Advertisers Join Forces To Fight Online Ad Fraud

As marketers grow increasingly concerned about the integrity of the online advertising inventory they are buying, a trade group and 30 well-known marketers are forming a coalition to address the problem.

The group, which is being led by the Association of National Advertisers, has hired ad fraud-detection firm WhiteOps to study and help stamp out so-called “bot fraud.”

Bots are computers hijacked by viruses that are programmed to visit sites and mimic human behavior, creating the illusion of authentic web traffic in order to lure in advertisers. Bot traffic costs advertisers because marketers typically pay for ads whenever they are loaded in response to users visiting Web pages — regardless of whether the users are actual people.

The ANA said that some marketers estimate that about half the money they spend on digital advertising is wasted because of “bot fraud.” With digital ad spending around the globe expected to grow 17% this year to $140 billion, according to eMarketer, the stakes are high.

Ad executives blame the rise of fraudulent traffic on advertisers’ increased use of automated software to purchase ads via exchanges, ad networks and other middlemen. Such arrangements, they say, are far less transparent than buying ad space the traditional way by through human salesforces.

The ANA declined to reveal the names of the 30 advertisers participating in the anti-fraud group, but the trade organization’s members include blue-chip marketers such as Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson and General Motors.

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