When it Comes to Programmatic Digital, the “Same-Old, Same-Old” Isn’t Working

April 21, 2020

By Cliff Campeau

TarikVision/Shutterstock.com

Media’s murky supply chain, wrought by fraud and congested with too many intermediaries between advertisers and publishers, continues to serve up challenges for digital media advertisers.

The fraudsters are at it again with a devious approach to separating advertisers from their media spend. As if digital ad fraud practices including fake devices, fake locations, fake impressions and fake consent strings weren’t enough, the media industry now has to deal with a sophisticated domain spoofing bot.

According to an article in The Drum, fraudsters have now launched bot networks to evade ads.text protections, which was introduced by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) to allow publishers to “list authorized sellers” of their inventory. Both DoubleVerify and Integrated Ad Science (IAS) have unearthed fraudulent activity using 404bots, which employ domain spoofing techniques that misrepresent URLs, making buyers “believe that they are getting valid inventory, when in fact it does not exist.” IAS suggests that more than 1.5 billion ads have been affected since September of 2019.

When will it end? Likely never. Ad fraud is too lucrative and too difficult to detect, creating a literal gold mine for fraudsters. In fact, the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) estimates that “over the next 10 years, the global cost of ad fraud is projected to rise to $50 billion.” The best defense for advertisers, according to Shawn Lim, author of the aforementioned article, is “brands and publishers need to work with transparent supply chains, reputable supply partners, and know what ads are appearing — and where.”

If you’re an advertiser, you would be right to pose the question; “Who has my back?” For all of the money invested by digital advertisers in specialist agency support, fraud detection services and brand safety tools, who is safeguard their funds? It seems as though the only thing advertisers have to show, for the promise of efficiency that was ushered in by programmatic digital media, is suppressed working media ratios.

The risks continue to mount as the amount spent on digital media in the U.S. is approximately $79 billion, with 85 percent of the total transacted programmatically. eMarketer estimates that advertisers spent 38 percent of their non-social programmatic display budgets on programmatic fees in 2019, a 20 percent increase over the prior year.

As one example of the congested digital media ecosystem, Danny Khatib, CEO of Granite Media, wrote an excellent article in AdExchanger illustrating the inefficiency of the programmatic digital media supply-chain. The article, entitled “Can We Please Reduce This Link In The Programmatic Chain Already,” advocates for consolidation between the DSPs and SSPs, long thought to function respectively as buyer and seller advocates, with “each taking a 15 to 20 percent cut and confusing the heck out of the web ecosystem in the process.” According to Mr. Khatib, “there really shouldn’t be a traditional SSP business separate from a DSP business — that distinction no longer makes sense, if it ever did.”

No wonder advertisers have stepped up compliance and performance audits of their suppliers and have heartily begun to embrace supply-chain optimization. The madness has to end and fueling investments in specialist agencies and adtech solutions is simply not achieving the desired result.

As the quote often misattributed to Albert Einstein says, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Cliff Campeau is a Principal at AARM | Advertising Audit & Risk Management. You can email him at ccampeau@aarmusa.com.


The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Maestros are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.


You must be logged in to submit a comment.