Are web data platforms the best defense against ad fraud?

Presented by Bright Data

Digital ad fraud encompasses any activity that deliberately impedes the delivery of ads to an intended audience. Most commonly, fraudsters use bots or domain spoofing to falsely represent online advertisement impressions, clicks, and conversions. Their objective is to make as much money as possible, as quickly as possible, using techniques that are continually evolving (some even effectively copying human behavior). These fraudsters can also cover their tracks to continue their fraud operations for longer periods of time, avoiding being detected and stopped.

Fraudulent activity can have a detrimental impact on the entire advertising value chain. It wastes budgets, gives misleading impressions on the effectiveness of campaigns, and compromises business models (not to mention, it also damages brand reputation).

The vast majority of marketers have experienced these consequences. Here’s one prominent example: A digital marketing campaign is constructed by links forming a digital journey. If one link is “hijacked” and directed to a site other than the one you intended it to go to, your marketing budget goes to waste.

In recent years, the growth in ad fraud has leapt in percentages, especially regarding connected TV (CTV). Given that 44% of consumers are spending more time on CTV devices globally than they were before the pandemic, it’s no surprise that the platform is attractive to bad actors. Unfortunately, fraud follows the money.

The year 2020 alone saw CTV fraud impressions increase 220% when compared to 2019, and this trend isn’t going to subside any time soon. In fact, DV’s Fraud Lab recently uncovered “SneakyTerra,” the first server-side ad insertion (SSAI) scheme known to hijack real CTV device sessions. At its peak, the scheme spoofed over two million devices each day and could have cost unprotected advertisers more than $5M per month, based on an average $20 cost per mille (CPM) across CTV.

So, what can we do to protect ourselves?

Fighting ad fraud with web data platforms

The only way for brands to effectively fight fraud is to closely monitor their ads for any signs of suspicious activity. To do this, they need a way of viewing the digital sphere from the perspective of their target audience — to basically see it through the eyes of their users. These web data platforms are built from networks following a data methodology that enables marketers to openly surf the digital advertising ecosystem with complete transparency. In fact, these platforms are already being used by thousands of global brands, including in the ecommerce, travel, and financial services sectors as well as by marketing agencies.

What are web data platforms?

The internet may have been designed to be a huge, transparent, and open database, but in practice that vision has not been fulfilled. Market competition considerations come into play, so even when attempting to access publicly available web data of a competitive company, that attempt will likely fail and be immediately blocked. To clarify, we are referring to the same type of public web data that is openly viewed by any average consumer anywhere in the world.

This is where web data platforms come into play. They allow companies, organizations, and even academic institutions to access the internet with complete transparency – without any competitive considerations. With web data platforms, you can access any type of public data and gather a large scale of information as it was originally designed to be accessed in the early days of the internet; essentially, web data platforms allow organizations to view the internet as the typical user does.

So how can web data platforms fight digital ad fraud?

Every digital ad campaign is built around demographic targeting that is based on an individual’s digital behavior. By using online points that match their target audience, marketers can test their ads and verify that they are being deployed correctly rather than fraudulently.

But why can’t marketers simply use their own web browsers to monitor ads? Crafty fraudsters can easily spot and identify non-consumer traffic originating from brands or data centers. When they know they are being monitored, these fraudsters will quickly respond by showing brands false information, all the while covering their tracks, so they can continue their malicious activities undetected.

This is why, when attempting to stop ad fraud at its core, you should first focus on identifying it, which is not an easy mission. However, web data platforms can do just that — they allow you to browse the internet as an average user, revealing any fraud attempt.

Gaining insight into the competition

In addition to employing web data platforms in the fight against fraudsters, there are two important ways in which marketers are harnessing this tool to gain unfiltered tactical insights.

First, marketers are using the platforms to more accurately see all the ads that are competing for their specific target audience’s attention. This enables them to make smarter decisions when it comes to campaign planning.

Second, in many sectors, there are marketers who monitor the public activities of competitor brands. They do so with transparency to see the public digital landscape for what it really is. These marketers use web data platforms to access the internet and gain real insights.

Globally, the use of digital advertising by brands is continuing to skyrocket, spurred by consumer lifestyle changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to market intelligence provider Beroe Inc., global spend on digital marketing reached $330-$340 billion in 2020 — an annual growth rate of almost 13 percent.

In this environment, revenue generation opportunities for ad fraudsters will only increase, so they won’t be disappearing anytime soon. As such, brands have no option but to take advantage of all the technology at their disposal in the fight against ad fraud. Currently, leveraging web data platforms is by far the most effective tool to stop ad fraud at its core. Doing so will enable marketers to maximize their budgets by ensuring that their ads are seen by the right people, in the right places, and at the right times.

Or Lenchner is CEO of Bright Data, an industry-leading public web data collection platform used by Fortune 500 companies, top academic institutions, public sector bodies and more.

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