Adobe taps White Ops to combat ad fraud in streaming TV

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Credit: Pau Barrena/Bloomberg

Marketers may need to start watching their ad dollars when targeting consumers through over-the-top and connected TV, because they may be purchasing fake views.

That's according to executives at Adobe Advertising Cloud and White Ops, which say they've struck a deal to curb ad fraud in over-the-top and connected TV viewing.

Most advertisers don't think about ad fraud when it comes to connected TV or streaming TV services, and rightfully so. Outfits such as Hulu, FuboTV, Dish and other premier players require authenticated logins for viewers to access their service. But there are instances of fraud already, Adobe and White Ops say. And it's reasonable to assume it will grow.

"While ad fraud is likely still a nominal issue in connected TV advertising, we believe one dollar spent on a non-human viewer is one too many," says Keith Eadie, VP and general manager of Adobe Advertising Cloud.

Marketers that use Adobe Advertising Cloud can purchase over-the-top inventory from Dish, Hulu, FuboTV and some 100 TV networks, as well as other inventory from supply partners such as Freewheel, Telaria and SpotX.

Following the money

The over-the-top and connected-TV ad markets are still in early stages. YouTube TV, for example, just started selling the two minutes of commercial time it has for every hour of network feeds that it carries. Some within the industry feel that dyanmic ad insertion is half-baked. Over-the-top TV, meanwhile, can also be expensive when compared to traditional digital video and is absolutely dwarfed by the reach of linear TV.

Still, Adobe and White Ops believe that as the business grows, demand will eventually outpace supply. And when that happens, fraudsters will show up with bogus inventory aimed at filling the gap, they say.

Eric John, deputy director at the IAB digital video center of excellence, says platforms such as Hulu, Roku and networks' streaming apps are the starting points for most brands to jump into streaming TV, mainly because they are the most familiar and provide similar content to linear TV. But some of the apps are using ad tech to sell their inventory.

"There are more long-tail sources of OTT inventory and since most of those apps are new they're sometimes monetizing via exchanges—which may be less transparent in terms of where ads appearing and how often," John says.

Low-profile, long-tail sources of inventory are where fraudsters often find marks. They frequently trick exchanges and clients by masquerading as real, legitimate sellers, a practice called domain spoofing. The tactic became notorious late 2016 after White Ops released a report that claimed a sophisticated network of bots dubbed "Methbot" was siphoning off some $3 million to $5 million in ad spending per day over a two month span (some disagree with this).

Michael Tiffany, president of White Ops, says tactics similar to domain spoofing are beginning to surface with both over-the-top viewing apps and on connected TVs, more often with apps. He praised Adobe for "showing real leadership by getting extra defense before this goes bad."

"It's a novel idea to keep something good instead of waiting for something to go bad and then fixing it," Tiffany says. "We can apply lessons learned from earlier markets—display, desktop and mobile—and get ahead of the growth of fraud in OTT and connected TV."

The industry-backed IAB Tech Lab has created a tool to fight domain spoofing, ads.txt, but it doesn't work for streaming apps and smart TVs; the Tech Lab is working on a solution, it says.

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