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4 tips to avoid fraud in programmatic

4 tips to avoid fraud in programmatic Marco Muzzi

While advertisers have been increasing their investment in digital marketing, especially in the areas of programmatic and real-time bidding (RTB), we've heard a lot about how fraud can adversely impact the effectiveness of these new mediums. 

While there are some who say 15 to 25 percent of online advertising is fraudulent, especially in the programmatic and RTB landscape, there are reports that suggest these new digital marketing mediums are as safe as a premium display ad buy.

Regardless of what side of the fence you sit on, it is important to know how to defend against fraud when buying programmatically (or with RTB). Here are four actionable tips to help keep you safe.

Avoid exclusively blocking keywords and domains

It's easy to think that simply scanning the content of each page for offensive words will keep you safe -- but you're wrong.

Evaluating content based on keywords alone can often lead to improperly categorizing that content because keywords can have multiple meanings. When taken out of context, individual words are not always reflective of the overall meaning of the content.

The same can be said for domain-level blocking. The problem here is that the domain level information could be out of focus from the actual content on each page. The resulting classifications that are produced from domain targeting are sometimes inaccurate and steer the advertiser's campaign away from a potentially valuable piece of content and a valuable user interaction.

Stay away from ad blocking

To some, ad blocking is the most inefficient method of brand safety available.

The process unfolds like this: First you purchase the impression on a website. Then after you discover the page is unsafe to your brand or campaign, you switch out the ad you were going to place on that page for another ad (typically this ad would be generic or otherwise unrelated to your brand or campaign). The major downside of this method is that you are first buying the impression and then throwing it away by placing an unrelated ad -- or potentially no ad -- on the webpage.

Steer clear of sliding scale safety

If you're buying programmatically or through RTB, then sliding scale safety defeats the benefits you're seeking.

Similar to domain blocking, sliding scale safety assigns an overall safety score to a domain. The biggest issue here is that if you are only assigning an overall score to a website, you are not getting the full picture of how safe or unsafe the domain truly is. If you choose to buy on a domain which is scored as safe overall, how do you know that there are not a few or more unsafe pages within the domain?

This method of protection presents too much risk for the advertiser to be considered effective.

Integrate industry robots and spiders lists into your campaign

Think of these like a digital marketing's most wanted list.

These lists identify many of the robots and spiders that could potentially inflate your campaign performance metrics by clicking on your ads, completing your forms, or otherwise interacting with your campaign. The biggest flaw of these lists is that new offenders are emerging daily and thus these lists do not include 100 percent of the offenders. That being said, utilizing this information is important, as without it you are exposed to a large number of external threats.

The lists are easily available through memberships to groups like the IAB, or available by purchase through many reputable third party providers.

In the end, while we cannot deny that fraud is a part of the online advertising ecosystem, we can see that there are a number of steps we can take to reduce our exposure to fraudulent activity. We also cannot deny that benefits of new technologies like programmatic and RTB are greatly outweighing any risks associated with their implementation.

Marco Muzzi is marketing director at AcuityAds Inc.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Chalk drawing- no fraud" image via Shutterstock.

Marco is the Marketing Director for AcuityAds Inc. Marco fell in love with digital marketing early in life, opening his first eCommerce business at the age of 16. By 20, Marco was developing brand strategies and implementing online marketing tactics...

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