why it remains a constant battle for the digital ad industry. And everyone, from buyers to sellers, has a stake in this fight. While ad fraud is often presented in terms of how much ad spend advertisers stand to lose, fraud also poses a substantial risk to publisher revenue and reputation.

As part of what needs to be a total industry effort, publishers have an opportunity to embrace their specific role in fighting ad fraud. Ensuring low levels of fraudulent traffic helps publishers demonstrate the quality of their inventory to buyers. This in turn allows those buyers to spend with confidence, fostering a healthier digital advertising ecosystem.

Challenges for Publishers in Tackling Fraud: A DV Study

Fortunately, data would indicate that publishers are ready and willing to tackle ad fraud issues where they occur. However, publishers face some challenges in this effort.

A recent DV study surveyed 300 executives in the digital media sector, including digital publishers and supply-side platforms about challenges they have faced in the industry (particularly amid the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic).

When asked to identify and rate the difficulty of challenges surrounding the optimization of real-time inventory quality data (e.g., viewability, brand safety, invalid traffic, etc.), publishers named “lack of consistent media quality measurement methodologies between advertiser clients” (2.84 average ranking with 1 being the most challenging and 5 the least) and “the ability to proactively identify and troubleshoot impression-level fraud issues” (2.92 average ranking) as the biggest concerns.

“Ad fraud isn’t just a buyer issue – it also eats into a publisher’s resources and monetization opportunities,” says Pieter Mees, VP Video & Publisher Product, DoubleVerify. “Like advertisers, publishers also benefit from technology that easily identifies and acts on invalid traffic to prevent fraud in real-time. This helps them prove the value of their inventory to media buyers.”

So, what can a publisher do to bring the fight to fraudsters? Below are four proven techniques and methodologies for publishers to combat ad fraud as part of their daily operations.

What Can Publishers Do to Fight Ad Fraud?

The most comprehensive approach to identifying and combating ad fraud includes both a reframing of the way we look at prevention and an implementation of practical industry solutions and technology.

Become an Advocate for Industry Transparency

Transparency is the baseline that must be considered in an anti-fraud strategy. The industry must cultivate a transparency-focused mindset in order to more effectively combat fraud alongside brands and technology providers. This not only includes being open to implementing solutions that focus on clarity in the supply chain, but also working proactively with buyers and vendors to actively demystify corporate policy and provide a clear picture of where buyer ad spend is directed. With a foundation of transparency, it will become easier for the industry to stamp out fraud that is often designed to take advantage of shrouded and complex practices.

Stay Informed through Outreach and Education

In order to cultivate that “transparency mindset,” it’s imperative that publishers understand how ad fraud works in order to better fight it. With the knowledge of how fraudsters operate, publishers can be vigilant in monitoring campaigns. Also, countermeasures can be instituted that cut off fraud schemes at the outset and do not allow them to proliferate. Publishers might also consider taking the lead on informing partners in understanding how fraud works and outlining a media strategy that prioritizes high-quality human traffic over ads that may provide a high click rate at a lower CPM but are rife with fraud.

Implement Industry Best Practices to Identify Fraud

Publishers can also look to prior established best practices to guide implementation of anti-fraud measures. Implementing a transparency mindset in how publishers operate and being forward-thinking in terms of education and information dissemination are both considered best practices. Going further, however, publishers can integrate these other tactics into their anti-fraud strategy. For example:

  • Proactively looking at inventory on ad exchanges to monitor for misrepresentation.
  • Thoughtfully implementing fraud prevention tools such as third-party measurement, audits or ads.txt.
  • Ethically sourcing ad traffic to improve trust in acquired impressions.
  • Establishing a baseline for fraudulent activity so that irregularities are noticed faster.

For a more thorough approach for fighting fraud, download our Detecting and Preventing IVT Guide.  This presents a meaningful opportunity for publishers to be on the forefront of defining industry standards that will serve them in the fight against ad fraud.

Partner with Third-Party Solutions That Work to Measure and Fight Fraud

Through independent fraud detection tools or the practice of submitting to third-party audits, publishers can assure buyers of inventory quality. The Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) offers certification and standards for industry stakeholders that wish to stop criminal activity and improve trust in digital advertising. For publishers that want to achieve this certification, DV offers assistance with the anti-fraud requirements if they use the appropriate DV Publisher Suite products across all of their inventory. When assessing partners, look to organizations that have achieved TAG certification to know that they are active in fighting fraud on your behalf.

These are four proven ways to fight fraud, but they certainly aren’t all of them. As publishers develop their own anti-fraud strategy, their individual needs will become apparent. Publishers can use this list as a foundation for thinking about where to start implementing changes to their mindset, knowledge base and technology. It’s important to note, however, that there is not a singular strategy that can be used without leaning on the others. A multi-pronged approach is the best (if not only) way to turn the tide in the fight against fraud.

In Conclusion

Ad fraud isn’t going away, and while publishers may not be the obvious victims of fraud, invalid traffic does impact publishers in a real and measurable way. Everyone in the digital advertising ecosystem must be on the forefront of the fight against fraud to ensure the long-term health of the industry. In efforts to do its part, DV’s Fraud Lab has been hard at work on the fight against fraud since 2009, led by a dedicated team of data scientists, mathematicians and researchers. This team most recently discovered the OctoBot scheme, which was estimated to cost advertisers millions of dollars a month in ad spend.

Contact us for more information on how DV can work with you to help understand fraud as it relates to your inventory and operations.