Click fraud is said to represent about 37% of an advertiser’s page impressions. But it is by no means the only form of ad fraud in circulation today. Another tactic which has become increasingly popular is known as “programmatic buying,” in which the purchasing and selling of digital advertisements is skewed by real-time algorithms. This process is completely automated and doesn’t require human interaction—accounting for nearly 14% of display ads and giving way to the epidemic of malicious advertising, aptly coined “Malvertising.”
The downloading of this software is often instantaneous and accompanied with spyware. Users who encounter it see their computers and mobile devices effected immediately. These rampant programs don’t only monitor a user’s behavior and buying patterns but intercept their navigation and search experiences to redirect them to websites they might not otherwise visit. And even though ad fraud has come a long way since its early citing and predictions of total mayhem, the mobile marketing industry serves as proof that fraudsters will continue to find ways to adapt and survive.
The results of ad fraud in its display form are indeed limitless but can generally be broken into two (2) broad categories: Fraudulent ad impressions and fraudulent website visitors. The former is caused by stacking or pixel stuffing, which implies that the ad in question was never really served. The later stems from illegal bot activity which simulates usage.
It should be noted that user deception is an epidemic in its own right; the epidemic of ad fraud just so happens to complement its flexible application. In this context, user deception is made possible through the creation of workers donning realistic behavior and characteristics, but otherwise don’t exist. If each of these epidemics is taken into account, it becomes easy to gauge the level of severity of ad fraud as a whole. This is particularly true when considering our dependency on data and the amount of our dollars being wasted in digital advertising.
Although the loss of revenue and distortion of online metrics continues to plague the industry of digital advertising, which is more devastating is often relative to the victim. Ad fraud is not only a persistent threat, but a proven method for driving traffic to websites to increase conversion rates. In turn, another incentive is introduced through the creation of attractive cookie profiles, for which advertisers pay hefty premiums in order to distribute their ad content.
But the greatest challenge of all is how ad fraud makes it tough for advertisers to make decisions regarding performance analytics. The fraudulent clicks and impressions can create a false sense of hope in which advertisers seems to be performing well when in reality they are not.