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Procurement Should Step In
to Help Reduce Ad Fraud
Augustine Fou, PhD.
212. 203 .7239
April 2017 / Page 1marketing.scienceconsulting group, inc.
What is ad fraud ?
Ad Fraud = ad impressions caused
by bots, not seen by humans
(includes mobile display, video ads)
(includes mobile search ads)
April 2017 / Page 2marketing.scienceconsulting group, inc.
Advertisers’ budgets diverted to fake sites
100% bot traffic
“fraud (cash out) sites”
• No content
• Stolen content
• Fake content
“sites with real content that
real humans want to read”
Source: DCN/ WhiteOps 2015
April 2017 / Page 3marketing.scienceconsulting group, inc.
Fake sites have no content, no humans
made by template
So they can sell ad
“inventory” at low prices
April 2017 / Page 4marketing.scienceconsulting group, inc.
“sites that carry ads”
There’s 15X more fake sites, than good
Source: Verisign, Q4 2016
“sites you’ve heard of”
top 1 million + next 10 million
carry adsno ads
“Digital spend outside
April 2017 / Page 6marketing.scienceconsulting group, inc.
Fake sites successfully sell ads… how?
Stack ads all
above the fold to
Buy traffic that is
pass fraud filters
Pass fake source
or forge fake
“by tricking measurement and reporting”
April 2017 / Page 7marketing.scienceconsulting group, inc.
But only humans convert, bots don’t …
30X more human
• More arrivals
• Better quality
more humans (blue)
April 2017 / Page 8marketing.scienceconsulting group, inc.
Case in point… Chase
“JPMorgan had already decided
last year to oversee its own
programmatic buying operation.
Advertisements for JPMorgan
Chase were appearing on about
400,000 websites a month. [But]
only 12,000, or 3 percent, led to
activity beyond an impression.
[Then, Chase] limited its display
ads to about 5,000 websites. We
haven’t seen any deterioration on
our performance metrics,” Ms.
“99% reduction in ‘reach’ … Same Results.”
Source: NYTimes, March 29, 2017
(because it wasn’t real, human reach)
April 2017 / Page 9marketing.scienceconsulting group, inc.
Beware mobile… MORE rampant fraud
Bad apps load impressions
in background, not in use
Fake mobile devices install
apps and interact w/ them
Download and Install
Launch and Interact
“more money; less measurable”
April 2017 / Page 11marketing.scienceconsulting group, inc.
Focus on real, human conversions
have more humans
Conversion actions (calls)
are well correlated to
humans; bots don’t call
April 2017 / Page 12marketing.scienceconsulting group, inc.
Measure for humans in all campaigns
Lower quality paid sources
mean higher cost per human
acquired – like 11X the cost.
Sources of different
quality send widely
different amounts of
humans to landing pages.
April 2017 / Page 13marketing.scienceconsulting group, inc.
Actively reduce bots/fraud in-flight
Launch Week 3 onwardWeeks 1-2
After eliminating several
April 2017 / Page 14marketing.scienceconsulting group, inc.
Verify analytics, look for anomalies
click on links
load webpages tune bounce rate
“bad guys’ bots are advanced enough to fake most metrics”
April 2017 / Page 15marketing.scienceconsulting group, inc.
Insist on line-item details from vendors
Line item details
“fraud hides easily
“line item details
reveal obvious fraud”
April 2017 / Page 17marketing.scienceconsulting group, inc.
Fraud bots are NOT on any list
bad guys’ bots
and “on the wane”
Source: GroupM, Feb 2017
Source: IAB Australia, Mar 2017
bot names in list
“not on any list”
disguised as popular
browsers – Internet
adapting to avoid
in the wild
April 2017 / Page 18marketing.scienceconsulting group, inc.
In-ad measurements could be entirely wrong
Foreign Ad iFrames
Cross-domain (XSS) security
restrictions mean iframe cannot:
• read content in parent frame
• detect actions in parent frame
• see where it is on the page
(above- or below- fold)
• detect characteristics of the
js ad tags
incorrectly reported as
April 2017 / Page 19marketing.scienceconsulting group, inc.
Methbot stayed hidden for years
Source: Dec 2016 WhiteOps Discloses Methbot Research
“Methbot, steals $2 billion annualized;
and it avoided detection for years.”
1. Targeted video ad inventory
$13 average CPM, 10X
higher than display ads
2. Disguised as good publishers
Pretending to be good
publishers to cover tracks
3. Simulated human actions
Actively faked clicks, mouse
movements, page scrolling
4. Obfuscated data center origins
Data center bots pretended to
be from residential IP addresses
April 2017 / Page 20marketing.scienceconsulting group, inc.
Fraud comes in LARGE numbers…
Increased CPM prices
volume by 92%
< 20 cents
“Having fraud DETECTION is not the
same as having fraud PROTECTION.”
April 2017 / Page 23marketing.scienceconsulting group, inc.
About the Author
Augustine Fou, PhD.
212. 203 .7239
April 2017 / Page 24marketing.scienceconsulting group, inc.
Dr. Augustine Fou – Independent Ad Fraud Researcher
Follow me on LinkedIn (click) and on Twitter
April 2017 / Page 25marketing.scienceconsulting group, inc.
Harvard Business Review
Hunting the Bots
Fou, a prodigy who earned a Ph.D. from MIT at
23, belongs to the generation that witnessed
the rise of digital marketers, having crafted his
trade at American Express, one of the most
successful American consumer brands, and at
Omnicom, one of the largest global advertising
agencies. Eventually stepping away from
corporate life, Fou started his own practice,
focusing on digital marketing fraud
Fou’s experiment proved that fake traffic is
unproductive traffic. The fake visitors inflated
the traffic statistics but contributed nothing to
conversions, which stayed steady even after the
traffic plummeted (bottom chart). Fake traffic is
generated by “bad-guy bots.” A bot is computer
code that runs automated tasks.