The 2015 Bot Baseline Study from ANA and White Ops

January 19, 2016

By Bill Duggan

Today, the ANA and White Ops released the 2015 Bot Baseline report.  This is a follow-up to the 2014 Bot Baseline report, considered by many to be the seminal report on advertising fraud. 

In 2015, 49 advertisers participated, up from 36 in 2014. These participants deployed White Ops detection tags on their digital advertising to measure bot fraud, or non-human traffic. Data was collected over 61 days from August 1 to September 30, 2015.  Participants included the following companies from the ANA board: Allstate, Bank of America, Colgate-Palmolive, Dr. Pepper, Ford, HP, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, JPMorgan Chase, McDonald’s, Nestle, Taco Bell, Target, Unilever, USAA, and Walmart. We learned so much!

Key highlights:

  • Advertisers had a range of bot percentages varying from 3 to 37 percent, compared to a 2 to 22 percent in 2014. But the overall rate of fraud was basically unchanged.
  • Media with higher CPMs (cost per thousand impressions) was more vulnerable to bots, as that provide a stronger economic incentive for botnet operators to commit fraud.
  • Sourcing traffic (any method by which publishers acquire more visitors through third parties) results in greater fraud. Sourced traffic had more than three times the bot percentage than the study average.
  • Fraud varies by buy type.  Direct buys had lower fraud. Programmatic buys had greater fraud.  Programmatic video ads had 73 percent more bots than the study average.
  • The annual financial impact of bot fraud ranged between $250,000 and $42 million for the 49 participating advertisers and averaged about $10 million per participant. The advertising industry overall could lose approximately $7.2 billion globally to bots in 2016.

The report provides a number of action steps for the industry to fight fraud going forward, including:

  • Be aware and involved.
  • Understand the programmatic supply chain and request inventory transparency (especially for programmatic video buys that tend to have higher CPM and higher fraud levels).
  • Request transparency for sourced traffic.
  • Include language on non-human traffic in terms and conditions.
  • Use third-party monitoring to ensure compliance with anti-fraud policies.
  • Require media quality measurement vendors to demonstrate effective anti-fraud technology and provide measurement transparency.
  • Announce your anti-fraud policy to all external partners.
  • Support the Trustworthy Accountability Group.

 Full details are the in the 2015 Bot Baseline report

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