By Vanessa Tadier, General Manager - Europe, Visual IQ.
Ad fraud has become a leading transparency concern among UK marketers, but despite industry-wide efforts to detect and eliminate fraudulent practices, the issue only seems to be growing.
Earlier this year Google offered to refund advertisers after discovering ads were running on websites with fake traffic, and just recently a malvertising attack involving the Financial Times was revealed to have been active for months before it was discovered.
Fraudulent traffic is costing marketers dearly, with ad revenue wasted on clicks generated by bots expected to reach $16.4 billion globally this year.
At present there seems little hope of wiping out ad fraud altogether, and with billions to play for, fraudsters are incentivised to devise ever more sophisticated techniques. But that doesn’t mean marketers should accept the status quo.
There are two key steps they can take to combat ad fraud and prevent their budgets being wasted on bots.
Shifting the focus of measurement
All-too-often marketers rely on upper-funnel metrics, such as click-through rates and impressions to measure campaign success. Not only does this limit their view of the customer journey – providing little insight into who clicked or viewed the ad and what action they took afterwards – it also allows ad fraud to thrive.
Upper-funnel interactions such as clicks and page views are easy for bots to mimic, enabling them to effectively imitate a genuine user and perform an action that the advertiser then pays for.
To naturally filter out ad fraud and gain a better understanding of campaign performance at the same time, marketers should broaden their focus to encompass the entire customer journey, from the first touch point to the final conversion. Lower-funnel conversions such as downloading an app, filling in a form, or making a purchase are far more complex behaviours that bots are unable to imitate.
By measuring these activities, marketers can make a direct connection between the ads they serve and the actions they produce. By allocating ad spend to marketing and advertising tactics that drive lower-funnel conversions, marketers can improve the performance of their campaigns while inherently reducing their exposure to fraud.
Targeting the humans behind the clicks
Another powerful strategy for beating the bots is for marketers to target their ads to real consumers – rather than cookies – through the practise of people-based marketing. People-based marketing is made possible by the creation of a persistent identifier (or ID) that links a person to his or her devices and browsers.
This anonymous identifier is unique to each individual and provides the marketer with a holistic view of each consumer based on his or her unique attributes and interactions with a brand.
Persistent IDs reduce wasted spend due to fraud by ensuring ads are reaching real people rather than bots. Moreover, when these robust consumer profiles are integrated with multi-touch attribution for user-level analysis, marketers can measure the influence of each touchpoint along the path to conversion and see which creative messages, offers, content and other tactics drive the best results for each audience.
Marketers can then apply this insight to optimise the consumer experience and make smarter investment decisions within and across channels to drive conversions and other desired business outcomes.
Advertising fraud is an ongoing problem that may never completely vanish, but it can be reduced. By allocating ad spend to tactics that drive lower-funnel conversions and targeting real consumers through the use of persistent IDs, marketers can cut off the fraudsters’ funding at the source.
What’s more, they can ensure they are delivering the most effective messages, content and offers to each audience to drive engagement and bottom-line business results.