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Uber’s Useless Digital Ad Campaigns: Detecting Ad Fraud With Centralized Data

Uber's useless digital ad campaigns taught us a lot about ad fraud. In this article, we dive into how centralized marketing data can help with fraud detection.
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Uber’s Useless Digital Ad Campaigns: Detecting Ad Fraud With Centralized Data

Uber's useless digital ad campaigns taught us a lot about ad fraud. In this article, we dive into how centralized marketing data can help with fraud detection.

In 2017, Uber discovered that ad fraud comprised two-thirds ($100M) of their total digital advertising budget, rendering that portion useless. At the time, they were taking some heat for having Uber ads placed on Breitbart, a far-right news website.

Kevin Frisch (Uber’s ex-Head of Acquisition) made a move in response by decreasing Uber’s marketing budget by 10% ($15M), and what surprised him was that there was no change in the number of app installs. What surprised him, even more, was that when he removed $100M from the digital marketing budget, there was still no effect on the number of app installs.

It’s a wonder how Uber wasn’t able to quickly detect that ad fraud had been causing $100M of their marketing budget to go down the drain. After all, ad fraud has been around for decades.

Was it that Uber’s marketing department had hired external agencies to handle their display marketing efforts for them? Or was it because their marketing department only cared about the number of app installs and not the cost efficiency of their data?

If a megacorporation like Uber is vulnerable to such swindling, then how can average businesses avoid becoming victims of ad fraud themselves?

Take it from Uber’s useless digital ad campaigns: Implications of ad fraud

Ad fraud is one of the reasons why ad campaign optimization can be so difficult.

Small business owners and digital marketers working with paid online advertising are always looking to optimize their marketing in order to achieve the best results. Yet, it seems to be an impossible and daunting task to be aware of ad fraud causing digital advertising data to be fraught with inaccuracy.

“You should start by assuming that half of what’s on the display channels is fraud.” – Kevin Frisch

Digital marketers must acknowledge that ad fraud not only exists but thrives. In 2018, it was estimated that $19 billion had been lost to ad fraud worldwide. Uber’s $100 million accounted for about 0.5% of that total.

In the same report by Statista, ad fraud is expected to grow to $44 billion annually worldwide by 2022. It’s safe to say Uber isn’t alone, and that everyone – from potential customers to those already working in paid advertising – is a likely victim of this money-leeching scheme.

Disregarding ad fraud and blindly believing in your data will result in a great deal of wasted money. A few things can be addressed by means of common sense, but much more can be done by utilizing centralized data and the right tools to help advertisers monitor and control ad spend.

In a report by Oracle Data Cloud, 4 of the 6 worst aspects of programmatic ad buying for agencies and marketers include:

  1. Poor inventory (data) quality
  2. Data management complexity
  3. The difficulty of measuring the impact
  4. Pricing transparency and hidden costs can you protect yourself against ad fraud?

Case studies have shown that 40% of brands and agencies report they want to increase ad spend, but how can they be sure that additional funding wouldn’t be lost to ad fraud?

Going back and forth between your ad channels and multiple ad networks is a hassle and causes confusion. Organizing and uploading the data is even more time-consuming to find areas where your digital marketing budget is leaking.

Twila Grissom (Forbes Agency Council, Acorn Digital Strategy) advises that one of the best ways to defend yourself against ad fraud is by “closely monitoring all ad campaigns for increased activity from bots will help you understand if you’re a victim of ad fraud”.

It’s no question that a major part of ad fraud is directly related to data visibility. Having centralized data from all your ad channels can drastically improve data visibility and clarity, which are both necessary for detecting ad fraud.

Seeing things in-person from a bird’s-eye-view helps you quickly recognize any discrepancies between digital marketing channels, such as activity on your social media platforms, landing pages, homepage, podcasts, and more.

Accurately analyzing the data from your paid ads across all channels can help you prevent your ads from leaking money. Knowing exactly where – to which campaign, which channel, which creative and demographic target audience – to add more funds is one of the purest forms of optimizing budget. Those unaware of this are the most prone to ad fraud.

This is why it’s important to understand the fundamentals of how each SEO metric and marketing strategy works, as well as how they influence each other (be obsessed with your data). By making sure your data isn’t affected by ad fraud or scams, optimization of your marketing campaigns becomes a much simpler task.

How quickly you catch ad fraud will determine how much money you gain. Having your data organized in one place saves you loads of time with respect to attempting to detect any sources of leakage.

Data cleansing is also crucial to reduce ad fraud. Cleaning and processing your marketing data before visualizing it ensures its integrity and removes  any inaccuracies or inconsistencies that could lead to substantial financial losses.

Centralize your data with Adriel’s marketing dashboard

Suppose Uber’s in-house marketers had prioritized centralizing and analyzed collated cost efficiency data from all the ad agencies they had used. In that case, they may have discovered ad fraud quite earlier. With ad fraud lurking in the dark, having all your data clearly viewable and transparent in one place is the first step to catching and preventing ad fraud.

Adriel’s all-in-one dashboard is a workspace that offers a centralized view of all your marketing data and manage your ad campaigns across all ad platforms you use, from Google Analytics and Google Ads to Mobile Measurement Partners. You can also get an overview of your content marketing performance.

With a bird’s eye view of all your data focused on Return on Ad Spend (ROAS), you can easily recognize money-leaking or useless digital ad campaigns by aligning data with your KPIs and benchmarks.

Taking action is important, but taking action at the right moment will consistently keep your paid ads in tip-top shape.

Adriel’s Alarm and Suggestion system keeps an eye on your entire online advertising portfolio, notifying you of any red flags as soon as they manifest. Adriel does the heavy lifting, ensuring that you’re not stuck in front of your computer or laptop constantly looking for signs of ad fraud. In addition, Adriel offers granular role-based access control (RBAC) for running advertising operations.

Ready to take that first leap? Book a call with one of our product specialists who will guide you through how to get the most out of your marketing dashboard.

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