ADOTAS – In our continuing investigative series about the rampant rise of online ad fraud, Adotas has solicited the expertise of several industry thought leaders to weigh in on the issue. After publishing our special report about the anatomy of a botnet, we spoke with John Brown (pictured), GM, Click Forensics at Adometry, to hear his perspectives about how to dissect the industry’s growing concern with advertising fraud, a problem that affects publishers, advertisers and consumers.
Here is what John had to say:
Q: What is the ad fraud problem, in your eyes? Is it the rise of botnet traffic, the lack of ad viewability guarantees?
A: I think bots have been a problem for a long time, but the ‘rise’ in traffic is due to how easy it is to procure a bot (costs are minimal/open source). Bad actors always take advantage of open systems. Additionally, the bots are better at mimicking human behavior, and since everyone wins (except the advertiser), the incentive to reduce traffic is lacking.
Q: Who’s at fault here? Is it really necessary for regulatory bodies like the IAB to step in with its formation of the Traffic of Good Intent (TOGI) task force, or is it the role of publishers/advertisers/agencies?
A: There is incentive to do things that are NOT good for the long-term health of the industry. Cracking down on fraudulent traffic would have a negative impact on revenue, and add overhead costs to combat the bad traffic. The TOGI task force (which I am on) is useful. To date, we’ve gathered many of the leaders from the major players in the adtech industry. With the collective work of the group, two whitepapers have been written, giving a broad overview of the problem. I think the collective effort by leaders increases the friction and cost for bad actors engaged in this activity. With publishers, and networks, they need to be skeptical about their traffic, and question everything. In my opinion, if they see tremendous growth on sites that have little content, and do not investigate what is going on, then they are a part of the problem.
Q: What are some solutions to the problem?
A: This problem will take a collective effort to fix. TOGI goes a long way, but so does an effort by the legitimate players outside of TOGI to put pressure on the illegitimate, and make the margins and the ecosystem less attractive. A public hanging of a bad traffic source may be something that could scare some bad actors out of the space.
Q: How is Adometry helping the industry as a whole to find solutions?
A: The Click Forensics product was designed for this problem, and has evolved since the beginning in 2006. The past year and a half has been a period where the product made significant changes. Our reporting interface was completely redesigned to allow clients to see problem areas within their traffic more efficiently. We’ve added multiple optimizations to our block lists, specifically our Known Offenders List, to incorporate more bad sources. We are actively working on utilizing data from our other products to train and add features to our current capabilities. Late last year we received a patent for our collusion algorithms, which are specifically designed to identify non-human traffic and organized schemes.
Q: What is the future of advertising, and what will happen regarding ad fraud if no one addresses the issue?
A: The future will show programmatic getting smarter, video taking off, gamification will be more common, and mobile advertising will continue to increase. If the problem of fraud is ignored, this growth, across the ecosystem can and will likely will slow. If advertisers lose trust in sources, and the technologies that help distribute their ads, the entire adtech community will be negatively affected.