Ad fraud detection companies closely collaborate with ad tech businesses and this trend is not new. Investing their money in ad campaigns, advertisers hope that they will receive only human traffic. Theoretically, the ads should be shown only to the target users — people that can potentially become buyers of the promoted product or service. In reality, everything is slightly different and some of the impressions that advertisers track in their analytics systems can be generated by bots or malicious programs.

Ad fraud detection techniques and scanners are designed to fix this problem and prevent it from happening on both supply and demand-sides. Let’s explore the landscape of modern ad fraud detection tools and understand how they work, how to integrate them, and what is a difference between post-bid and pre-bid scanning.

Ad fraud detection techniques vs. 7 types of fraud

To start off with, ad fraud techniques can also be different but the main idea behind them is to generate fake clicks, impressions, or any sort of conversion. According to a study by Future Digital Advertising: Artificial Intelligence & Advertising Fraud 2019−2023, without protection tools, in four years the daily cost of ad fraud will equal 100 million dollars daily. For comparison, last year it accounted only for 44 million.

So, how do fraudsters benefit from it? Some SSPs aggregate traffic from individual publishers, and ad networks to maximize traffic volumes. In such circumstances, it gets hard to keep an eye on all traffic partners, let alone individual publishers each of which gets payment per action performed on their site. There’s always a chance that some players will try to overcome rules resorting to the following types of frauds:

  1. Domain spoofing - the URL of the site where the ad is served gets misplaced. The ad server receives false information about where the ad runs. Indeed, the impression takes place at cheaper inventory.
  2. Bots - the most common type that uses internet scripts to generate click fraud, fake video views, impressions.
  3. Pixel stuffing - when the ad gets placed into a single pixel.
  4. Ad stacking - a program adds a layer on top of the website or on top of the ad unit.
  5. Click farms - clicks are performed by low-paid workers to increase CTR.
  6. Ad injection - browser extensions that illegally place ads on the publisher’s website.
  7. Cookie stuffing - common in affiliate marketing when cookies are filled with wrong data about users.

In order to get rid of all these malicious schemes, ad fraud detection companies develop working online ad fraud detection techniques and scanners that now can be integrated into any kind of ad platform.

How online advertising industry fights back

According to another source, (ANA) the estimated global economic damage from fraud in 2019 reached $5.8 billion. In this case, the authors of the study for the first time recorded a downward trend and stated that the fight against fraudulent schemes is yielding results. In two years, the share of fake display ad impressions has decreased from 9% to 8%, in video ads - from 22% to 14%.

It happened after the broad introduction of ad fraud detection technology like Forensiq, Pixalate, TMT, IAS, and so forth. DSPs and SSPs learned how to filter out suspicious traffic before the bid even takes place. Thus, now clients can trust their programmatic budgets to platforms with early fraud detection systems that were developed only a few years ago. Additionally, in order to keep away from ad fraud, cybersecurity professionals also recommend adhering to the following practices:

Work with technology providers that use ads.txt, ads.cert, app-ads.txt, TAG Certification, sellers.json, and other traffic and seller verification standards (SmartyAds has them in place).

  • Work with SSPs that are ready to support transparency initiatives and implement IAB standards for their publishers.
  • Avoid working with SSPs that sell undisclosed incentivized inventory.
  • Scan traffic in your system with scanners that work 24/7.
  • Make sure you have pre-approval procedures for inventory and creatives.
  • Always keep an eye on fraud reports: generate them every week or every day to stay sure that traffic in your marketplace is 100% valid.
  • Apply blacklists for certain publishers in case post-bid scanner detects fraud on their side.

ad fraud landscape infographic

Features and characteristics of the modern ad fraud detection tool

A good ad fraud detection tool can significantly reduce ad fraud by automatically banning suspicious impressions and bots at the stage of bidding or prior. Such fraud prevention tools can be installed on both supply and demand-side to achieve a synergy of action.

Pre-bid scanners identify fraud before the ad is served at the stage of request. Pre-bid scanning tools monitor and sort out requests before bidding, that’s why their cost can be slightly higher. However, pre-bid scanners filter out invalid traffic before it is counted as an impression which makes such ad fraud detection tools the most reliable.

The post-bid scanners give advertisers an opportunity to investigate where’s a fraud source is at the stage of response. The tracking tags contained in creatives make it easy to understand which domains or creatives are fraudulent or compromise brand safety.

Such scanners work in real-time and detect pre-bid or post-bid suspicious activities, some tools can do both. However, this logic of fraudulent activity detection is intrinsic only to a certain type of scanners. Indeed, online ad fraud detection techniques are highly diversified.

Ad fraud detection platform: types and principles of work

Ad fraud detection companies create utilities, non-stop scanners, and whole software platforms to protect the advertising ecosystem from scammers. Let’s review the most popular of them.

Pixalate and Protected Media scanners (post-bid and pre-bid)

Pixalate uses big data analysis to identify characteristic signs of online advertising fraud. Thanks to machine learning technologies, the scanner interprets the new fraudulent methods and defines particularly sophisticated schemes applying pre-bid and post-bid scanning techniques we discussed above. Their technologies work across display, in-app, video, and OTT/CTV environments.

Pixalate is a supply scanner, supported by SmartHub and uses img pixels and all types of macroses for traffic scanning (which platform owners can select for themselves).

Scanner from Protected Media is also based on smart AI and ML technologies for fraud detection and both pre-bid and post-bid scanning. Pre-bid prevents fraud from happening before the impression takes place and post-bid gives insights into specific ad fraud sources. The scanner works for Connected TV, Display and Video advertising.

Protected Media is a supply scanner but on SmartHub it enables platform owners to scan traffic on SSP endpoints before DSPs reach it. You can easily prevent bad traffic with pre-bid and monitor it with post-bid functionality. Since we have an active partnership with Protected Media in place, you don’t have to negotiate integration with this ad fraud detection provider directly. Just make a request and in 7 days you will be able to turn pre and post-bid scanners in your system using SmartyAds credentials.

Forensiq scanner

The Forensiq scanner is designed to mitigate affiliate fraud and traffic fraud and abnormalities. It assesses every impression according to the proprietary fraud score metric, evaluates potential viewability, and brand safety score of the traffic source. The solution provides a full-funnel invalid traffic detection (SIVT & GIVT accredited) across various traffic channels and effectively protects inventory from bad actors.

SmartyAds has recently partnered with Forensiq which means that scanner is now available for your SmartHub. You can turn it on in the dashboard, configure in accordance with your needs, and generate regular reports to see how it deals with your traffic threats.

TMT Scanner

TMT scanner is a solution that focuses on ad fraud prevention on the demand and supply side. It offers malware prevention, media filters for integration, malware attack data, creative and website quality assurance, customers hack prevention, digital insights on fraud occurrence. TMT closely collaborates with IAB and the world’s largest media owners.

TMT scanner can also function in your SmartHub but in order to turn it on for your system, you need to negotiate prior installation. After this, you will be able to turn it on and set up the daily limits of scans (see the screen above).

IAS

The IAS scanners (stand for Integral Ad Science) are also featured among best ad fraud detection companies for advertisers and publishers alike. This company provides solutions that are accredited by MRC for SIVT (Sophisticated Invalid Traffic) detection. The three stages of traffic verification they use: network scanning, behavioral patterns detection on devices, and malware check will work across all traffic channels.

White Ops

White Ops is a cybersecurity company, their solutions protect publishers and advertisers from the majority of threats associated with ad fraud. White Ops is one of the largest companies that’s in charge of protecting traffic of Oath and Adobe and other big ad tech players since 2012. Their solutions are MRC accredited and can be used by advertisers and publishers who want to eliminate invalid inventory across environments (desktop and mobile) and verticals (especially in travel, retail and financial ones).

Making sure your SmartHub is brand-safe and secure

We want to remind our clients that we collaborate with the world’s best ad fraud detection companies and regularly partner up with the new ones to outsmart even the most sophisticated fraudulent schemes. Advanced cybersecurity scanners that we provide to you are focused on both fraud prevention (pre-bid scanning) and detection (post-bid). Moreover, we offer API keys implementation so that you could integrate any scanner of your choice and keep your traffic safe and secure. If you need an individual implementation of any scanner, please be sure to notify us about your needs.

The last word

Ad fraud detection tools will not cease to develop as long as advertising space is plagued with bot traffic, ad click fraud, and fake views. Taken the fact that programmatic actively expands to the new environments, e.g OTT/CTV or audio, in the future, the variety of ad fraud schemes will only grow. The sooner ad tech providers realize the real state of things, the better trading environment they will be able to create for their advertisers and publishers and the higher incomes they will be able to generate in the end.

Drive only real human traffic and impressions that translate into conversions at SmartHub.

Written by
Iryna Sieliutina, Head of Content Strategy of SmartyAds
May 2020