Even before Congress started paying attention to ad fraud, the industry had woken up to the risks their clients face online. Whether from hacking or ad fraud, awareness has grown about potential dangers and what to do about them. This movement toward transparency and better security spans beyond the political realm.
Recently, there have been several ad industry regulatory measures introduced, including the creation of the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) and the Media Ratings Council (MRC) focusing on digital ad fraud by certifying vendors for both General Invalid Traffic (GIVT) and the most dangerous of all, Sophisticated Invalid Traffic (SIVT).
These are positive developments. In past cycles, digital ad fraud was not closely measured by political advertisers or digital consultants despite the industry’s propensity to use premium video and micro-targeting, which raise the risk of SIVT. That risk is particularly high during a presidential year when an influx of spending meets an unattainable demand for impressions.
Many digital consultants try to lock down as much inventory as possible with upfront buys, but this strategy alone is not enough. Inventory still becomes oversold with publishers promising overly ambitious growth numbers.
The scarcity of reachable humans in these highly contested races creates an opening for criminals to position bots to fill the gap between the human audience and demand. Political Marketers understand this challenge and are not sitting back. Many have added SIVT monitoring and adapted their campaign optimizations to deliver actual humans. Here are some other things client should look for in their digital firm.
Bots won’t be voting in November, nor will they help get out the vote. But bots can mimic nearly all voters’ online activities that can be quantified by metrics including soft conversions like email aggregation, engagement and viewabillity. These simple facts often require re-prioritizing the components of the optimization process.
A human-first approach enhances the validity of all other ad metrics. Once humanity is determined each metric becomes that much more valuable due to its authenticity. What is more valuable: a human that viewed your campaign’s messaging for 5 seconds, or a bot that watched the full 30 second spot?
A crime this profitable attracts many of the world’s most elite black hat hackers. They understand what marketers value and how to create sophisticated schemes to look as legitimate as possible. With the MRC making their first certification for SIVT, marketers for the first time will have the opportunity to partner with companies who have been accredited to detect and stop these criminals profiting schemes.
Protect Against Vulnerabilities
One of the major benefits of digital advertising is the ability to narrow in on a specific audience in a way no other medium allows. Targeting within the digital universe, for example, on ethnic demographics, is crucial during the election cycle, with many races needing to reach extremely niche audiences through specific data sets. There’s been a reluctance by many campaigns to move money from TV to digital, often due to the lack of knowledge about the true value digital targeting can present.
Rather than avoidance because of the vulnerabilities of ad fraud, an effective strategy is monitoring each impression for SIVT and measuring granular data points such as media mix, creative, ad placements and targeting. These granular data points provide optimizers the ability to easily make surgical calculations to ensure each dollar spent avoids waste.
The Campaigns’ Responsibility
Throughout the trades and industry conferences, there’s a major theme: everyone has a different view of who should be responsible for stopping ad fraud. Bold claims and lack of accountability run rampant in the digital ecosystem. Hard-raised dollars are at risk when simply trusting a publisher’s promise and hoping for human impressions.
While many are actively participating in the fight, some publishers aren’t. Campaigns have to take the initiative and actively monitor their traffic to prevent SIVT. That’s the only way to ensure a high percentage of human delivery. And remember, those are the people going to vote in November. Not the bots.
Mark Schlosser is a senior director focused on political and advocacy at White Ops, which is the leading provider of cyber-security services for the detection and prevention of SIVT @bottybymark