Treating CTV Ad Fraud Protection as a Strategic Imperative

January 11, 2021
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Author: John Vilade, Head of Sales, Premion.

As we kick-off the New Year, brand safety and ad fraud protection remain top advertiser priorities. With more ad dollars chasing the explosive growth in streaming TV audiences, we can expect the prevalence of ad fraud to expand further into the OTT ecosystem. In fact, a recent Pixalate report found that over 20 percent of programmatic OTT/CTV is invalid traffic.

So, what is CTV ad fraud? CTV and OTT fraud happens when you’re paying for ads that are not being seen by an actual consumer. The reality is that video ad impressions are lucrative compared to other forms of digital ads, which makes this appealing to fraudsters. Anywhere you’re earning high CPMs and experiencing growth like streaming TV, you can expect to see this type of deceptive activity follow.

There are several ways cyber criminals are able to defraud advertisers:

  • Geographic misrepresentation happens when an unscrupulous arbitrager may sell ads they claim are being shown to users in the U.S., but instead will show the ads in a developing country to take advantage of lower CPMs, as an example. 
  • With device-based fraud, there’s a process known as “looping,” where a single connected device will show an implausibly high number of ads during a given time period — for example, 60 ads in a single minute. 
  • App-based fraud occurs when an ad-supported OTT app shows a consistently high rate of activity around the clock. 
  • A less sophisticated kind of fraud that can frustrate marketers is seller-based deception—sellers selling impressions that are represented as one thing and end up being quite another. 

Ad fraud creates significant reputational and financial risks for brands, especially when a brand makes the news headlines for being compromised. That’s why a marketer needs to know that the impressions they bought were delivered as ordered. An advertiser’s campaign is carefully planned to do something very specific at a specific point of time. Fraud not only makes it net effectively more expensive, but also robs you of the actual opportunity cost of that campaign in time.

Strategies for Combating Ad Fraud

Ad fraud isn’t like a bank being robbed — there’s nothing acute that happens that you need to respond to and recover from. It’s more of a constant threat that you need to be vigilant against, otherwise there’s a continual flow of ad dollars that’s being wasted going to bad actors. 

There are several considerations for marketers to keep top-of-mind for ad fraud protection:

  • Understand what the supply path is to the inventory you are buying, and what kind of fraud protection is within that supply path. It’s very simple to ask any agency or vendor to explain how their inventory is sourced and how they safeguard against fraud.
  • Determine whether there are any open exchanges or unknown publishers in your buying mix. For instance, is someone arbitraging inventory that may seem like premium OTT but doesn’t actually perform like it? Look for partners that work with trusted and valued publishers instead of open exchanges.
  • Work with ad partners that ensure transparent accountability for your campaigns. Ask them what they’re actively doing to prevent fraud within their platforms and if they’re aware of different schemes that are being perpetuated on the industry.

Brands should demand this accountability from their agencies and providers. Above all, advertisers should look for the TAG Certified Against Fraud Seal of approval to ensure that they’re choosing trusted providers that are committed to continued vigilance in detection and providing known, trusted inventory supply paths. This is the best safeguard to ensure transparent accountability for campaigns and to protect your brand and investment from ad fraud.

At PREMION, we’ve treated ad fraud protection as a strategic imperative from the onset. We’ve earned the TAG Certified Against Fraud seal that affirms our commitment to ad fraud protection and in driving trust and transparency for our advertisers.

Read more on MediaPost here.

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