How Ad Fraud is Destroying Your Marketing Campaigns (and How to Avoid It)

Ad fraud is an insidious problem that’s destroying digital marketing campaigns before they can launch. As more consumers find and interact with brands online, digital marketing is taking up the majority of the marketing efforts.

Digital marketing also offers in-depth analytics to fine-tune campaigns and ensure that marketing spend is going toward the most effective campaigns and channels.

Ad fraud throws a wrench in all that by manipulating the data and skewing analytics, rendering the campaigns ineffective.

What is Ad Fraud

Ad fraud is an attempt to defraud digital advertising networks for financial gain. These scammers may use malware, bots, or humans to view, click, or interact with digital ads falsely to earn money. These methods are often uses to trick marketers into choosing them for their businesses.

The types of ad fraud include:

  • Hidden ads: These ads are shown in a way that the user can’t see them, leading to false impressions. This is common on ad networks that pay by impressions or views.
  • Fake app installation: Many apps have ads, especially for mobile. These fraudulent ads use teams of people to install apps thousands of times and interact with them.
  • Botnet ad fraud: Botnets can generate thousands of fraudulent clicks on an ad or fraudulent website visits. These ads appear on the properties that the scammers own, generating ad revenue for them.
  • Click hijacking: This tactic has an attacker redirect a click on one ad to register as a click to another, essentially stealing the click. This is more sophisticated and typically involves the user’s computer, the publisher’s website, or a proxy server.

How Ad Fraud in Marketing Campaigns Destroys Efforts

Wasted Marketing Resources

Marketing budgets are tightly monitored, and every campaign needs an analysis of the return on investment to determine its effectiveness. Ad fraud distorts these findings, leading marketers to believe in different margins and returns.

As marketers become more accustomed to these results, they continue to support the efforts of ad fraud and lose their return. If enough traffic comes back from fraudulent sources, the marketing spend dedicated to true leads or customers is wasted on bad actors with no intention of purchasing the products.

False Leads

Lead generation is important for marketers to understand how to market their brands. Using metrics and feedback, marketers can determine which campaigns to replicate, refine, scale up, pause, or end. The accuracy of this information is essential, and ad fraud skews that data.

Digital campaigns that are susceptible to ad fraud may have suspicious or incorrect data that obfuscates the truth of the campaign’s effectiveness. Some of these techniques may include lead generation fraud, which uses bad actors to provide false lead information on lead capture forms.

Poor Brand Reputation

In some cases, the information provided in a fraudulent ad interaction is stolen, leaving both the marketer and the customer victimized. Fraudulent traffic can manipulate campaigns and input real customer information in forms, leading the marketers to reach out and violate compliance with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.[1] As a result, the customer may now have a poor opinion of the brand and its products.

Naturally, these consequences reach farther than a simple false lead. Over time, enough false leads and perceived “harassing” and noncompliant calls can create a poor reputation for the brand that spreads. This reputation may impact future campaigns and limit the market of prospects a company has, damaging their growth in the process.

How to Avoid Ad Fraud in Marketing Campaigns

Brands can be targeted any number of ways with ad fraud in marketing campaigns. Fortunately, there are some ways you can protect yourself:

  • Tools to verify ads: One of the most effective steps is to invest in ad verification tools. A reputable vendor can help you reduce ad fraud with useful insights and data on your metrics and offer safety parameters for ad fraud protection.
  • Seek trustworthy properties: The properties you use for digital ads should have a good reputation before you give them access to your product. Ad verification tools can help in determining trustworthy publishers and properties.
  • Target specific audiences: Social media ads offer targeted audiences, which can reduce the possibilities of ad fraud. When you select an audience, you’re choosing to only display ads to users who fall in the audience categories. This makes it more difficult for bad actors to interact with your ads.
  • Trust your gut: If an opportunity doesn’t seem real, it’s probably not. Just like huge influencers with millions of fake followers, sometimes “too good to be true” means it isn’t. It’s always better to go with the more modest but realistic choice than take a chance on stellar stats that could be fake, and the same goes for ad publishing. If you come across an ad for a well-known brand selling goods at low prices, it could be a fraudulent actor spoofing the domain.

Protect Yourself Against Ad Fraud in Marketing Campaigns

While some preventative measures can reduce ad fraud, it’s virtually impossible to stop it all. Ad fraud is getting more sophisticated, so it’s important to take multiple measures to prevent fraud and position campaigns for success.