ANA: Fight Against Bot Fraud Is Winnable

The Association of National Advertisers projects there will be a 10% decline in digital ad fraud in 2017. 

That is according to the third annual Bot Baseline Report. 

A bright spot for programmatic media buys is that the ANA concludes they are no longer riskier than general market buys, which ANA attributes to media agency improvement in filtering and control.

Bot fraud—paying for online eyeballs and getting bot visits instead—is projected to result in $6.5 billion in economic losses in 2017, but that is still down from the $7.2 billion in last year's study.

But there are plenty of opportunities to spend on bots rather than eyeballs. The report says that about a fifth of all the websites across the "entire buying universe" have nothing but bot visits. 

That decline in bot fraud comes even as digital ad spending is expected to increase by 10% or more. 

The report is headlined Bot Baseline 2016-2017 but says itself a better headline might be "'The War on Digital Ad Fraud Is Winnable!" for those who pay attention and set proper controls. 

ANA polled 49 member companies on digital ad activity between October 2016 and January 2017. Among the advertisers participating were Comcast, AT&T, Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s and Kimberly-Clark.

The study found that purchasing traffic from "inorganic sources" was the biggest risk factor. The study found that almost a quarter (22%) of spending on desktop video was fraudulent, while that figure was 9% for desktop display ads.

Not surprisingly, digital fraud spiked around holiday periods like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, as well as at the end of a quarter, which obviously has implications for how spending is managed. "[A]rmed with the knowledge that fraud moves in tune with seasonality, planning and buying in a manner countercyclical to industry norms may be a strategy to help minimize fraud." 

The report also offered ways to bring those numbers even lower, including demanding transparency for sourced traffic and making it clear in contracts that non-human traffic will not be paid for.

(Photo via Luckey Sun's FlickrImage taken on April 21, 2017 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 9x16 aspect ratio.)

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.