$50 million in the red

50 millionóin the dollaróin the negative

We deal with ad fraud whenever a user uses the Internet in an unnatural way, when traffic to a website is generated artificially by. Such unnatural traffic can be generated by bots, or computer software – then móWe are talking about non-human traffic or by people – Then we have to deal with human traffic, which I wrote about last year here.

Online advertising fraud is a serious problem not only for the advertising industry but also for the entire global economy (reportedly, every dollar fraudulently spent on advertising results in a $6 costów for the economy).

The WFA estimates that on a global scale, marketer lossesóThe amount of money spent on Instagram (expressed in financial means, time and other expenses) is at least 15 billion dollarsóin 2016 (according to conservative assumptions that they accounted for 10% of the value of advertising in the digital space). In a realistic scenario – red line in the graph below – The losses could even reach 45 billion dollarsów, or 30% of the value of the advertising market in the digital space in 2016.

The scale of the problem is also evidenced by the fact that ad fraud is considered by the WFA report to be one of the most profitable, generating the highest revenues in relation to outlays incurredów and risks. Even if the authors of the report exaggerate a lot in their opinions, they are a wake-up call for the industry to take countermeasures to eliminate fraud as soon as possible. Without a firm and organised response from the whole industry, the share of fraud in the advertising market will increaseóword. WFA experts estimate that by 2025 – with unchanged share in the global digital advertising market – ad fraud can reach dizzying amounts of 45 to 140 billion dollarsów!

According to Forrester’s data, video and programmatic ads are the most susceptible to fraud. Video accounts for 44.7% of global spendóThe most common format for fake ads is display advertising, but this format is responsible for as much as 63.8% of ad fraud. However, the area of greatest abuse is video ads purchased in waysób automated (programmatic video).

Due to the fact that the aforementioned forms are currently the most popular among theód marketerów, are also the most greedy morsel for speców from generating artificial traffic.

Bots plague online advertising

Bots are the cróThe ability of these fraudsters to take control of even entire computer networks in order to massively impact websites as botnetsób to make marketers think that live users are doing it. Bots are a real scourge in online advertising. While they used to work in a simple wayób and their presence was quite easy to detect and eliminate, now they are more sophisticated, able to mimic human behavior (e.g. filling out forms or watching video spots), thanks to which they are used by dishonest players for remarketing (encouraging the user toó(e.g., to revisit a website). About the nuisance of botóHowever, the biggest field of abuse is video advertising, which is purchased in a way that demonstrates their ability to take control even of entire computer networks in order to massively impact as botnets.

Artificial traffic generated by people

Manipulation of advertising traffic generated by people (human traffic) takes róThe user is not aware of the fact that. Below is a description of someósome of them. Usually users are not aware that they can be used as a tool by fraudulent ad techy.

Let’s start with the so-called. farm clickóIn the past they worked in a simple way, where the task of people staying there is to click on ads, fill out forms, etc. It is one of the easiest ways toóin deliberately generating artificial traffic, but it is difficult to consider the provider of such services as an ad tech company. Either way, keep your finger on the pulse and eliminate suspicious traffic usually originating from countriesóin developing countries (e.g. Bangladesh).

In the case of hidden advertising, a dishonest provider overlaps several ads in the same place on the page so that only one is visible (ad stacking) or places very small, invisible to the naked eye, ad formats (pixel stuffing). The server gets a few ad impressions, and it should – at most one.

Cookie stuffing, i.e. installing several „cookies” in the browser, without the user’s knowledgeóas a result of which the remuneration for the user’sóThe traffic is received by a dishonest provider, and the publisher of theóry salary earned, nothing earned.

Domain spoofing (a.k.a. referrer spoofing, URL masking or domain hijacking) occurs when a fraudulent contact provider attempts to steal a domainów advertisers impersonate a well-known domain with a good reputation and thus, at high rates, monetise low-quality traffic coming from a website with poor content. A famous example of such a fraudulent practice is the case of impersonating the domain of FT.com Financial Times at the end of 2017.

The ad injection method consists in superimposing one advertisement on another („fake” on „real”) or by replacing advertising served by the publisher with advertising controlled by the fraudsterów. RóIn this case, too, the procedure takes place without the consent and knowledge of the publisher and the userów. Ads can include, and you’ve probably encountered them more than once, e.g. content warning against viruses or encouraging the installation of software to improve device performance.


The pr industryós there is no way to defend oneself against the abusive advertising practices described above, the scammers do not bury their thorns in the grass either, but keep coming up with newer and newer ways to make money on online advertising. A coordinated, large-scale industry defense effort expressed in the creation of TAG (Trustworthy Accountability Group) – Its goal is to eliminate artificial traffic and piracy and promote brand safety – are much needed but require some time.

Meanwhile, you can reduce the risk of ad fraud yourself, almost out of the box, by: (1) excluding suspicious publishersó(4) monitoring how advertising metrics translate into real consumer purchasesóin countries with high ad fraud, (2) tightening the supportó(3) catching anomalies in campaigns and monitoring how advertising metrics translate into real consumer purchasesów.

From time to time it is also a good idea to use the browser in private mode (incognito) and see how our pages are seen on the Internet by other usersów.

Even if at first the effects of the above actions will not be significant, it is important to take them. And consistency. After all, a drop drills a rock.