Spectrum Reach: Fighting on Frontlines of Ad Fraud

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There is arguably nothing more vexing for digital video marketers than ad fraud -- devious actions taken by scammers that prevent digital ads from running where they are supposed to run and, consequently, from being seen by their intended audience.

When ads are not seen by the right consumers -- or sometimes by actual humans at all -- they fail to generate brand exposure, leads and sales. The result is wasted or even stolen marketing dollars. To make matters worse, publishers are also hurt by lower returns on ad spend and a decrease in the overall value of ads on their platforms. Most importantly, when business owners lack confidence that their ads are being seen by intended audiences, they lose trust in advertising providers and sometimes they even reduce their ad spend.

Spectrum Reach, a multi-screen advertising solutions company that helps businesses reach their intended audiences through industry-leading marketing and advertising capabilities, tools and analytics, is on the forefront of combating ad fraud.

Managing the Shifting Ad Fraud Landscape

The landscape of ad fraud is constantly shifting as media consumption habits evolve and scammers follow trends in viewership. In recent years, the number of ways to access digital video content has expanded and marketers have allocated more dollars to Connected TV (CTV) platforms. In fact, of the more than $85 billion spent by U.S. advertisers across TV platforms last year, CTV accounted for 24 percent of total investment.[1]

Unlike digital ad fraud, which is mainly due to bot activity that can lead to ad stuffing that renders content unviewable or results in harmful computer viruses, ad fraud in CTV does not usually affect viewing experience. However, CTV is vulnerable to both device and content-driven ad fraud. In the former, scammers use hardware, including computers, phones and other devices to counterfeit impressions.

In the latter, also called inventory misrepresentation or domain spoofing, scammers create a fake version of a company's domain, mobile app or CTV app, or buy low quality ad inventory and try to pass it off as legitimate premium inventory. Scammers trick buyers into thinking their ad is going to a premium website or app, when in fact it ends up in unsafe or low-quality environments.

In comparison to other digital platforms, ad fraud is much less likely to occur within the premium environment of CTV, but it's important for marketers to understand how to identify and safeguard against all forms of ad fraud, particularly when planning multiscreen campaigns.

How Spectrum Reach Keeps Brands Safe

In an effort to fight ad fraud in all its forms, Spectrum Reach partners with third-party verification company Oracle Moat Analytics to validate that all of Spectrum Reach's inventory has been seen by real people and is held to the highest key performance indicators. This ensures that the ad runs where it is scheduled to run, that the ad was seen by a real person, and that the ad is optimized towards supply quality metrics, including measurability and viewability. "Premium inventory is about delivering transparency and accountability in combination with content," explains Kim Norris, Spectrum Reach Group Vice President of Advanced Advertising Sales.

Spectrum Reach's decision to partner with Oracle Moat Analytics underscores the company's emphasis on providing brand safety -- channels and practices established to help advertisers avoid ad placement or context that could potentially harm a brand's reputation. When scammers remove or interfere with an advertiser's ability to control an ad's digital placement (ad fraud), it opens up a brand to association with poor quality, or even dangerous content.

"Oracle Moat Analytics looks under the hood at 100 percent of the inventory flowing through our system," says Alexander Groysman, Vice President of Advertising Product Development at Spectrum Reach. "They confirm that an ad was seen by real people, that the impression was not bot traffic, that there is no malware, and the ad was placed within brand-safe content."

In 2022, Spectrum Reach also developed and issued a Brand Safety Guide, which educates businesses on how to prevent ad fraud and protect their ad spend. The guide recommends that advertisers take the following actions to prevent ad fraud:

  • Pick trustworthy partners with good reputations in the industry and use best practices to ensure that ad campaigns are free of all types of fraud, especially domain spoofing.
  • Use an MRC (Media Ratings Council) accredited third-party partner to verify that an agency's ad inventory, delivery to the advertiser, and ad dollars are kept to the highest quality standards.
  • Demand transparency for marketing efforts. Ask for information that explains how technology works and what makes the seller's inventory premium. Know where ads are running and who is seeing them.

"Advancing the Mission" With TAG

The Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) is the leading global initiative fighting criminal activity and increasing marketers' trust in the digital advertising industry. Spectrum Reach was the first local media sales organization to become a TAG Platinum member. TAG offers three seals of approval: Brand Safety, Ad Fraud and Malware. If a company receives all three, it achieves Platinum Member status. "These certifications require an in-depth application process as well as third-party audits to ensure they meet ongoing requirements for each particular seal," Groysman says.

Staying Focused on Fighting Ad Fraud

There is more work to be done, particularly as ever-multiplying multiscreen TV and digital video viewing options allow opportunities for ad fraud to expand. Norris says that the industry's efforts to combat ad fraud are in the early stages. "We are still at a point where we are educating our advertisers about ad fraud -- that it exists, and what we are doing to protect them," she says. "We are educating them on the ecosystem while also providing them with a solution."

Spectrum Reach is committed to providing advertisers with access to the most diverse and premium pool of ad inventory available, with an emphasis on brand safety and supply standards. As the first local media sales organization to achieve Platinum-level TAG Certification, we ensure the highest level of safety for your brand, protecting against fraud, malware, and piracy. To learn more about Spectrum Reach's commitment to Brand Safety, visitSpectrumReach.com.

[1] eMarketer Insider Intelligence US. TV Ad Spending, March 2023


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