Fearmongering in CTV Advertising
The Truth of CTV Ad Fraud and Brand Safety
With cold weather approaching, remote learning in action, and seemingly every content provider developing its own streaming service, more consumers than ever are consuming connected TV (CTV) programming. Comscore recently reported that 66 percent of Wi-Fi enabled households consume CTV, with hours watched expected to substantially increase over the coming months.
So, it is no surprise that CTV advertising has been the focus of the advertising industry. CTV, as a medium, has the potential to represent the best of both TV and digital. It has the reach, attention, and dynamics of linear advertising, with the impression-based currency and data tools of digital. With that focus and newness comes the inevitable questions about the darker sides of advertising: fraud and brand safety implications. But how much of that concern is based in reality and how much boils down to fearmongering? During The Trade Desk’s recent Groundswell event, a marketer from a major CPG brand noted that one of the reasons that advertisers like CTV is because it does not have the brand safety problems that afflict digital video. This important and nuanced insight reveals the beauty of CTV and helps to answer the ultimate question: What tactics do content creators and advertisers need to utilize to protect themselves?
Marketers are right to be both alarmed and vigilant as new ad fraud schemes grab headlines. It is the nature of fraud to evolve as advertising options expand. Like any adversary in the cyber security domain, malicious actors are constantly developing new ways to generate invalid impressions. Let us be clear, CTV ad fraud is an important problem to protect against. A dollar that goes to fraud is a dollar wasted. With advertisers exercising more diligence on ad spend - there are no dollars to waste. However, it’s important to separate marketing talking points from fact.
While not impervious to fraud, CTV is less prone to fraud than traditional digital advertising. One reason why this is so is because of the difficulty fraudsters face with infiltrating CTV with malware. Typical methods of fraud, such as clicking on malicious emails or downloading suspicious apps on CTV which propagate bot software are less of a concern with CTV. The biggest risk comes in the form of CTV inventory being spoofed as premium when it is not.
As a leader in detecting Invalid Traffic, Comscore has long advocated for the need for continued innovation in detecting known ad fraud and identifying new threats by combining cyber security techniques with big data analytics. As a result, we’ve continued to adapt and expand our IVT detection capabilities, which were among the first to receive MRC Accreditation for desktop and in-app environments. Comscore measurement has detected many of the attacks identified by other vendors (e.g., ICEBUCKET and other ominously named schemes). Comscore’s IVT detection assessments indicate a CTV post-bid IVT rate at just over one percent, which is consistent with other sources of high-quality traffic. We know a large portion of this traffic comes from specific sources that have been identified in the security community as the targets of malware. Furthermore, premium content sources are less susceptible to IVT. Armed with this knowledge, it is important that marketers understand the tactics that they can utilize to best protect themselves in a constantly evolving landscape.
The 3 Best Tactics to Prevent Fraud & Ensure Brand Safety
Work with reputable sources of inventory – CTV-focused supply side platforms such as Magnite and SpotX, have taken many steps to prevent fraud from flowing through their pipes. In addition, premium content providers have begun to offer greater transparency in ad buys and measurement. Working with reputable sources of inventory from the start is a strong preventative step.
Seek out premium content – It is harder for bad actors to impose fraud tactics on premium content. Initiatives like ads.txt and app-ads.txt have increased transparency in the supply chain and many reputable publishers limit the number of authorized resellers with which they’ll work. Premium content identification through tools such as the long-standing Comscore 100 publisher ranking, can help advertisers to navigate available inventory options.
Apply brand safety and contextual targeting data layers – New technologies and new methodologies have breathed new benefits into contextual solutions. By layering brand safety and contextual relevance at the content level, advertisers can arrive at content which is not only appropriate but also relevant. The behind the scenes mechanics of content-level contextual categorization also creates an extra layer of defense to fraud. Comscore recently released next generation contextual targeting and brand safety solutions for CTV content. This new technology gives advertisers the ability to apply deeper contextual relevance for direct and programmatic ad buys at the content level and helps advertisers with second by second brand safety for CTV livestreaming news content. Not only does this help solve the brand safety challenges associated with CTV news content, but by the nature of the underlying work flow it takes steps to match content IDs in ways that would be more challenging for fraudsters to replicate.
Fraudsters are constantly adapting and modifying their attack vectors and we can expect them to follow the dollars to CTV. We all need to stay vigilant to box them out at every turn. As an industry, we have an opportunity to build CTV ad practices utilizing our collective experience from having seen the evolution of digital. Let’s be smart and diligent and not squander the opportunity to do this right from the start.
Comscore’s next generation brand suitability filters help marketers and media companies achieve optimal campaign protection across display, video, mobile, CTV, and podcasts without sacrificing reach and ROI. Comscore’s new brand protections for misinformation are available in most demand-side platforms through Comscore’s Contextual Targeting suite for digital or connected TV content. To learn more about the benefit from these solutions, contact us here.