The Media’s Response to the ANA and White Op’s Bot Baseline Report is Baseless
The MetaX POV
White Ops and the ANA recently published their annual Bot Baseline report. They measured ad fraud across 2,400 campaigns and 27 billion total impressions. In the report, they made bold claims regarding the state of ad fraud, here are a few:
“For the First Time, More Fraud Will Be Stopped This Year than Will Succeed”
“The rates for desktop ad fraud were the lowest in the history of the Bot Baseline study.”
“Today, fraud attempts amount to 20 to 35 percent of all ad impressions throughout the year, but the fraud that gets through and gets paid for now is now much smaller.”
Media outlets were quick to pick up on this rosy outlook, and headlines such as “Bot Frauds are going down — Report by ANA Proves!” and “Ad fraud losses drop 11% as more attempts are caught, ANA report says” ran across various news outlets.
However, the report also cited numerous examples of cases where ad fraud was still a systemic problem that is getting worse, but the media largely neglected this.
Furthermore, the study only measured “video, display, and other CPM formats for desktop and mobile devices.” This too has been largely ignored.
So let’s set the record straight.
There is no way to definitively say ad fraud is going down across the entire industry.
However, if we were to venture a guess based on the campaigns we have measured, it’s more likely that it’s going up and the reasons we are finding less of it is because it’s moving into different channels and becoming more sophisticated.
In the words of independent ad fraud researcher Dr. Augustine Fou, “There is a big challenge for measuring fraud for the entire industry. Of course, fraud can be measured for specific campaigns (which is what we do) but generalizing to the entire industry is nearly impossible.”
The digital advertising is ecosystem is enormous, therefore, trying to understand all of it by taking a small sample and analyzing it would be like trying to determine all of the living organisms in the Amazon rainforest by analyzing 10 square meters of it; the rainforest is 2 million square miles, you are going to miss quite a lot.
As an example, in a recent campaign for a client using adChain Audits, we found 1–3% of IVT (Invalid Traffic), BUT, we also detected 57% of fraud related to apps loading web pages. That 57% went completely undetected by traditional ad fraud verification detection. Focusing on all aspects of the data allowed us to turn off the fraudulent apps mid-flight to reduce the dollars going to waste in real-time.
Read more here.
The ANA report admits that ad fraud is going up in newer frontiers
On page 12 of the report, ironically written underneath the subtitle, “The Good News,” it states “Fraud Volumes Are Growing in Newer Frontiers, Such as Mobile and OTT.”
This declaration is consistent with what we see in the data that we measure. Mobile is especially pernicious with regard to fraud. The below image highlights recent examples of mobile apps taking advantage of permissions and committing fraud.
“In-app impressions are harder to measure because the fraud detection SDK’s provided by MMP’s (mobile measurement partners) has to be installed by the app developer and developers creating apps to commit fraud are probably not going to install that SDK…” — Dr. Augustine Fou
Sizeable Discrepancies Between Impressions Won Vs. Ads Served Is Still A Massive Problem
The Bot Baseline report also states that “For the top quintile of buyers, fraud was nearly nonexistent. However, discrepancies between ad server impressions and numbers and verification impressions numbers were present for even the most sophisticated buyers.”
But just how present? They didn’t say.
Luckily, we can reference data derived from our findings to paint a more vivid picture.
In this campaign, the DSP numbers reported for impressions won do not correlate to the number of ads served.
Marketers are paying for bids won, meaning there is a hidden cost when the number of ads served is less than what they pay for. For every bid won, there should be an ad served, making it a 1:1 relationship. When we see this discrepancy in a campaign, we are immediately on high-alert, since fraud is almost certainly the culprit.
“Less than Half of All Impressions Are Fully, Transparently Validatable”
Perhaps one of the most compelling pieces of information to come out of the ANA report is that more than half of all impressions they measured were, in effect, immeasurable.
“Participants collectively bought 34 million display impressions from a popular publisher website, of which only eight million were validatable at the highest standard.”- Pg. 24 of ANA Bot Baseline Report
We can attest to this. It can take eons for large exchanges and DSP’s to approve third-party tags. Fortunately for us, the proprietary tracker tag we utilize for adChain Audits is approved and working in nearly all major third-party platforms.
The main takeaway here and the point we are trying to drive home is that when it comes to ad fraud, the jury is still far from out.
The ANA report calls attention to this fact saying, “the digital ad industry still has a long way to go before ad fraud is completely eliminated.” pg. 20
However, when the media cherry picks only the most optimistic aspects of the report to create attention-grabbing headlines and a ‘feel good’ story, it’s not helping the industry mitigate fraud.
Analyzing ad fraud requires a multi-faceted approach. adChain Audits uses machine learning, AI, and real human auditors to triangulate over 300 custom data points at the impression level. Without this extreme attention to detail, we would miss huge percentages of fraud that traditional methods cannot detect.
One of the key differentiators in our approach vs. our competitors is that rather than trying to identify fraud and move away from it; we identify real humans and move towards them.
The logic behind this is that ad fraud is a cat-and-mouse game where the fraudsters always have first mover advantage. There will always be new forms of fraud that are as of yet undetectable.
Even if we can confidently say we are moving away from a currently known type of fraud, we would have no way of saying we aren’t moving towards a more sophisticated type of fraud that we haven’t identified yet.
By positively identifying human impressions and categorically improving how to target those, we paint a bullseye on the target. adChain Audits goal is to hit that bullseye with increasing accuracy over time through constant vigilance. The proof is ultimately in the results and the data, which we display to our clients in a beautifully designed and easy-to-visualize dashboard.
If you want to find out for yourself how adChain Audits can help you reach more humans, then your timing is fortuitous.
We are offering a complimentary 2-week trial to demonstrate how our solution is superior to the competition.
Contact us! We are here to help.