DoubleVerify concurred with Integral – according to chief operating officer Matt McLaughlin, the “White Ops numbers align with the range of bot fraud that DV identifies on average” – but with a caveat.
Just as White Ops CEO and cofounder Michael Tiffany once observed, ad fraud is a bit like a cholera – “the problem is not evenly distributed.”
“Bot fraud is super-dynamic and changes its identity rapidly [and] we typically see a range of overall fraud rates that vary by channel,” McLaughlin said. “On a particular campaign, depending on the media mix, we see rates as high as 50%, but actual experience will differ based on the quality and mix of digital acquisition.”
But David Sendroff, CEO and founder of ad fraud detection company Forensiq, is more than a little skeptical of how extrapolatable White Ops’ numbers actually are. Although he applauded White Ops and the ANA for their efforts, calling their joint report “probably the most comprehensive study” to date, he was less ready to agree that the percentages uncovered were representative of fraud across the ecosystem.
For one, White Ops and ANA publicly announced their intentions, giving bad actors more than enough time to curb their less-than-kosher activities for the duration of the study. The resultant report did acknowledge that there was a rather considerable dip in bot traffic while the study was running, from 41% to 4%. When the study was over, bot traffic crept back up to 38%.
“I don’t have a statistic to share myself and I’d rather not just make one up, but my feeling is that these numbers are quite understated,” Sendroff said. “White Ops even showed in their report that there was a significant dropoff when the announcement came out about their study. ...This is a good example of how the results could have been skewed.”
Sendroff also felt like the premium nature of the study’s big budget subjects might have also lent a little bias to the results.
“Premium buyers likely have more refined targeting rules than non-premium buyers, so the study may also have been skewed a bit towards more premium publishers and the ad space they’re considering,” he said.
But Tiffany is pleased with how his work with the ANA shook out.
“We’ve been rigorously scientific and these numbers are extrapolatable as industry-wide figures,” he said. “It’s important to understand that we didn’t cherry pick brands that had a lot of fraud or no fraud. We took 36 major brand advertisers and studied the actual rate of fraud after they’d already employed every fraud vendor and smart buyer and analytics tool you’ve ever heard of.”
That said, Tiffany admitted that, all things being equal, it might be better not to tip off the fraudsters next time.
“Maybe we should be more covert about announcing our next study,” he quipped.