Digital Ad fraud: What’s The Deal with Bots?

This past December, the Association of National Advertisers and White Ops, Inc. released a 50-plus page report on bot fraud in digital advertising. (Bots are web robots—software programs that masquerade as people by performing automated online tasks.) Their research found that bots are everywhere, visiting real sites created by real companies. These bots “inflated the monetized audiences at those sites by 5 to 50 percent.”

Bottom line: marketers are all too often paying for ads that aren’t actually seen by human beings. In fact, global advertisers will lose $6.3 billion in 2015 to bots.

Below are a few important findings from the report to help you understand and ultimately, minimize bot-related fraud:

  • Bots are most active at night
  • Bot activity accounted for 11 percent of all display impressions observed by the study
  • Third-party trafficking accounted for 52 percent of bot fraud
  • Video inventory contained nearly twice the percentage of bot fraud
  • Older browsers are more susceptible to bots
  • Even premium ad spaces aren’t immune from bots

As an industry, the first step in combating the issue is acknowledging the problem. The report did a fantastic job of suggesting practical solutions, which included monitoring for the fraud and authorizing third-party validation technology. Encouragingly, bot traffic percentages can actually drop when the bot supplier (remember, there is a real life criminal behind those bots) becomes aware of the increased scrutiny.

There’s no silver bullet, but all parties—marketers, publishers, tech companies, etc.–must work together to raise awareness about the issue and to collaboratively fight those bots.

Download the report here:

What do you think can be done to minimize bot-related ad fraud?  Tell us what you think.


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