Cutting out industry disease – ad fraud

Mitch Waters, MD at
By Mitch Waters, MD at | 5 February 2015

Ad fraud and obesity have a lot in common – both are preventable. If you eat well and exercise, the chances are you’ll be lighter, less prone to high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

Similarly, if you are careful about the inventory you use, blacklist dangerous sites and use brand safety tools, then you reduce the risk of ad fraud.

Sadly, both continue to be a problem in Australia. Three out of five Australians are overweight and it’s rising steadily, whilst a recent comScore study estimated that one third of display ads are never seen by their intended audiences, with fraud being the most common reason.

In both cases - ad fraud and obesity, there’s no magic cure. Popping a tablet in your mouth won’t cure weight gain. Fad diets offer short-term results but in the long term little to no change. Likewise, developing a fail-safe method of stopping fraudsters from pursuing their evil ways is a highly complex challenge that will take some time to develop. Like a mutating virus, they will continue to look for new pathways around the tools we use to stop them.

Overcoming both obesity and ad fraud requires long-term planning and commitment, and will be a constant focus in perpetuity. There's no silver bullet.

This doesn’t mean however that brand safety applications are worthless, far from it, but they should be viewed as only part of an arsenal of preventative measures, rather than a cure in itself.

Just as with fighting obesity – or any disease, education is essential. Understanding any issue can help resolve seemingly insurmountable issues. Take Ignaz Semmelweis as an example. Who, I hear you ask? He was a physician in 19th century Vienna who concluded that the death rate for new mothers could be drastically reduced if obstetricians washed their hands. Imagine that. Simply by educating doctors that hand washing might be a good idea, the maternal mortality rate decreased.

Today we all recognise that hand washing is a key measure in reducing the spread of any infection.
In the ad industry, Gai Le Roy, director of research at IAB Australia, is an advocate of having the industry do its own collective hand washing. She believes every advertising business needs to undergo a regular ‘Market Health Check’, to ensure they do not succumb to the ad fraud disease. If everyone plays their part, whilst it wouldn’t guarantee against the problem, it will reduce the chance of an infection.

For ad fraud, a lot of the preventative measures are obvious, but sometimes forgotten. As the IAB puts it, “Only trust partners who have earned trust.” In a consolidated market like Australia, where there aren’t hundreds of media players, it’s relatively easy to ensure you are buying from a credible source.

You also need the technology to detect and prevent fraud, and to channel your traffic through vendors who work with specialised third party companies in fraud detection.

These measures aren’t particularly arduous, yet not everyone practises them. Why is that? I suspect for the same reason that obesity is on the rise. If you don’t weigh yourself you don’t know how heavy you are getting. You assume it’s somebody else’s problem.

There’s also the problem that many in the industry don’t understand the significance of the issue.

Untreated it can have disastrous consequences. We are at war against heavily resourced crime syndicates. Those who are relying on the crack scientists to find magic cures are essentially eating all the sugar they want in the hope for a future cure of diabetes. Fraudsters will continue to explore new ways to beat the system, so everyone has to play their part in helping win the battles.

That’s why education on the issue is vital, right now. In our recent State of the Video Industry report, where we partnered with the IAB, only 16% of all respondents felt confident in their understanding of current ad fraud solutions, 23% were confident on their understanding of current viewability solutions. Clearly some more work needs to be done here.

On a more dramatic scale, consider the spread of AIDS. In the west the disease has been controlled through massive awareness programs, kicking off with Siimon Reynolds' Grim Reaper ad in 1987. A lifestyle adjustment reduced the problem. Now 70% of all AIDS related deaths occur in Africa, where access to training on prevention unfortunately is less prevalent. Prevention always needs to start with education.

2015 has to be the year where we tackle ad fraud head on. Everyone in the industry needs to be aware of the problem and what we can each do to minimise the risk of being impacted by it.

Precautionary measures taken by everyone across the industry could see ad fraud dry up as a funding source for the criminal syndicates. With a collaborative effort, prevention could ultimately become the cure. If we ignore it, it’ll become a rapidly expanding waistline leading us to an unhealthy future.

By Mitch Waters
Managing director, AU/NZ

What did you think of this opinion piece? Comment below and let us know. And did you catch this latest opinion on Fraudulent agencies, dodgy DSPs: You’re killing our industry?


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