3 Ways Your Agency Can Combat Impression Fraud

Charles CantuBelow is a guest post from Charles Cantu (@CharlesCantu). In 2012, he founded Huddled Masses as a boutique-trading desk that offered smaller organizations and agencies programmatic optimization of highly targeted digital campaigns at scale. Today, it is in the top tier of media buying and digital marketing strategy companies in the country.

Would you believe me if I told you that you’re losing up to 45 percent of your media-buying budget?

Everyone knows that you allocate about 15% of your budget to commissions if you’re working with a programmatic team. You allocate more if you’re still playing the game with networks or managed servers from one of the “big players.”

But you may not realize that impression fraud is estimated to eat up another 30%, meaning you’re starting with up to 45% less money than you thought you had.

That’s not good for the client or your agency. We have to face impression fraud head-on.

What Is Impression Fraud?

Impression fraud happens when a supply source games the programmatic system, raking in your media budget without delivering the true impressions it promised.

It can take a few different forms:

  • Botnet traffic: Machines view the pages and click on the ads, rather than humans.
  • Malware traffic: Malicious software hijacks a computer and uses the cookies to mimic the owner’s viewing and clicking behavior.
  • Iframe stuffing: An iframe and a 1×1-inch pixel are placed on a page. That space is then stuffed with ads that the user never sees, but the advertiser still pays for.
  • Ad stacking: A real ad appears on the screen; however, many more ads that the user will never see or click are “stacked” below it.

How to Combat Impression Fraud

Obviously, impression fraud is harmful to your clients, but isn’t that just the cost of doing business in the digital media world? I don’t think so. Spotting and fighting impression fraud may be difficult, but it’s possible with these tools:

1. Fraud Detection Companies

Impression fraud is nearly impossible to catch on your own, even for experienced media buyers. But, fraud protection companies like MdotLabs, Forensiq, comScore and DoubleVerify help agencies and clients detect fraud. Each offers different services and has a different focus, so take the time to research and choose the right option for you.

2. Accredited Ad Servers

Accredited ad servers meet the requirements of either the Media Rating Council or the Interactive Advertising Bureau—or both. They have proprietary technology that allows them to watch for impression fraud. There are three ad servers in particular that you could use to keep an eye out for fraud:

  • Sizmek is an ad server that recently launched a new feature in its Peer39 platform that allows ad buyers to detect and avoid botnet traffic.
  • DoubleClick from Google is another server that pays close attention to potential bot traffic. It doubles up on monitoring by using a combination of automation and human oversight to analyze all clicks and impressions.
  • Atlas Solutions also adheres to rigorous standards and works hard to catch any bot traffic or other fraudulent clicks.

3. Viewability Solutions

There’s been a push to make ad sales more transparent. One solution is IQ Viewability+ from DoubleVerify. This tool allows buyers to see data on how their ads are actually seen. Viewability solutions like this one look for more than just bot fraud; they’re also able to see hidden and stacked ads.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to impression fraud, unfortunately. But as advertising technology gets more sophisticated, there will be more tools to help protect you and your clients. Until then, decrease the amount of money you lose to fraud by hiring a fraud detection company, using only accredited servers and checking out your viewability options.

Have you or your clients been a victim to impression fraud? Share your experiences in the comments section below.

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