How Companies Like AOL Work to Prevent Ad Fraud

How Companies Like AOL Work to Prevent Ad Fraud

As a marketer, when you advertise online, you expect your content and ads to be viewed by human audiences – real consumers who have the potential to become a new patient at your medical or dental practice.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. The online advertising industry is plagued by an increasing level of illegal activity known as ad fraud which is used by criminals to exploit the system and profit by infiltrating systems to generate false ad views, ad clicks and site visits using robotic programs, called bots. These days, bots are so sophisticated they can mimic human behavior making them harder to detect.

Industry giants like Facebook, Google and AOL have recently banded together to combat ad fraud. Together these companies have created a Trusthworthy Accountability Group (TAG) to stem ad fraud, identify criminal behavior and share policing resources among members as well as define standards and communicate as a united front.

In a recent eMarketer article, Sean Crawford, Senior Vice President for Publisher Client Services and Operations for ONE by AOL and who has a direct hand in crafting AOL’s anti-fraud practices and policies, sat down to speak with eMarketer’s Lauren Fisher about how AOL works with buyers to minimize ad fraud which continues to be a growing problem across desktop, mobile and video.

To illustrate the growing issue of ad fraud, Fishers first questioned the impact of ad fraudd on the digital advertising space today. According to Crawford, while you can try to solve for viewability, for URLs and “all that other stuff, if an impression isn’t real and if the traffic to a website isn’t real or if it’s bot traffic than everything else doesn’t matter.” Crawford goes on to say that a problem with ad fraud is that there isn’t a comprehensive definition of what fraud is for everyone but that they want their threshold for ad fraud to be zero which can very difficult to achieve or even impossible.

In regards to proactively addressing ad fraud, Crawford said:

“For the human portion, no site or publisher is allowed to work with [now called ONE by AOL: Video Marketplace] or any other AOL properties without actually talking to a person. You just can’t show up and sell. It has to be a vetted site. We have a whole subset of rules for how they get vetted and what we’re looking for before they’re allowed to partner with us.

Next, we use internal and external technology to monitor all the traffic for bot traffic, and we have thresholds that we manage to. We’re constantly trying to push network traffic down below a certain percentage of suspicious traffic, constantly trying to push that closer to zero.”

When it comes to managing ad fraud expectations with advertisers and the acceptable standards within the industry, Crawford states that while they would like to have a zero threshold that might be impossible to attain. When discussing with advertisers he likens it to credit card information being stolen – that companies like American Express and Visa have thresholds they manage to it still happens. Same with grocery store theft. While they prefer it to be zero, people are going to come in and steal and they just have to manage to an acceptable threshold. It’s the same with ad fraud.

As a whole it appears that the major players on the Internet are finally coming together to proactively combine their resources to combat ad fraud. And while companies like AOL and Google have been working to combat ad fraud for years independently, advertisers should expect to see better prevention methods in place now that companies are combining resources and knowledge.

About Alan Moore: Alan started his career in 1999 as an Marketing Consultant and is the owner of Over the years, he has migrated his focus of expertise to everything digital. His mission is to help you increase your revenues and decrease unproductive advertising expenses through proven, online marketing strategies. He manages over $3,600,000 in yearly marketing budgets and has worked with local businesses, agencies and the US government. Give him a call to schedule a Free Online Marketing Consultation for your practice.

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