Programmatic Ad Fraud: Guide for Marketers to Stay Ahead in the Game 


“Programmatic Advertising” means a simpler and quicker way of buying and selling online ads by placing them at the right time for the specific/ identified audiences. 

Certain rules, attributes, and criteria are set based on which the advertisement is placed. Some of the criteria are – the user browsing history, the amount of bid placed by the advertiser, and the search criteria and keyword searches.

Generally, these ads are placed in the form of banners and videos. However, other forms of advertisements can also be used. 

As programmatic advertising fetches quick and accurate results, companies are putting a large amount of money at stake to enhance customer reach. In such a scenario, inevitably, the fraud activities will not occur trying to take advantage of the situation. To effectively deal with such programmatic fraud, let us delve into what is programmatic ad fraud, how it works, and what are steps should be taken to deal with the same. 

What is Programmatic Ad Fraud and How Does it Work? 

Any fraudulent activity that hampers normal programmatic advertisement is termed ad fraud in programmatic advertising. Some common types of programmatic ad fraud are: 

  • Domain Spoofing: Creating a replica of the website with a slight change, posing as the original one, is domain spoofing. It is presented as a premium and reputable website, whereas, in reality, it is a fraudulent website of extremely low quality. 
  • This not only tampers the financials associated with programmatic advertisement by tarnishes the reputation of the authentic and well-performing website. 
  • Bot Trafficking: Automated scripts, also known as Bots, are designed to simulate human behaviour. These can be used by fraudsters to create fake impressions, clicks, and conversions on ads. The result is that the website traffic is artificially inflated affecting the performance metrics while wasting the ad budgets. 
  • Pixel Stuffing: When a programmatic advertisement is registered as an impression but is not visible to the end user, it can be termed pixel stuffing. The pixels are compressed and loaded in a single-pixel frame that is not visible to the user. Such fake impressions never get clicked thus not getting the true benefit the wasting the ad budgets. 
  • Ad Stacking: Like the technique of pixel stuffing, ads are placed one above the other within a single placement. Because of this stack arrangement of the ads in a single frame, it is only the ad placed at the top gets the visibility and chance to get clicked. Others get buried and never get clicked, thus creating a false performance impression.  
  • Click Injection: Click Injection is generally performed when the user downloads an application. The fraudulent app detects the same and injects a click just before the completion of the app download. As the click was done just before the completion of the download, the down credit and the revenue get aligned with the fraudulent app. 

How to put a check for programmatic ad fraud? 

Staying vigilant on the alarming signs can help you in fraud detection at an early stage. A few things that should be checked regularly to stop programmatic ad fraud are: 

  • Check the authenticity of the website before placing an advertisement. 
  • Use ad verification tools to monitor performance and red flags for unusual trends. 
  • Always rely on reputable ad networks with multilevel fraud detection checks and policies in place. 
  • Take the help of third-party fraud detection services to detect unusual trends and anomalies. 
  • Proactively use the techniques to filter out the websites known for fraud activities even before placing the advertisement bid. 
  • To curb bot trafficking, use an effective bot detection solution from a reputable fraud detection service provider. 

Summing Up 

Some use technology as a boon for the benefit of society and organizations while others use it as a weapon for personal benefit with little or no effort. Strategizing effective programmatic ads is not sufficient. Staying vigilant and using ad fraud detection tool can help you stay ahead in the game benefiting the reputation and revenues from the creative and hard-working marketing team’s efforts.