Out, damn bot.
That’s the battle cry of legitimate marketers who are intensifying the fight against digital ad fraud.
As more shopping and advertising shifts online, auto dealers and others face a major modern threat from shady characters who use click bots to illegally boost ad traffic and reap the illicit rewards.
This year, such fraud is expected to cost advertisers $19 billion globally, about 9% of total digital advertising spending, according to Juniper Research.
“It is important for us to recognize it as an issue and do something about it, largely through due diligence,” says Andy MacLeay, Dealer.com’s director-digital marketing. “For a long time, it was a dirty little secret, but definitely it has become an issue that’s grown exponentially. Either you combat it or put your fingers in your ears.”
The perpetrators aren’t amateurs. They work for criminal organizations worldwide. Their geographic spread makes it hard to catch them.
“They are sophisticated and well-funded,” MacLeay says. “They are expert criminal groups set up to defraud advertisers.”
Part of the vulnerability is in the way digital ads are packaged and distributed for postings. To garner high traffic, digital ad networks buy from other digital ad networks that buy from yet others which ultimately buy from publishers.
“Most of the website traffic buying is from legitimate sources, but because of the complexity of the ad buying, you can unwittingly buy from illegitimate sources,” MacLeay says. “The complexity of the system is such that the bad players can open and close sites in real time. It sounds frightening – and is.”
Those unscrupulous sources create “garbage” websites, he says. They also create those bots that give the appearance of ad clicks by a real human being. It fraudulently drives up traffic counts in a per-click-payment system.
Dealer.com is participating in anti-crime efforts by using an anti-bot security system as well as a firm that audits the diligence of marketers to ensure they do all they can.
The Cox Automotive company is working with dealers and providing them access to an integrated platform for advertising and managed services,
It’s paying off. Dealer.com has blocked hundreds of millions of bot impressions this year, MacLeay says. “It’s a crusade for us.”