Quality is a critical, fundamental principle upon which online advertising must be built for continued success across the ecosystem. This has once again been brought to the forefront of industry dialogue with a recent investigation from BuzzFeed News which uncovered a multi-million dollar ad fraud scheme impacting both in-app and web ad spend.
The sophisticated fraud scheme involved over 125 Android apps as well as over 30 domains. The fraudsters went through great lengths to hide their nefarious activities. According to BuzzFeed, “the apps continue to be maintained in order to keep real users happy and create the appearance of a thriving audience that serves as a cover for the cloned fake traffic.”
The practices bad actors undertake to hide or attempt to legitimize their activities are becoming increasingly complex and point to a need for a more comprehensive approach to inventory quality; we need to look beyond bots alone.
At PubMatic, we take our commitment to quality seriously. We have a dedicated quality team and offer buyers assurance with a fraud free program. Additionally, we believe that education is key to helping our industry move toward a more transparent future. In a recent white paper, Understanding Inventory Quality: Thinking Beyond Bots, we shed light into the evolving definition of quality and how buyers and sellers can protect themselves.
As introduced in the white paper, PubMatic employs a trust score system to identify low quality sites whose inventory we feel should not be made available to buyers. Through an analysis of the backlinks to a particular site, we are able to assess a domain’s quality by calculating the density and influence strength of the sites linking to it, and have a policy of excluding inventory from sites with low trust scores.
All 34 of the domains that were part of the scam uncovered by BuzzFeed had a trust score of 0 and thus buyers’ exposure to this inventory was already mitigated pursuant to PubMatic standard practices. By taking a proactive approach to monitoring inventory for not only IVT but also for other measures of quality, such as this type of “low-value human traffic,” PubMatic was able to mitigate buyers’ exposure to low-value inventory. We are currently researching and testing signals that will help avoid the type of fraudulent app behavior that plagued the ecosystem in this scheme as well.
We fully believe that quality is a rising tide that lifts all boats, so as we discover new methods of identifying online ad fraud, we are committed to sharing it with other organizations committed to the quality of our industry.