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Guest Post: The Many Shades of Ad Fraud

by Amobee, December 15, 2015

Turn partner Peer39 by Sizmek dives in on ad fraud – Zach Schapira explains some of the “gray areas” in video fraud.

When we think of advertising fraud, we most often think about the most egregious offenders. First, there’s the invisible fraud—the stuff nearly impossible for humans to see, which comes mostly from fake traffic to both real and fake websites. This includes familiar characters like bots, click fraud, stacking, stuffing, and various forms of hijacking. Second, there’s invasive fraud—that’s when humans actually do see the ads, but in a way only the fraudster (not the user or publisher) actually intended. This kind of fraud happens due to culprits like certain toolbars, malware, ad injection, and click farms.

Catching these types of fraud will forever be a game of cat and mouse. But with increased vigilance against fraud, represented both by the explosion of fraud monitoring and blocking technology as well as recently-issued industry guidelines concerning invalid traffic, the problem of “what is fraud?” is becoming as relevant as the question of how to identify it. The examples above are black and white – when discovered, they are immediately reported, removed, refunded, blocked. But more and more, perhaps boosted by our own vigilance, we’re seeing traffic that is a bit more gray. These are the ad impressions not classically defined as illegal or illegitimate, but that fall into the much murkier category of things that make you go “hmmm.”

The gray areas are particularly prevalent in video, where the demand for premium in-stream far exceeds supply. For example, when a publisher serves an intended pre-roll into a single 1×1 pixel, we call that fraud (pixel stuffing). But what if instead of a 1×1, it’s served into a 10×10 thumbnail?

When 50% of a video’s pixels are shown for 2 continuous seconds, we call that viewable. But what if, as soon as it hits the 2-second mark, the publisher player launches another advertiser’s ad? What if, after the ad completed, it just refreshes the same ad by the same advertiser, thereby essentially charging twice for the same user session?

For those of us in the anti-fraud business, these examples might leave us scratching our heads. If an advertiser thinks they paid for high quality but actually got low quality, is that fraud? If an advertiser assumed a publisher delivered ads according to established norms but later discovered otherwise, do they deserve a refund?

There will never be a definitive line that separates the fraudulent from the non-fraudulent, the legitimate from the illegitimate, or even the fraudulent from the illegitimate. This certainly presents a challenge for those seeking to create standard definitions and define industry best practices. But most people don’t fall into that category, and more and more impressions will find themselves in between the lines. More important, perhaps, is for media buyers to be armed with the information necessary to make their own decisions. It is the responsibility of the third party ad server to identify and characterize as many aspects of an ad’s delivery as possible. And then it is up to the transacting parties to outline their own expectations.


About Amobee

Founded in 2005, Amobee is an advertising platform that understands how people consume content. Our goal is to optimize outcomes for advertisers and media companies, while providing a better consumer experience. Through our platform, we help customers further their audience development, optimize their cross channel performance across all TV, connected TV, and digital media, and drive new customer growth through detailed analytics and reporting. Amobee is a wholly owned subsidiary of Tremor International, a collection of brands built to unite creativity, data and technology across the open internet.

If you’re curious to learn more, watch the on-demand demo or take a deep dive into our Research & Insights section where you can find recent webinars on-demand, media plan insights & activation templates, and more data-driven content. If you’re ready to take the next step into a sustainable, consumer-first advertising future, contact us today.

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