Bot-based Video Ad Fraud Lowers Viewer Engagement

Non-human bot traffic is often a first approach for ad fraud—and it turns out, it’s significantly affecting the market for digital video advertisements, lowering engagement.

These malware infections run automated tasks over the internet to simulate human activity. They “click” on advertisements, and artificially inflate the number of views that an ad receives—thus also inflating the cost of advertising on that web page.

An infected computer can also surf the web, browse on sites and more—all while the owner of the computer is completely unaware.

In partnership with global bot prevention leader White Ops, Videology found in a report that all inventory types, from the low-CPM long-tail sites to the most premium and well-known publishers, are fraught with bot activity to some degree.

Most of the traffic is coming from residential PCs. A higher percentage of traffic at night contains bots, according to the study, and users age 65+ are 69% more likely to be hosting bots through an outdated browser.

To help demonstrate the cost of bots on brand engagement, the companies studied a campaign when White Ops’ bot-blocking was turned on and when it was turned off. The campaign asked for multiple choice responses to determine brand engagement. The study found a 22% higher rate of brand engagement with bot-blocking turned on, while the cost for doing so only increased the campaign’s price by 2%.

Bot fraud is often categorized along with other forms of brand safety like viewability, which refers to the metric that tracks the level at which impressions can actually be seen by a human viewer. An ad is either being seen by a bot or by a human. So, ensuring that a dollar spent on a view is a dollar spent on a human view becomes important.

This ‘human CPM,’ should thus be higher than a standard CPM, the companies argued, given that the study found that campaigns not including bot-blocking technology had a 10.1% level of bots. So, a $10 CPM would have an $11.12 human CPM. 

At present, bot-perpetrated ad fraud is just part of the landscape. The paper recommends the development of a common standard for viewability and bot monitoring to help eliminate the inflated CPM issue.

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