Christmas season attract more ad fraud

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Protect Your Ad Budget: Watch Out for Ad Fraud When Launching Christmas Campaigns

When it comes to anything that’s potentially lucrative, there’s room for fraud. This is certainly the case when it comes to some sources that promise results for ads that aren’t delivered to the intended audience. While the Christmas season is a great time to launch a campaign for many businesses with a steady flow of online customers, it’s also a time when advertising fraud is more rampant, so it’s never too soon to take some precautions when planning your seasonal campaigns.

Taking Advantage of Added Traffic Demands

There’s a lot of competition for consumers during the holiday season, which tends to get underway soon after Labor Day, especially for businesses looking to maximize their profitability by stretching the Christmas season as far as realistically possible to get more clicks and conversions. This means more traffic sourcing among publishers in the form of social media, recommendation engines and the like. Fraudsters take advantage of this increased demand and the fact that uncontrolled traffic in one form or another is the leading cause of non-human traffic worldwide.

Intelligent Fraud Executions

Google Analytics presents an assortment of useful details that can be used to determine what’s going on with your traffic. While it would seem natural to assume GA metrics could be used to spot obvious signs of fraud quickly, this is rarely the case when ad fraud is executed by individuals with the ability to remain undetected. For instance, one of the methods employed by fraud perpetrators is to set up a botnet, or a series of computers set up to forward spam to other computers without the owners’ knowledge.

Hefty Price Tag for Ad-Related Fraud

Since the Christmas season is a time of year when advertising fraud is especially prevalent, it can result in some significant losses regardless when it occurs. According to the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), advertisers can expect to lose more than $7 billion to bots in 2016 alone. ANA stats from prior years indicate:

  • Fraud rates tend to remain constant
  • Media with higher cost per thousand impressions is more vulnerable
  • Programmatic buys are most susceptible to fraud
  • Direct ad buys have the lowest fraud occurrences

Rise of Programmatic Ad Buys

An algorithmic purchase of ad space in real time may seem convenient and a great way to boost efficiency, but it’s also a method of ad buying that’s highly vulnerable to fraud. While the purpose of this type of ad buying is to put content in front of qualified viewers, those “viewers” might not be human or may not even have the ability to actually see the ad. So-called “bad bots” account for nearly 30 percent of website visits, further increasing the odds of fraud occurring. Businesses who unknowingly make such ad buys lose money whenever ads aren’t viewed by an actual human with the ability to make a purchase.

Sourced Traffic and Potential Fraud

Sourced traffic can be an effective way to increase audience delivery requirements for Christmas campaigns when there’s a need to reach consumers searching for quality bargains. The reason why there’s a potential for fraud is because third-party vendors send users to a site — and sometimes publishers use programmatic tactics to purchase similar audiences. An ANA study found that sourced traffic is loaded with three-times as many bots as than other types of Web traffic.

Advertising Fraud Across All Platforms

Ad-related fraud can occur anywhere within the sales funnel and across all digital platforms and forms of media, including mobile. With more than 70 percent of mobile users conducting online searches for businesses and goods, odds are pretty good that your holiday campaigns will be heavily targeted at mobile shoppers. Since advertisers generally pay per impression, this is where most instances of fraud take place regardless of platform. Ad deception doesn’t have to be highly technical, it could be a simple as purposely placing an ad where it’s not likely to be seen.

Fraud can take one of two forms:

  • Technical fraud: This type of fraud refers to any method employed to fake an advertising event; as in giving the impression of having more clicks than what’s legitimately being experienced.
  • Compliance fraud:Fraud in this form involves the intentional violation of the rules for a particular platform, which may be accomplished through technical trickery or other practices designed to make interactions seem legit.

Looking for Suspicious Patterns

You can still get the extra traffic you need for your Christmas campaigns by taking some precautions. One way to minimize the risk of fraud is to look for unusual or suspicious patterns. Suspect patterns may include:

  • Numerous clicks coming from the same IP address
  • High conversion rates with no clear explanation
  • Multiple post-install events from the same publisher

Pay Attention to Signs of Fraud Before Bidding

Err on the side of caution and see if there are any odd patterns with programmatic bid requests in real-time before making a bid yourself. You may be off on a few guesses, but even if you’re right about your suspicious half the time, you’ll be ahead in the game.

Watch When You Run Ads

Bots tend to run more during off hours (11pm to 5am), with the “bad” ones doing so to avoid detection. Consider skipping nighttime ads when running holiday campaigns.

Creating a Blacklist of Fraud-Related IPs

Start your own list of questionable IPs and publishers and update it periodically. Include all IPs linked to the same hosting provider. This is step that will help with not only your holiday ad campaigns, but any other campaigns you run throughout the year.

While ad technology can help identify signs of fraud, human interpretation is still needed. Plan your Christmas ad strategy with confidence and be weary of signs of possible ad fraud. Knowing what to look for can definitely help to identify potential sources of ad-related fraud before you holiday ad budget is depleted. provides the assistance you need to start seeing the results you expect.

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