Digital Fraud Prevention: How to Clean Up the Dirty Sandbox

Last week’s Annual IAB Leadership Meeting opened with a subject that is near and dear to Integrate and all marketing and media pros—digital traffic fraud prevention. Traffic fraud has long been a hot topic, but is often dismissed as an inevitable drawback to digital advertising. The industry at large has seemingly accepted that we play in a dirty sandbox, giving the perpetrators freedom to perfect their fraudulent endeavors without consequence. Our apathy has fueled the pollution of the digital playground, which has now reached a disturbing state.  


The Dirty Sandbox 

comScore recently reported that machines, not people, generate 36% of all internet traffic. What does that mean for marketing organizations?

  • A minimum of 1/3 of your online ad budget is likely wasted
  • On average, 36% of your publisher traffic is fake
  • More than 30% of the metrics you use to measure your online campaigns’ success aren’t valid

Add to this the growing distrust between marketers and publishers, the damage to brands by unauthorized exposure, and dwindling popular opinion of digital advertising—the integrity of digital media has never been more suspect. The time has come for all of us to take part in cleaning up our sandbox.


Vivek Shah, CEO of Ziff Davis and newly appointed Chairman of the IAB, in his introductory speech at the Annual Leadership Meeting, called out all parties (advertisers, publishers and exchanges) to stand up and take part in cleaning up the industry, reminding us all that “we’re supposed to be the most transparent, open, addressable and accountable medium in the world. We’re too good for this.”



The question: What specific steps can we take to fight fraud?

1. Become Aware

We must understand the threats that exist and the ramifications they have on our industry. Educate yourself, clients and partners on the various types of fraud beyond just bot traffic and the ways to limit exposure. The IAB recently published Best Practices to Limit Traffic Fraud, which outlines how each party can reduce and eventually eradicate fraud.

2. Get Accountable

This is an industry-wide problem that requires all stakeholders (advertisers, publishers, agencies, ad networks, exchanges and trading desks) to share responsibility for reducing the havoc of fraudulent traffic. As Shah called out, we must get real and acknowledge the poor-quality traffic to which we’ve been turning a blind eye. We must be willing to sacrifice cheap inventory for higher quality standards. And we must implement listing standards to ensure that every participant meets minimum quality criteria. While sticking to these standards isn’t always easy, it’s always worth it. Integrate rejects roughly 45% of all applicants to our platform due to failure to meet compliance standards. The benefits our customers have received from this are invaluable.

3. Take Action

The tools already exist to help you eliminate fraud. Various lead and data validation systems are available today that automatically detect and block most types of fraudulent traffic. Integrate’s data governance controls block an average of 25% of traffic from our customers’ digital media programs for various types of potential click and pixel fraud. The key to enforcing adherence is a clear line of sight into digital traffic sources and the ability to easily shut corrupt inventory off at its source.

One of my favorite parts of my day is when I review ROI on our clients’ media programs and show them how much time and money they saved by eliminating bad data from their results. I wholeheartedly support the IAB’s initiative to “build a trustworthy digital advertising supply chain” and look forward to being involved with this movement throughout 2014.



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