Staff Writer
Sep 26, 2019

The fight against rising mobile and CTV ad fraud

Roy Rosenfeld, DoubleVerify’s SVP of Product, on how the DV Fraud Lab helps companies detect, fix and prevent ad fraud.

Roy Rosenfeld, DoubleVerify’s SVP of Product
Roy Rosenfeld, DoubleVerify’s SVP of Product

The rise of content consumption on Connected TV (CTV) and mobile devices is well-documented, as is the corresponding rise in ad spend. Online video ad and subscription revenue is expected to grow from US$26 billion in 2019 to US$52 billion in 2024, according to a Media Partners Asia forecast. Furthermore, digital dominates half of Asia Pacific’s share of total ad spend with mobile ad spend expected to reach 28% in markets such as Australia, per a DAN study. Rising consumption and ad spend on these channels makes them a target for fraud. In the last 12 months alone, DoubleVerify recorded a 120% increase in fraudulent CTV and mobile apps.

What are the most common forms of CTV ad fraud? What can companies do to efficiently counteract fraud across all devices and platforms? Roy Rosenfeld, DoubleVerify’s SVP of Product tells us more about DV Fraud Lab’s mission to protect advertisers from ad fraud. DoubleVerify was a partner of Campaign’s Top 1000 Brands event.

Campaign Asia (CA): How do you define media quality?

Roy Rosenfeld (RR): “Media quality” is a term used to measure the value of an advertiser’s media investment, including the environment in which an ad is served, the opportunity it has to be seen by its intended target audience and the content it appears alongside. From DV’s point of view, a quality ad must be fraud-free, brand-safe, viewable and served in the correct geography. An impression must have all of these attributes to be considered truly authentic.

CA: What are the biggest threats to quality and transparency across devices and buying platforms?

RR: While estimates vary, losses from ad fraud are estimated to be as high as $44 billion by 2020, according to Juniper. It is a real problem for advertisers looking to achieve efficiency in their digital ad buys and unfortunately, fraud follows the money. Fraudsters are constantly evolving their methods - looking for new ways to dupe advertisers out of their advertising spend.  As a result of increased demand, we’ve seen fraud schemes grow on high-value and emerging channels such as mobile apps and CTV. In the last 12 months alone, we saw a 120% increase in fraudulent CTV and mobile apps. This just underscores the need for third-party verification.

Brand safety is also a major concern for advertisers. Brand safety doesn’t just hurt the bottom line, it can damage brand reputation. Advertisers and consumers are paying more attention to the content surrounding digital ads. A recent study conducted by DV and Harris Poll found that consumers expect brands to appear next to content that is brand safe, accurate and trustworthy. In fact, 73% said they would reject ads adjacent to inflammatory content and 67% of people said they would stop using a brand product that appeared next to false or objectionable content.

For global brands, this becomes even more complicated because of the nuances of individual markets and the ability to control for brand safety preferences in multiple languages.

CA: How do you define brand safety? Are there any best practices for advertisers to ensure they don't appear next to objectionable content?

RR: Brand safety is a set of guidelines established by the advertiser that defines the content against which they are not willing to place ads. This can include obvious categories to avoid, such as pornography or terrorism, but also categories that may not be considered suitable for the brand. The latter varies from brand to brand. For example, a family-oriented brand may want to avoid content about alcohol or smoking, but such content might be acceptable to a beer brand.

Brands should really scrutinize and own their brand safety controls. There are many tools that advertisers can use to define their brand safety preferences--from avoidance categories to white or black lists, to controls specific to individual environments, such as mobile app. It’s important to work with a provider that offers granular, custom controls that don’t force you to compromise scale to achieve protection.

CA: Investment in CTV inventory has skyrocketed, what should advertisers watch out for when purchasing advertising on this premium channel?

RR: As consumer adoption grows, so too does the volume of CTV ad inventory. As a result, advertisers are adding or shifting budgets to target consumers on CTV. But demand is outstripping available inventory, making it fertile ground for those wishing to perpetrate fraud. It is not surprising, therefore, that the need for third-party verification has become critical, starting with comprehensive fraud protection.

CA: What are the most common forms of CTV ad fraud that DV has uncovered?

RR: The most common types of CTV ad fraud we’re seeing falls into three categories:

The first is fraudulent apps. On CTV, fraudulent apps often have little or no content. They manipulate the environment in one or more ways. For example, they might create automated, completely fabricated ad calls coming from non-existent devices, or play back-to-back ads and no other content.

The second is server-side ad insertion (or SSAI) abuse. These are bots that abuse the fact that much of the data coming from SSAI servers is self-declared, making it easier to spoof the information that is used for verification, such as user agent, client IP and/or bundle ID.

We also see a good deal of bot fraud. As on other devices, bot fraud occurs when impressions are served to a fraudulent, non-human requestor. Often, bots will target CTV inventory by spoofing the device type to appear as if they are a CTV device.

CA: Could you elaborate on how the DV Fraud Lab helps companies detect, fix and prevent CTV ad fraud?
RR: DoubleVerify Fraud Lab was established over 11 years ago to stay abreast of evolving types of digital ad fraud and to safeguard DV's advertiser partners. Our fraud protection on CTV is comprehensive – covering everything from app fraud to device spoofing to SSAI manipulation. In order to support fraud detection on CTV, DV has expanded the collection of telemetry that is available within image tag calls in order to detect additional sophisticated types of fraud. We leverage data points from various sources -- including telemetry of JS-supported impressions and third parties -- and have developed models that are based on those signals to detect additional fraud methods in image-based impressions.

DV has been detecting fraud on CTV for several years. On average, we identify over 100,000 fraudulent CTV devices per day. In 2018, for example, we uncovered a fraud scheme where perpetrators were selling display and mobile inventory as premium CTV inventory. By identifying a 40% spike in the data, we were able to pinpoint a new bot network specifically targeting CTV advertising.

CA: What is the no.1 challenge of authenticating CTV media?

RR: A current lack of standards makes measurement and transparency more challenging - though not impossible. For example, app naming conventions are inconsistent, and there’s widespread use of non-standard device type identification. Also, there’s currently no solution to identify authorized sellers, in contrast to ads.txt which serves this function on the web. Further, unlike other environments, advanced measurement in CTV using VPAID or JavaScript (JS) is not widely supported. Typically, CTV will only support image tag calls (i.e., 1x1 pixels), which generally collect fewer data points. In addition to working with governing bodies to establish standards that support scalable solutions, DV also does a lot of work to create solutions that work with or around these limitations in order to provide solutions that protect advertisers on CTV. This is nothing new for DV - we have a track record of pioneering solutions that facilitate transparency and ensure consistent measurement across all buying platforms.

CA: Quality advertising seems to be made up of a few components - fraud free, viewable and brand safe - which one should advertisers prioritise? How can they make sure their ads meet all quality criteria?

RR: Advertisers should prioritize all components. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice viewability for the sake of brand safety or scale. Every impression should be viewed by a human being in a brand-safe environment, in the right geography. At DoubleVerify, we call impressions that meet all of these criteria ‘Authentic Impressions’. In all our reporting, we provide insight into this metric, offering a unified view into the efficiency and effectiveness of advertising.


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