Bots Can't Buy: Getting Rid of Traffic Fraud is Not Impossible

Industry Must Adopt Anti-Bot Security to Ensure Ads Reach Actual People

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In the aftermath of the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting: Marketing 2020, there is all but an industry mandate to clean up the advertising ecosystem for the benefit of all upright publishers and advertisers. Reducing bot traffic, which results in wasted ad spend, is now a priority for marketers with considerable digital budgets. In order to continue moving ad dollars both online and into mobile buckets, anti-bot security must become more important than mere viewability; knowing an ad can be seen fails to take into account whether the potential audience has been verified as human (and not an automated bot).

The solution that marketers are looking for will come to be known as secure media and encompasses engagement-based units, such as click-to-play video, and those that are user-configured, such as "build your dream car" opportunities. The only way to guarantee ad effectiveness for a brand campaign is to engage with a validated human audience through units that result in cognition. Ultimately, bots can't drive cars or make travel plans, but real users can be verified. Secure media are units that advertisers will buy with complete assurance that they are seen by actual people.

The amount of bot fraud in our midst is unrivaled in any other industry and is sadly leading to a crisis of confidence on the buy side. In excess of 25% bot fraud in display advertising is weighing down already dismal effectiveness metrics and wreaking havoc on both ROI and campaign optimization strategies. By providing secure media options to advertisers, publishers will simultaneously increase ad effectiveness and improve media rates.

Secure media is equally viable in the mobile space, and represents a strong opportunity for publishers struggling to increase the effectiveness of cost per thousand impressions despite an ever-expanding pool of inventory. As advertisers become accustomed to the performance of secure media for desktop campaigns, they will demand similar returns -- and transparency -- from their investments in mobile.

Last month, just after the IAB meeting, Google acquired, a London-based company that tracks online threats. This puts the industry at an important tipping point, as the biggest company selling digital ads gets even more serious about keeping web and mobile advertising secure. Google gets it. Good security will save ad tech; the very first step is seeing the threats coming. Google's been fighting ad fraud for years -- historically against click fraud on search ads -- yet the problem has quickly expanded across display, video and social media. If Google is acquiring outside help to move toward a zero-tolerance policy on digital ad fraud, you'd better believe others are actively following suit.

The ability to validate identity, by reputation or via token authentication, will create a huge market advantage for the "haves" with that data. Beyond secure media, data-driven opportunities in advertising personalization will materialize only for those who can harness a true human audience. And since personalized online and mobile marketing is the aspiration for the industry, we can expect to see more heavy-hitters tapping into the decision science around validating audience composition.

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