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BizReport : Advertising archives : December 10, 2014

ANA: Bot fraud gobbling up online budgets

Analysis of 181 campaigns, accounting for 5.5 billion impressions across 3 million domains from 36 Association of National Advertisers member firms reveals that a significant chunk of ads are being served to bots, costing marketers billions.

by Helen Leggatt

If current rates of fraud continue unabated, $6.3 billion in global advertising budgets could be lost to bots next year, according to new joint research from the Association of National Advertisers and ad fraud detection firm White Ops.

whiteopsbotfraud.pngBot fraud originates from malicious sites with phony ad traffic that passes through both legitimate and 'phantom' elements of the digital advertising ecosystem. Fraudsters collect payments from advertisers for non-human impressions.

According to the Association of National Advertisers' 'Action Plan' to reduce bot fraud, "bot impressions distort the entire market by making it look as though there are more people viewing ads than there really are. The illusion of an unlimited, diverse supply of ad inventory drives the price of real human impressions down. It puts honest players at a huge competitive disadvantage, pressuring them to source traffic, too".

The analysis found that bots accounted for between 0.3% and 63% of online video ad views - leaving an average weighted view of 23%. Other ad formats were similarly infected - 19% of retargeted ads, 17% of all programmatic ad traffic and 11% of display ads.

Furthermore, the majority of the fraudulent activity was found to occur on real websites. Of the nearly 3 million websites analyzed in the survey, just a few thousand were found to be completely bogus.

"This study confirmed some prior assumptions and fears, but it is not about sowing distrust or policing ecosystem partners," said Michael Tiffany, White Ops CEO. "It's about stopping outright criminal theft. Ad fraud is hugely profitable and is one of the major sources of funding for a global underground responsible for a broad spectrum of cybercrime. To protect this cash cow, adversaries are aggressive, smart and adaptable. As such, the results of this study should not be about building better mousetraps, but about driving substantive change in the industry to alter the economics for criminals, and ultimately drive them out of business."

Image via Shutterstock

Tags: ad views, advertising, bot, botnet fraud, online video

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