By Brooke Willcox—Director of Digital Business Development at MNI Targeted Media
In case you missed it during the hustle and bustle of the holidays, The Wall Street Journal (among other publications) posted an article in mid-December exposing the largest-ever connected television (CTV) ad fraud operation, involving 28.8 million U.S. households, 3,600 apps, and 3,400 CTV devices. Dubbed “StreamScam,” the fraud exploited flaws in CTV ad serving technology to fool advertisers into paying for ads that were never delivered to households. It did so by spoofing more than 28.8 million valid household IP addresses.
What is OTT / CTV Ad Fraud?
Digital ad fraud is any deliberate activity that prevents the proper delivery of ads, either to the intended audience or to the intended place. Most commonly taking the form of bots or publisher spoofing, ad fraud thrives by siphoning off money from advertising transactions. It can come in many forms: pretending to be humans browsing the internet or misrepresenting low-quality inventory as high quality.
Though the exact amount is often debated, GroupM recently released a report estimating the global cost of ad fraud at $22.4B per year. Ad fraud typically accounts for some 10% of ad sales spending, with the U.S. accounting for $2.496B of that fraud. The phenomenon of ad fraud has existed since the beginning of online advertising, but in recent years it has been gaining traction as the real-time bidding (RTB) model is widely adopted. The fragmented nature of RTB makes it easier to commit and conceal fraud. Given the surge in streaming television, CTV has become a new breeding ground for innovative ad fraud.
Media Types Most Vulnerable to Ad Fraud in the Next 12 Months According to U.S. Digital Media Professionals, Oct 2020
CTV is vulnerable for a number of reasons, including lack of regulation, a fragmented supply chain, limited transparency in campaign management, and inadequate data. As a result, millions of dollars are lost.
Most ad fraud detection solutions in the market have been designed and specialized for the web market. They typically employ machine learning techniques for big data analysis in order to measure the volume of fraudulent traffic and root out adverse sources. However, these methodologies don’t translate well to the OTT/CTV space. The fact that the CTVs share very limited data with advertisers, combined with a lack of coherent models, creates a gap for ad fraud in Connected TVs that existing solutions just can’t bridge.
How Protected TV Solutions Effectively Protect OTT/CTV Campaigns from Ad Fraud
MNI Targeted Media partnered with Protected Media to monitor our MNIx OTT/CTV campaigns. Protected Media's cutting-edge ProtectedTV solution and advanced capabilities effectively protect campaigns from ad fraud in Connected TVs using the following innovative technologies:
- Cybersecurity Logic for Three-Factor Authentication: Unlike other solutions that typically employ machine learning techniques for big data analysis, Protected TV’s patent pending “Three-Way Handshake” stamps each valid transaction and guarantees the validity and quality of any given transaction across the supply chain.
- Supply-Demand Feedback Loop: ProtectedTV harnesses deep insights relative to the validity and quality of supply-side transactions to improve demand-side protection, saving time, improving efficiency, and solidifying trust. The technology’s feedback loop between supply and demand results in qualitatively better fraud measurement and protection when compared to existing solutions.
- Accredited Detection & Filtration Technology: Protected Media is accredited by Media Rating Council (MRC) for both general invalid traffic (GIVT) and sophisticated invalid traffic (SIVT) detection and filtration.
Protected Media is part of the TAG Anti-Fraud Working Group who received a list from Oracle containing the fraudulent SSAI server IPs they attributed to StreamScam. Protected Media then checked those IPs against their logs where they found that they had already classified 100% of that type of traffic as fraudulent using several of their own proprietary checks for invalid SSAI.
This was a big development in the CTV space, and Oracle will be presenting and sharing more detail on StreamScam to the TAG Anti-Fraud Working Group throughout 2021. Protected Media will be monitoring developments. I’m proud to say that overall, our clients can feel at ease because MNI has partnered with Protected Media and adheres to two strict rules when it comes to verifying SSAI traffic:
- No traffic from new SSAI vendors, technologies, or publishers, is defined as valid without a thorough review using Protected Media’s own and third-party data.
- Protected Media has developed relationships with SSAI vendors as well as publishers that are utilizing SSAI to monitor valid SSAI types and to make sure Protected Media has a library of legitimate SSAI signatures that they can use to verify traffic with.
MNI Targeted Media takes fraud very seriously and knew that CTV fraud was a growing problem, which led us to partner with the best, Protected Media. To learn more about the subject of ad fraud prevention, view our Connected TV (CTV) Ad Fraud whitepaper.
About the Author:
Brooke Willcox is the Director of Digital Business Development at MNI Targeted Media and its two business units, MNI and Harpoon Digital. With more than ten years’ experience in the digital media industry, Brooke excels at evaluating the digital landscape and emerging trends, to identify prospective partners across media solutions, data partners, technology platforms, pricing models, custom campaign tracking and analytics, audience insights, verification tools, creative, and programmatic platforms.