Detecting Ad Fraud With Centralized Data

During 2017, Uber discovered that ad fraud comprised two-thirds ($100M) of their total online advertising budget, rendering that portion useless. At the time, they were taking some heat for having 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 of the marketing budget, there was still had 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 due to that Uber’s marketing department had hired external agencies to handle their display marketing 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 such as Uber is vulnerable to such swindling, then how can average businesses avoid becoming victims of ad fraud themselves?

Implications of ad fraud

Business owners and digital marketers working with paid advertising are always looking for methods for optimizing their campaigns in order to achieve the best results. Yet, it seems to be an impossible and daunting task to be aware of ad fraud causing marketing data to be fraught with inaccuracy. Ad fraud is one of the reasons why optimizing ad campaigns can be so difficult.

“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 working in paid advertising is a potential victim of this money-leeching scheme.

Data you can trust

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 some common sense, but much more can be done by utilizing centralized data while the right tools can help advertisers monitor and control their 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. Difficulty of measuring the impact
  4. Pricing transparency and hidden costs

It’s no question that a major part of ad fraud is directly related to data visibility. Detecting ad fraud can start with having clear and accurate data. It’s important to understand the fundamentals of how each metric works as well as how they influence each other (be obsessed with your data). By making sure that your data isn’t affected by ad fraud, optimizing your campaigns becomes a much simpler task.

Seeing things from a bird’s-eye-view may help you quickly recognize any discrepancies between channels. Having centralized data from all your ad channels drastically improves data visibility and clarity, both necessary for detecting ad fraud.

Accurately analyzing the data from your paid ads across all channels can help you prevent your ads from leaking money. 40% of brands and agencies report that they would like to increase their ad spend, but how can they be sure that the additional funding wouldn’t be lost to ad fraud? Knowing exactly where – to which campaign, which channel, which creative and target audience – to add more funds is one of the purest forms of optimizing your budget. Those who aren’t aware of this are the most prone to ad fraud.

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. Going back and forth between channels is a hassle and causes confusion. Organizing and uploading the data is even more time-consuming just to find areas where it is your 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”.

Conclusion and obligatory sales pitch

If Uber’s in-house marketers had prioritized centralizing and analyzed collated cost efficiency data from all the ad agencies which they had used, they may have discovered their ad fraud quite a bit 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 ad fraud.

Adriel’s All-in-One Dashboard is a workspace with which you can view data and manage your ad campaigns across all the ad platforms you use, easily customizing it to your needs. With a bird’s eye view of all your data focused on Return on Ad Spend (ROAS), you can easily recognize money-leaking campaigns by aligning your 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 keep an eye on your entire 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.

Sign up with Adriel today for a free trial and see how much easier it is to detect ad fraud and grasp the overall health of your digital marketing.

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