Reality check: Is ad fraud up or down?
Last year there was some good news for the ad tech industry when the Association of National Advertisers announced that they believed ad fraud would drop from $7.2 billion in 2016 to $6.5 billion in 2017.
As the founder and CEO of a cybersecurity solution, this cheered us up because it appeared that our solution and others like ours are putting a serious dent in ad fraud by ensuring that display mobile and video ads are properly located, visible and seen by real people.
But soon thereafter new facts came to light that told a different story.
Adobe inspected traffic across thousands of its client sites and found that 28 percent of the traffic showed "non-human signals" indicating that it was fraudulent. Bob Hoffman of The Ad Contrarian calculated, based on this fact, that ad fraud may reach $66 billion in 2018, which is 10 times more than the $6.5 billion predicted for 2017 by the ANA.
So, who can you believe?
It's possible that the safeguards put in place by programmatic trading platforms, and ads.txt, which requires publishers to list authorized buyers, could be having a positive impact. But even if these initiatives are whittling away at the problem, there is another possibility that the fraudsters have simply gotten better at covering their tracks. Online fraud might, in fact, be growing but we just can't see it.