Ad frauds or bot advertising is unfortunately becoming a key talking point of digital advertising as the year draws to a close. The issue is plaguing marketers and digital professionals alike as its significance and impact, is being discussed. AdLanders believed for long that digital advertising would bring nirvana of sorts, as it would finally indicate where the marketing dollar was spent and whether it did its job. However, ad frauds raised the issue that a significant portion of online advertising was being viewed not by humans, but by bots.
“Marketers and brands are shifting from traditional to digital marketing because they can target specific groups of the audience, track the performance of their ads and get detailed reports. However, the digital space is not perfect and the numbers are not always accurate. Increasingly, digital ad viewers are not necessarily humans and bots account for a significant percentage of the views,” observed Ayoub El Mamoun, Planner at Socialize, giving a broad sense of the issue.
Making the matters worse was that the marketer was paying for these views and impressions. And if there really was any scope of adding to the chaos, it came in the fact that tech majors, such as Google, failed to catch bot viewing trends – at least not before the marketers’ digital ad dollars were already under question.
David Parkinson, Head of Digital for Africa, Middle East & India at Nissan Motor Corporation reiterates that ad fraud is a concern at the moment. He also pointed out that eventually, the question was about being relevant. “Though ad frauds is among the newer challenges facing us but at times, channels as old as banner ads or full page takeovers are also not relevant to the consumers at a point of time. It is important to create relevant experiences in the right space, in the right way,” he said.
Among other markets, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region also faces this concern. The mobile and internet penetration rates are increasing at a very high rate and the GCC consumes more content on social media than any other part of the world. “The main challenge is identifying the identity and location of the bots and who is behind them. The fact that internet users don’t register their names and phone numbers doesn’t make things easier. In addition, the use of VPNs doesn’t help with the tracking and identification of the bot creators,” said Mr Mamoun.
The markets that are heavily affected by the ad bots are the largest in the region include KSA, UAE and Egypt. In these countries, the digital markets are big, developed and the brands are spending substantially. However, the threat comes from smaller markets, where online activity is not monitored and hacking technologies are advanced such as Morocco, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt.
The solution is in the platforms that face the problems. It is a fact that bots can be monitored with the help of publishers such as Facebook and Google who have the ability to suspend suspicious and inactive accounts as they have access to their data. “As a partner of Google and Facebook, we work closely with the publishers to identify any suspicious activity on the accounts of our clients. Through the daily, weekly and monthly reports we make sure to report any inaccurate or unexpected numbers that might be caused by inactive, suspicious or automated accounts,” shared Mr Mamoun.
Ad frauds, in a manner of speaking, has made way for newer players to become part of an already cluttered and complicated digital ecosystem. Companies and services that can help in battling these bots are surfacing. As global advertisers such as Unilever and Coca-Cola take notice of the problem, the industry is asking for standards that govern offline advertising, such as viewing an ad with volume or to a certain degree and with some metric, to also apply to online advertising. One can be assured that a significant portion of 2016 will be about the solution hunting for bot advertising, and in the process creating more bang for the digital buck.