This 34-page report includes a half-dozen charts, tables and graphics that size up what has become an $8 billion problem in the advertising industry: Digital fraud. From Alamosa to Yuba City, local publishers are getting skimmed by click fraud, domain spoofing, tag hijacking, ad stacking, and fake traffic. Included are four appendixes that estimate digital fraud by advertising categories; a list of local Canadian and U.S. publishers who were hit by last year's massive Methbot scam; digital ad-fraud estimates for 513 U.S. Digital Marketing Regions (DMRs), and a glossary of terms. It's the most comprehensive (and perhaps only) examination of how local markets have been affected by this disturbing phenomenon.
Depending on how you look at it, digital ad fraud is either a big problem or a small problem. It’s certainly portrayed as a big problem by those in beleaguered traditional media, who have been rattled by their own ad-fraud scandals for decades (think newspaper and magazine circulation scams, broadcast ratings scandals). You could say that 96% of the digital advertising industry isn’t affected by fraud, or you could say that digital ad fraud is a $8 billion problem. Both are true.
But how big is it at the local level? It’s affected local publishers large and small, some to the tune of millions of dollars. The growing use of “full stack” programmatic advertising - where ad fraud is most prevalent - at the local and regional levels has given cyber criminals a fresh and largely uneducated advertiser population to prey upon.
This paper gauges the size and scope of digital ad fraud as it activity oozes deeper into local and regional markets. The research shows that the most vulnerable categories are also some of the most “local” ones - real estate advertising, restaurants, and its recruitment advertising. And it sizes up the damage two ways: by total digital fraud per market, and by percentage of local, digital advertising per market. On the former, the largest markets (L.A., NYC, Chicago, etc.) rank highest. On the latter ranking, New Haven, Conn., Hagerstown, Md., Bend, Ore., and Portsmouth, N.H., rise to the top with 8% to nearly 10% of local digital advertising tagged as being fraudulent.
As with ad fraud in traditional media, the problem isn’t likely to shrink or disappear. We foresee today’s $8 billion digital ad fraud growing to nearly $11 billion by 2018 - commensurate with the growth in overall digital advertising, but not growing as a share of those dollars.
Fig. 1 How Botnets and Ghost Sites Defraud Advertisers
Fig. 2 Median Bot Served Traffic Percentage
Fraud on Main Street
Fig. 3 Top 10 Borrell Categories For Digital Fraud
Digital Ad Fraud By The Market
Fig. 4 Top 20 Borrell DMRs For Digital Ad Fraud
Is Digital Ad Fraud a Growth Industry?
Fig 5. Share of Malware-Infected Email Messages Received By U.S. Businesses in 2016
Digital Ad Fraud Forecasts
Fig. 6 Estimated/Forecast Total U.S. Digital Ad Fraud
Appendix A: Total 2016 U.S. Digital Ad Fraud By Advertiser Category
Appendix B: List of U.S. & Canadian Local Media Properties Spoofed By “Methbot” Video Advertising Scheme (Dec. 2016)
Appendix C: Total 2016 U.S. Digital Ad Fraud By DMR
Appendix D: Glossary of Digital Fraud Terms
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