Fraud usually follows the money- particularly in environments that lack data transparency, industry standards, and technology solutions to counter it. The Connected TV (CTV) ad ecosystem is no exception:
- Between January and April of 2020, DoubleVerify detected a 161% increase year-over-year in fraudulent CTV traffic.
- In Q1 2020 DV detected more than 500 fraudulent apps, exceeding what we detected across the entirety of 2019.
- DV currently detects over 500,000 fraudulent CTV devices a day.
THE CTV ENVIRONMENT IS SUSCEPTIBLE TO FRAUD
DoubleVerify first launched its fraud capabilities across CTV environments at the start of 2018. While fraud activity was relatively low at that time, it has been accelerating dramatically since then. The reason for that rise is that the CTV ecosystem can be more susceptible to fraud than other environments:
- CTV lacks transparency: Advertisers usually don’t know what apps or content they advertise in. While programmatic deals typically include app information in the form of BundleIDs, this information usually doesn’t follow any industry standards and is highly unreliable. Any one app can have up to 15 IDs, and each could be a random number like “1234”. In fact DV has detected that only 20% of CTV auctions have app names that adhere to IAB conventions. In direct deals, app information is rarely ever provided and campaigns frequently run outside of a seller’s own apps. Content information is also rarely provided, whether you are buying direct or through a programmatic partner. At best it’s given as a post-campaign summary with no guarantees on volumes or accuracy.
- Releasing fraudulent apps is easy: Anyone can create and distribute CTV apps, even in ‘closed’ app stores. Fraudsters release apps with legitimate content to gain approval by the app store and then use their app in illegitimate ways to defraud advertisers of their media spend.
- Server-side technologies are ripe for fraud: Fraudsters are able to easily leverage Server Side Ad Insertion (SSAI) technology to spam fake traffic.
- Key verification standards aren’t available: VPAID, which could offer advanced fraud detection capabilities, isn’t supported by CTV devices. App-ads.txt, which could be used to help verify inventory sources, also has a relatively low adoption in CTV environments.
FRAUDULENT OPERATORS COMMIT CTV FRAUD IN MULTIPLE WAYS
Top tactics used around CTV fraud can be summarized into three categories, which fraudsters can combine to maximize their own profits:
- Spoofing: Fraudsters may buy lower-price mobile or desktop display inventory for less than a $1 CPM, change the ad calls to resemble premium CTV video inventory, and resell the inventory at CPMs frequently greater than $20.
- Fraudulent apps: Fraudsters can easily create their own CTV apps and release them to both open and closed app stores. Hundreds of apps are out there with few downloads, but millions of impressions. Alternatively, some fraudsters create what seems like legitimate tech tools that they then offer to app creators, when in fact they are planning to commit fraud. Case in point, some fraudulent app traffic that we identify is the result of a real app that unfortunately incorporates a fraudster’s technology without knowing any better.
- SSAI fraud: SSAI technology has some amazing benefits, but the same technology can be leveraged to generate fraud at scale. Fraudsters can either create their own servers or buy into cloud space to completely falsify all the information about an impression opportunity (app/IP/device/etc.) and generate completely fake traffic. Imagine millions or billions of impressions firing off from a server farm.
DV HAS YOU COVERED
DV works with buyers, sellers, and the platforms in between to eliminate fraudulent traffic from the ecosystem. Buyers can utilize the DV Video OmniTag to monitor and prevent their CTV campaigns from running against fraudulent devices and environments, sellers can utilize DV’s solutions to monitor and act on any fraudulent traffic in their environments, and programmatic platforms can be certified for CTV fraud protection.
DV’s Fraud Lab employs a rigorous process to evaluate and identify ad fraud. At any given time, we are monitoring hundreds of data points on every impression – analyzing traffic patterns and leveraging numerous human-tuned algorithms to identify anomalies across different devices and media types as well as a dedicated CTV hardware lab with a sandbox environment where app code and logs are decompiled and analyzed. With these capabilities, DV is protecting clients and partners from the growing wave of CTV fraud.