Like many business segments, the ad industry has never been one to welcome government involvement when it comes to policing itself, and perhaps rightly so. That said, now may be the time to embrace the regulators.
Why? Simply put, digital advertising fraud is out-of-control. In a recent article in Campaign U.S. author Alison Weissbrot shared the results of a recent study by ad verification company Cheq and Professor Roberto Cavazos of the University of Baltimore suggesting that U.S. advertisers will lose $35.0 billion to ad fraud in 2020.
In a sector that represents $333.0 billion in annual spend this means that ten cents of every dollar spent by digital advertisers is siphoned off the top by fraudsters. For perspective, the author cites the fact that this level of fraud is greater than that impacting the $3.32 trillion credit card industry. And the problem is not limited to the U.S. alone. Consider the finding from Juniper Research’s 2019 report on advertising fraud, which indicated that globally lost $42.0 billion to digital ad fraud last year.
Renowned fraud investigator, Dr. Augustine Fou once commented that, “ad fraud is more lucrative than tax fraud, counterfeiting goods or being a Somali pirate.” Adding credence to the increasing role of organized crime and criminal nation states in digital ad fraud, The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) recently stated that “fraudulent internet advertising schemes will become the second-largest market for criminal organizations.”
For all of its well-intended efforts, the advertising industry has been unable to effectively counter this growing threat. Thus, it may be time for The World Federation of Advertisers, the Association of National Advertisers, the 4A’s, the IAB and their members to reach out to lawmakers and regulators to join in a coordinated effort to uncover ad fraud at its root and to develop more effective means of enforcement to both deter and punish the criminal organizations perpetrating the fraud. The 18thcentury French social commentator, Montesquieu once said that; “there are means to prevent crime – its punishment.” Combining the expertise of the ad industry with the regulatory and enforcement capabilities of lawmakers makes good sense.
The problem of ad fraud is not abating. With the expanded use of technologies such as programmatic buying and artificial intelligence and the complex, often non-transparent nature of the advertising supply chain, the risk of fraud remains high, threatening not only digital ad spend but emerging media sectors such as mobile and connected television as well.