Battling the Bots: An Ad Fraud Overview


Fraud is a complicated and serious issue for advertisers, and its detrimental effects are becoming increasingly apparent. It not only costs advertisers a great deal of money, it also has the potential to skew reporting on ad campaign performance and effectiveness. While there’s no denying the severity of ad fraud, display ads have great potential to increase B2B customer engagement.

With the Demandbase Company-Targeted Advertising solution, we’re laser-focused on ensuring that ad budget is clearly tied to ROI. Implicitly, it means we’re very serious about combatting fraud. Both the technology in our ad stack and the fact we target companies based on IP addresses rather than individual consumers make us less susceptible to various types of fraud.-

While there’s no denying the severity of ad fraud, display ads have great potential to increase B2B customer engagement.

How Ad Fraud Works

One of the biggest problems for the ad industry is fake publishers, which get clicks running fraudulent scripts. These scripts are often executed by a “botnet” – a network that includes a large number of IP addresses. These machines all run the “bot” – a software application that completes the action of clicking on display ads. This is a real problem for B2C advertising solutions, which target individuals, because home computers lack corporate or enterprise-level security and thus are easily infected with malware.

These fake publishers cover their site with ads and report impressions. If you visited one of these sites, you would notice that they don’t really exist to serve people information on products and services, but simply to host ads and generate “traffic.” In other words, their sole purpose is to scam advertisers.

The Good News

While fake publishers are a big problem for the industry, it is possible to identify them. Discovering a fake publisher after you’ve spent thousands of dollars isn’t much of a consolation, but there are ways to do it preemptively long before the situation gets that bad.

The key is recognizing that the behavior of these bots doesn’t actually quite resemble humans. When a script clicks on an ad, they don’t just click one ad once, they click many ads several times, which a real human visitor wouldn’t do. This suspicious behavior can be detected algorithmically using artificial intelligence-based technology.

Simply put, it means if you get 10 clicks at the same time across many campaigns, coming from same user-agent, then that combination of IP address, user-agent and cookie-ID is probably fraudulent and shouldn’t be bid on. That pattern can be discovered through the anomaly-detecting technology and blacklisted.

Fighting the Good Fight

In other words, the bad guys haven’t won yet. At Demandbase, we’ve built the Company-Targeted Advertising solution to greatly reduce risk of fraud and optimize value for B2B marketers. Through our unique ability to identify companies, we serve ads to companies using their IP addresses. When we run an ad campaign, we know exactly what companies we’re sending ads to and who’s clicking on them. Furthermore, the security at corporations is also much higher than in a person’s home, meaning that machines hooked up to a company network are less likely to be infected with the malware that would make it part of a botnet.

Finally, Company-Targeted Advertising has built in anomaly detection, which means that we can identify fraudulent behavior and put them on blacklist. It means that with the Demandbase technology, we can help our customers avoid fraud in an automated way.

If you’ve been keeping up with the ad fraud conversation, you know that there are different reactions and opinions germinating – some more fatalistic than others. We firmly believe in the value of display ads and the ability of the industry to combat fraud in an impactful way. To learn more, check out Demandbase Company-Targeted Advertising and Demandbase B2B Retargeting.