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Julia Smith 

How to beat the fraudsters

How to beat the fraudsters

Ad fraud and transparency are back at the top of the agenda. Forensiq's Julia Smith offers advice on what steps the industry should be taking to ensure a cleaner digital future.

The recent news that P&G, one of the world’s largest advertisers, is to review all of its agency contracts in order to bring transparency to the media supply chain, has been the much-needed push for many businesses to review their policies and ensure that they are not on the culling list.

Anyone involved in digital ad trading would have smarted at being tarred with being part of a “murky at best, fraudulent at worst” media supply chain. If these harsh words are what it takes to finally see real change in this area, then I most certainly welcome it.

The time is right for all businesses to look internally at their own processes and then externally review their partnerships (including ones within trading) to ensure that they too have adequate cover in place.

It is critically important to adopt a fraud-first approach to advertising and look holistically at both viewability and fraud measurement technologies to ensure fraud is eliminated from all reporting data prior to measuring viewability.

By merging fraud and viewability measurement technologies, the industry can take a truly fraud first approach to viewability and deliver campaign metrics which are finally accurate.

The second most important piece of advice is to address the knowledge gaps which exist, primarily at the top of the money chain with the advertisers.

Many types of ad fraud are often technically complex and this potentially is why many companies struggle to understand both the implications and solutions that they can adopt. It is simpler to start with the basics of where fraud is most prevalent and arm yourself against those techniques or platforms which are causing the most harm.

The time has finally come to put a real stop to money disappearing into the hands of criminals."

Advertisers need to be made aware that if fraudsters follow the money, then you should naturally expect to see a significant increase in mobile ad fraud. Fraud is apparent both in-app and in mobile advertising and the tools to prevent against mobile ad fraud vary dramatically in the ability to detect and prevent.

Test: question and compare all tools for every channel and device. Ensure that you select the tool which provides you with both the data and the ability to translate the data in order to make accurate trading decisions.

We know fraudsters will look for new ways to exploit advertising systems. We expect fraud to follow the flow of advertising investment; therefore, invest in expertise that looks ahead to the next potential ad fraud scenario as early as possible.

Detection and inventory management is a constantly evolving challenge that requires real operational expertise and the successful utilisation of a number of tools, data sources and rigorous vetting procedures.

Botnets continue to represent the biggest threat to the entire ad marketing landscape, through device manipulation, proxy fraud and fraudulent attribution. The scale is also considerable with nearly $1 billion being de-frauded through mobile device hijacking alone.

There are steps that can be taken that do not require technology to resolve. Buyers can put strict contractual guidelines with their sellers to ensure that they get a guarantee from media owners that they are not buying third party traffic and keep an eye out for suspiciously low pricing (e.g. discounted offers for price per volume would be a cause for concern).

If you also see instances of low conversion rates, this can be a trigger for non-human traffic and should be investigated. The best advice would be to only work with reputable partners and choose those that already have processes and technology in place to prevent and isolate fraudulent activity.

If you do use technology to protect yourself and your partners, my advice would be to become an expert in using that technology and understand what to do when you detect a high-risk score, what types of fraud is occurring, identify the source and then present all of that evidence to that partner for them to explain, justify or disprove.

If they can prove that it was unintentional or accidental fraud, they must still take responsibility for this and be prepared to make good on that ad spend.

We all know that everyone in the industry has a responsibility of sharing the burden of fraud and in doing their part to fight against it. Too often we hear from the buy side, pointing the finger of blame at the sell side, and vice versa. This becomes counter-productive and has been partly to blame for our inability as an industry to stem the growth of digital ad fraud.

The time has finally come to put a real stop to money disappearing into the hands of criminals. The Times has recently suggested that digital ad fraud is funding terrorism. If this isn’t the driver for a call to arms on eradicating fraud from our industry then we should all be ready to face the consequences.

Julia Smith is director of communications at Forensiq

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MikeNewman, consultant, Mike Newman Consulting on 15 Feb 2017
“All very true, but what would really help is the establishment of some industry standards. A the moment we cant even agree what fraud is because we havent got agreement on standards and measurement.”