Australia's ad fraud drops but so do ad-quality metrics

The percentage of fraudulent Australian online advertisements declined from the first quarter of this year to the second quarter, but an industry watcher has warned that growing risk from ad-related malware and a decline in viewability represented a “wakeup call” for Australia's online-advertising market.

Integral Ad Science's second-quarter Media Quality Report – compiled at the firm's dedicated Anti-Fraud Lab in Seattle, USA – scored Australia's advertisement quality at 586 overall, using its proprietary TRAQ methodology. This figure, which was well behind the UK (642), Germany (610), the US (597), and France (597), represented a decline from the previous quarterly report, when Australian advertisers scored 601.

Some 7.4 percent of advertisements were noted to be fraudulent – compared with 8.4 percent in the previous quarter – reflecting continuing use of botnets and other methods to game online advertising systems.

Yet while Australia's levels of fraud were the lowest of the countries the firm measures – some 12.2 percent of UK ads and 11.2 percent in the US were fraudulent, for example – ANZ managing director James Diamond told CSO Australia that the figures were still “unacceptably high” and that there is still work to be done to improve advertising quality and safety.

“Ad fraud is the one area of focus that the whole industry needs to come together on,” he said. “It's really in no one's benefit. Botnet traffic constitutes the vast majority of the fraudulent activity that we see, and it's one that has implications for consumers. We've got a huge focus on reducing ad fraud by blocking these ads from showing.”

Yet the practice was proving stubbornly difficult to eradicate, with well-meaning advertisers often inadvertently buying capacity on botnet-using advertising networks that may be several degrees removed from their normal media-buying providers.

“It's not unusual for publishers to buy traffic as they try to meet campaign requirements,” Diamond explained. “Somewhere down the line there's someone who is essentially generating a whole lot of non-legitimate traffic. That said, there are a lot of legitimate traffic providers producing very good traffic. The challenge is knowing which is which.”

The survey also rated brand risk in Australia as moderate to high, with a 13.6 percent rating – down from 17.7 percent last quarter – reflecting the proportion of ads that may include adult content, alcohol, hate speech, illegal downloads, illegal drugs, offensive language, or violence that Web-site owners may not want displayed on their sites.

Viewability was down to 40.8 percent, with Australia again trailing the UK (55.4 percent), Germany (49.7 percent), the US (44.0 percent), and France (43.8 percent).

This decline, Diamond explained, “may be explained by more dollars shifting into exchanges where we typically see lower levels of viewability”. However, combined with the persistence of fraudulent advertising, he said, it was clear that Australian companies had their work cut out for them.

“From a fraud perspective Australia has the lowest of the markets that we currently measure,” he explained. “But I don't think that means organisations are being very proactive in blocking it, as much as because fraudsters are targeting other markets that have higher scale and higher [ad rates].

“As the market matures here, ad fraud is one of the things that we'll be seeing a lot more of – and it will come down to agencies and publishers to be more proactive in blocking it. They need to build plans about how to address this going forward – because in 18 months' time it is going to become problematic.”

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Tags Media Quality Reportfraudulent Australian online advertisementsad-quality metricsAustraliaintegralad fraudCSO AustraliaJames DiamondTRAQ methodology

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