- May 4, 2015

Top 5 Reasons Why Sellers Should Care about NHT and Online Ad Fraud

This is the third in a series of blog posts on combating the industry issues of ad fraud, non-human traffic and viewability. These posts will break down key impacts to the advertising ecosystem and share how Comscore is leading the way in tackling these issues so that media buyers and sellers can stay ahead of the fraudsters.

So much has been written of late about online ad fraud, viewability and non-human traffic (NHT) in the online ad ecosystem that many buyers and sellers may be tired of the discussion. After all, with so many new types of scams exposed in the press, what else could be left to say? And isn’t online ad fraud really only an issue for ad buyers, since they foot the bill, while the increased volume from NHT actually benefits everyone else in the ecosystem?

The truth is that there is much yet to be exposed about ad fraud and each new technology that is uncovered is another potential threat to your brand as a media seller and puts your ad revenue at risk. In fact, it is in the interest of media sellers – publishers, supply side platforms and ad networks alike – to get ahead of the fight against fraudsters to protect your brand reputations and, ultimately, your bottom lines.

Using a “Letterman style” countdown, here are the top 5 reasons why you should place top priority on fighting NHT if you are or want to be regarded as a premium publisher:

5. Your investment: Every dime in ad revenue that goes to a botnet operator or perpetrator of ad fraud is a dime out of a legitimate seller’s pocket. While high quality publishers invest in staff, healthcare and benefits for their teams, purveyors of NHT derive revenue with none of that overhead. The fraudsters are truly stealing your return on investment.

4. Your identity as a publisher: One of the most popular forms of ad fraud today, often called domain laundering or URL masking, is quite literally a fraudster hijacking your identity. This fraudster pretends to have your content, ads and users by faking your URL string in an ad exchange. When a buyer purchases inventory thinking this is your site but is on a laundered domain, they often get unrealistically high in-target delivery, clicks or engagement at a very low cost – or worse – very low campaign viewability that tarnishes your brand. Either way, your next interaction with that buyer will be severely impacted by the experience the ad agency or brand thought they had with you but were in fact seeing the impact of domain laundering.

3. Your audience: NHT makes it impossible for a buyer to tell the difference between your high value audience and brand, and that of a botnet or ‘ghost network’ operator. (A ghost network is a common fraud technique involving setting up hundreds or thousands of fake sites, stealing other sites’ content and purchasing bot traffic to simulate real user impressions.) Given the trend in recent years that allows advertisers to ‘buy audiences anywhere’ and not focus on specific publishers, it’s more important than ever to prove the value of your audience – as real, engaged humans – to fight that trend and differentiate your brand. After all, if fraudulent impressions on your site get counted as real humans, the ROI of advertising on your site will be depressed, leading an advertiser to devalue your site and its ability to drive a strong impact.

2. Your growth strategy: The dialog around ad fraud and NHT has made the term “buying traffic” somewhat of a dirty phrase. It shouldn’t be. Just like any good advertiser, publishers need to be able to acquire customers (users or readers of their sites) and evaluate partners who can help with that. Audience extension and traffic acquisition isn’t inherently bad, so long as ad fraud is not involved. But for that to be the case, publishers need tools to rapidly vet traffic sources and stamp out NHT.

1. Your career and your industry: Okay, while this may be two reasons in one, the truth is that we’ve each chosen to build our careers in the digital ad vertical and the simple fact is this: if the industry is not well-regarded, we all suffer. Advertising dollars won’t flow into the ecosystem as fast as they should, innovation is stifled (since legitimate technologies and companies won’t grow as they’re choked by the ‘weeds’ of NHT), and it’s harder for all of us to move into new industries or verticals coming from a poorly regarded industry segment. Fighting ad fraud affects each of us personally and should be viewed as both a company and a personal priority when we think of how to stop it.

So, what do you do? In the end, proactive monitoring of the traffic to your inventory – both onsite and offsite – protects your reputation and helps you avoid falling victim to the NHT scheme. Without it, you are unable to maintain the value of your inventory and reputation, risking your ability to meet buyer demands for in-target and in-view delivery, as well as true, human engagement that can have an impact on their businesses. Continuous monitoring with an advanced NHT solution is the answer.

To learn more about how NHT affects the key differentiators of ad inventory, download our report on non-human traffic

Download report

Other articles in this series: