The click hits the fan – ‘bots’ responsible for 36% of ad traffic

Online advertising fraud has caught the headlines after the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) revealed that up to 36% of reported ad traffic may be fake and generated by automated ‘bots’.

Click fraud and impression fraud are, essentially, computer-generated traffic. Robotic programs, or ‘bots’,  simulate page-views and ad-clicks to mimic human web-surfing behaviour. The fraud revealed this month extends across many forms of online ads which are charged on a per impression or per click basis, including display and even pre-roll video.  Examples include ‘fake’ pre-roll video ads which play automatically when the viewer has shown no intention of watching the video, yet are recorded as an engaged interaction; and  ‘ad stacking’ – display adverts stacked on top of each other, meaning that all but one will never be seen by a visitor. ExchangeWire recently published a list of eleven forms of such online ad fraud.

Web security experts White Ops, claim to have found sites where up to 90% of ads and clicks are fraudulent. The ad fraud issue stretches to social media too; Twitter revealed that 23 million of their accounts are run by bots.

The issue was first thrown into the spotlight this summer when the Financial Times reported that Mercedes had rejected 57% of 365,000 reported campaign ad views as having been generated by automated computer programs, rather than real human views.

Last month, Kraft stated that they are rejecting between 75-85% of all digital ad impressions (despite spending £23 million on digital advertising this year!).

The IAB estimate that online ad fraud has cost brands up to £6.5 billion this year alone. A figure that is up 22% on last year. IAB chairman, Vivek Shah, said “We’ve got to stop devaluing digital media. It’s simple; No more traffic fraud. Let’s end it.”

Online Ad-serving firm, Rocket Fuel, who ran the controversial Mercedes campaign, defended their practices, claiming that many impressions are rejected by their own servers before inclusion in reported numbers.

Providing accurate impression reports has always been tricky for most media channels, including out-of-home. At Captive Media we sit in an industry that is striving to provide more accountability in the impressions media owners deliver.    Luckily we can measure directly each and every consumer who walks up to one of our poster sites; something unique in the industry to our knowledge.