Online advertising fraud or digital mafia: the figures that alert brands
Internet advertising is becoming increasingly important in the field of marketing. Unlike some broadcasting media such as television, it is less expensive and therefore attracts more and more advertisers each year. This mechanism, which seems totally beneficial, sometimes contains some scams that keep brands worried.
According to a study conducted by the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), online advertising fraud could represent between 10% and 30% of advertising investments. These important figures are a considerable cost for brands, which have no guarantee of the visibility of their products and services.
Online advertising fraud would be a very profitable activity. But to whose benefit? It has become the livelihood of hackers who pilot this fraudulent network without much complexity, thus earning huge sums of money that threaten the turnover of markers.
These figures that speak for themselves…
The WFA’s analysis revealed that in the coming years, online advertising fraud could reach 45 billion euros. In his research on the issue, Augustine Fou, an independent researcher in the field of advertising fraud, pointed out in her report entitled “State of Digital Ad Fraud Q2 2018” that advertising fraud represents returns on investments of 2,500 to 4,100%. These figures represent a high interest rate that far exceeds the rates charged by banks.
Ms. Fou also explains that in this fraudulent traffic, malicious people can collect 25 times the initial amount invested for an advertising fraud campaign. She quotes the example of fake traffic on websites, which for 24,000 dollars purchased can bring in up to 982,000 dollars for hackers. That is 41 times the amount initially invested.
In 2018, losses of nearly €17 billion were recorded.
These losses are all the more significant for advertisers when advertisements on the Internet are never seen
Indeed, the digital consulting company IOTEC, referring to the figures generated by fraud in 2018, revealed that 40% of advertisements broadcast on the Internet are never seen. For good reason “the ads are below the waterline. A virtual line below which the content of a web page no longer appears on the screen or humans are not exposed to that page. Also 6 to 9% of Internet traffic comes from robots that simulate clicks in order to make it look like that the ads on these sites have been collected by humans,” the organization said.
A well-proven mechanism…
This digital masquerade is used on social networks (fake Twitter accounts, Facebook, Instagram) as well as on advertisers’ sites that seem legitimate at first sight. Advertisers are therefore victims of a network of computer bots and fake Internet traffic, which is now called “HyphBot”.
To take the example of social networks, in Côte d’Ivoire, a study by the journal “Diplomatie Internationale” revealed that several Ivorian political leaders manipulated their numbers of Twitter subscribers in order to virtually increase their influence on social networks. For example, former National Assembly President Guillaume Soro has 788,000 followers on twitter. The reality according to the review’s study is that only 28% of this figure represent the actual number of his followers, or 561,000 fictitious accounts.
It is indeed according to this same mechanism that advertisers are copied their data. Hackers develop copies of highly solicited sites and offer to buy advertising space.
Online advertising fraud put as one of the cybercriminal activities, brands react
Faced with enormous losses recorded in recent years, the brands have decided to work together to solve this equation.
A study by the ANA – The Association of National Advertisers, the American Advertisers’ Union – and White Ops said the phenomenon is expected to decline by 11% until 2019 and beyond in the coming years. This decline is explained by a war waged by brands which are concerned about the importance of their reputations.
One of the solutions to ensure the visibility of an advertisement is to broadcast it at the right time to attract the attention of Internet users. It is with this in mind that the global media platform Teads has registered to reassure its advertisers: “The promise is the guarantee of distribution at the heart of an article on a media site to assure the advertiser that the advertisement will be seen,” says Geoffrey La Rocca, Managing Director France of Teads.
Another perspective is the one of a micro-payment system used by some sites. The principle is simple. Internet users have a choice of three advertisements to choose from, so they can then read an article reserved for subscribers in a media outlet or access wifi in a public place. This dynamic also includes viable tags to measure the visibility rate of campaigns.
A more pragmatic and effective long term solution is the implementation of an ethical code that will apply to all players in digital advertising. According to the study carried out by IOTEC, 90% of French markers want a code of ethics to be put in place to ensure greater transparency in the use of their data. This code will make it possible to regularize this sector which, despite everything, has revolutionized digital advertising broadcasting worldwide.