Media Insights

Defending Against Ad Fraud with Enterprise Measurement

Fraudster (n.) – a bad guy scheming up new ways to steal your marketing dollars, right now.

Ad Fraud is a growing issue. Just how much of an issue isn’t exactly known –estimates of fraudulent traffic range anywhere from 3% to 57%* – but it’s clear that any brand, or agency, that isn’t on the lookout is setting themselves up for trouble. 

At Ovative Group, we believe that one of the best ways to protect yourself from ad fraud and the nefarious villains who commit it is to carefully and intentionally equip yourself with the measurement tools required to identify and reduce fraud from your media portfolio.

Why You Should Care

If you’re purchasing programmatic display media at scale, the question isn’t, “Am I paying for fraudulent impressions?”, but rather, “How many?”. This is not to say that display is not a worthwhile investment. Instead, it is saying that your company can only benefit from taking precautionary action against such fraudulent activity.

The presence of ad fraud can reduce the return on ad spend (ROAS) of your media and even negatively affect the bottom line. It can also inflate your cost-per-conversions significantly. This is particularly egregious for display media when evaluating performance on non-enterprise KPIs. If optimizing to click-through, site activity, or app download KPIs, it becomes likely not only that fraudulent behavior will go undetected, but that you may be inadvertently increasing the amount of fraud being committed against you.

Types of Ad Fraud

To protect your brand against ad fraud, you need to have a good understanding of what types of ad fraud exist. Broadly speaking, ad fraud falls into two categories:

  1. Impression fraud: any scam designed to show ads fraudulently
  2. Click fraud: any scam set up to drive fraudulent traffic (this includes click farms, fake app downloads, or fraudulent account creation)

Unfortunately, a permanent solution for eliminating fraud isn’t as simple as designing mechanisms that look for fraud tactics or behavior typical of botting. Every time a new technical methodology is designed to catch bots, bot designers go the extra step to make their bots harder to detect. As machine learning and artificial intelligence continue to evolve, it is unlikely that the ability to detect bot behavior will outpace the ability of bots to simulate human behavior any time soon.

How to Protect Yourself: Revenue-Based Enterprise Measurement

Fraudsters operate by one simple, constant principle: the desire to make money (by generating fraudulent consumption of ad inventory). Because fraudsters are constantly coming up with new ways to commit fraud undetected, the way to beat them is to evaluate your media in such a way that it doesn’t make financial sense for fraudsters to design their bots to go undetected.

Sound complicated? It’s simple. By using an enterprise measurement solution, you’re able to evaluate and optimize your media at a granular level, using revenue-based KPIs. Fraudsters would need to generate your business revenue at a profitable ROAS to go undetected.

Weeding fraud is a natural consequence of granular enterprise optimization. When you discover which media sources have the most significant amount of fraud, you are able to reallocate some of the money spent there to a more effective source. This process helps you simultaneously combat fraud while optimizing your media to the enterprise. Simple testing can be completed to determine which source will give you the highest return. At Ovative Group, we refer to this as incrementality testing.

In order for your fraud prevention mechanism to work effectively, you need access to the following:

  1. Granular reporting – Sufficient granularity at which media is being optimized to, such that transitioning media buys from fraudulent sources can be done with precision & low friction
  2. Customer-level enterprise measurement – The capability to tie enterprise performance to media exposure at the customer-level. This is easiest to accomplish for clients with a large e-commerce presence, or for clients that have a conversion event directly associated with a revenue impact.

Other strategies to detect and prevent ad fraud include:

  • Demand traffic transparency from display partners (pre-campaign)
  • Manually review traffic that appears too good to be true
  • Build website whitelists and blacklists (mid-campaign)
  • Partner with a fraud-prevention tech company, such as DoubleVerify or WhiteOps

The reality is that some level of fraud is always going to exist, and that’s okay. The key is taking the proper precautions and reinvesting your money where it matters. This process should be as integral to your campaign as setting effective KPIs.

Ovative is a digital-first media and measurement firm seeking to transform the measure of marketing success. At Ovative, we help brands move the needle. We are curious. We value your brand. We want to see you succeed. Connect with us to learn more!


Lillian Smith

Senior Analyst, Paid Social

About the Author

Lillian is a Senior Analyst on the Paid Social team at Ovative.

Dale Nitschke

Dale Nitschke

CEO & Founder

About the Author

Dale is the Founder and CEO of Ovative. After years of operating a large omni-channel business and leading a customer data initiative, Dale knew there was an opportunity to create a marketing firm that helped clients become more customer centric and drove better performance outcomes. A gap existed between business consultancies and advertising agencies that modern marketing approaches demand. He also believed that a strong, healthy culture could attract and develop smart, talented team members. In 2009, he formed Ovative to bring media, measurement, and consulting together under one roof to enable an enterprise approach that drives more revenue and grows clients’ customer base.

Prior to founding Ovative in 2009, Dale spent 23 years at Target Corporation where he served as President of Target.com and grew the ecommerce business from start-up stage to a $1 billion+ business and established the foundation of Target’s Guest database capabilities. Previously he served as SVP Merchandising at the Department Store Division of Dayton Hudson. Dale has advised retailers and brands globally on business, growth, marketing, and measurement transformation strategies.

Outside of Ovative, Dale is a leader on topics including business strategy, change management, and team leadership. He serves on the board of Allergy Amulet and on the Dean’s Advisory Board of the Wisconsin School of Business at UW-Madison.  He enjoys spending time with his family, up north in northern Wisconsin, playing golf, and cheering on Wisconsin sport teams.

Seth Brand

Senior Manager, Consulting

About the Author

Seth is a Senior Manager on the Consulting team at Ovative.

Amanda McCann

Senior Manager, Consulting

About the Author

Amanda is a Senior Manager on the Consulting team at Ovative, specializing in Retail Media Networks.

Jenny Reinke

Senior Analyst, Measurement Solutions

About the Author

Jenny is a Senior Analyst on the Measurement Solutions team at Ovative.

Annie Zipfel

Executive Vice President, Media

About the Author

Annie is the Executive Vice President of Media at Ovative. She oversees delivery and growth across paid and owned media (digital, traditional, and retail media) and creative services.

Annie has more than 30 years of experience in media, brand management, insights/analytics, marketing, and product. She has also developed large, high-performing teams and built new measurement capabilities. Annie led the marketing team at Andersen Windows & Doors, leading the digital, social, content, customer insights, and creative functions. Prior to that, Annie served in multiple marketing leadership roles at Starbucks, REI, Target, and General Mills, with a keen focus on brand, media, insights, analytics, and measurement.

Annie is an industry leader in brand management, customer insights, e-commerce, social media, and analytics. She enjoys hiking, traveling, cooking, fishing, and spending time with her sweet dog and two sons.

Bonnie Gross

Executive Vice President, Talent Services

About the Author

Bonnie is the Executive Vice President of Talent Services at Ovative. She is responsible for attracting and retaining top talent and creating a culture in which our team thrives personally and professionally. Under Bonnie’s leadership, Ovative has defined an industry leading leadership and development program and transformed our approach to talent recruitment with a focus on diversity, equality and inclusion. Prior to her current role, Bonnie led Ovative’s Client and Business Development team overseeing client satisfaction and new growth opportunities.

Before joining Ovative in 2014, Bonnie spent 13 years at Target Corporate as the VP of digital and Digital Marketing where she led the launch of Cartwheel, an industry-leading social shopping application. Bonnie was the VP of Marketing for Fingerhut for 15 years prior to joining Target.

Leander Cohen

Analyst, Consulting

About the Author

Leander Cohen is an Analyst on the Consulting team at Ovative.

Will Silva

Analyst, Measurement Solutions

About the Author

Will is an Analyst on the Measurement Solutions team at Ovative.

Sarah Chang

Sarah Chang

Analyst, Consulting

About the Author

Sarah Chang is an Analyst on the Consulting team at Ovative.

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