ANA Is Assessing the Extent of Digital Ad Fraud

30 brands join study

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Thirty members of the Association of National Advertisers are participating in a month-long study to examine just how badly bot fraud is impacting digital campaigns. The ANA has teamed with online fraud detection company White Ops for a project their dubbing "The Marketer's Coalition."

The "coalition’s objective is to provide actionable data and insights which marketers can use to reduce bot fraud and improve marketing [return on investment]," it said in a statement. The ANA estimates that 25 percent to 50 percent of digital ad spend may be wasted thanks to systems that produce phony traffic. 

Each participating company's advertising will be tagged to suss out fraud. In the end, the brands will be given a confidential report providing overall fraud rates, fraud by platform (desktop versus mobile), format (display, video, etc.) and channel (publisher, network and ad exchange). The results are expected by the middle of October, per the ANA—or just in time for the org's annual Masters of Marketing conference, which this year takes place in Orlando, Florida.

Interestingly, none of the 30 companies that will partake in the study were named in the announcement. ANA members include brands such as Kellogg Co., Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson and General Motors.

The development underscores how the narrative about fraud, which started to come to light in late 2013, continues to build well into this calendar year. Ad buyers—brands, chiefly—are pushing for greater transparency, while sellers are less motivated to tackle the issue since the whole discussion threatens their revenue models.

At any rate, the results to the ANA-White Ops endeavor could have a lasting impact on an industry that seems ready for some kind of resolution.

While appearing this spring at the I-Com marketing conference in Seville, Spain, Amaya Garbayo, associate director insights and planning at Kellogg, lamented the perception that any level of fraud was acceptable in digital advertising.

"If we are paying any [cost-per-thousand rate] for an impression it should be an impression," she said. "Imagine you buy a dozen donuts, and you open the box and there’s one donut. I want to understand what I am getting for the money."

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.