Holiday Ad Fraud: Check Your Traffic Twice

The holiday season is a period of increased consumer spending online. Consumers spent $211.7 billion over the holidays in 2022, up 10.6% YoY from 2021. And advertisers know it. They also increase their budgets—up to 2-5x greater than the typical quarter—in the hopes of securing some of this spend for their business.

Bid prices and CPMs are also more expensive during the holidays, increasing by 140% and 45% respectively. The flow of marketing dollars in Q4, combined with the more attractive payouts, draw in fraudsters during the holiday season. Fake impressions and clicks drain ad budgets faster than you can drink a mug of hot cocoa. Contaminated data and manipulated conversion rates dilute campaign performance and erode trust in the digital marketing ecosystem.

What Does Holiday Ad Fraud Look Like?

Advertisers and ad platforms face several challenges related during the holiday season, including:

  • Increased Bot Traffic: Bots can generate fake impressions, clicks, and conversions, leading to wasted ad spend and misleading campaign performance metrics. 
  • Click Fraud: Click farms and click bots inflate click volumes and drain ad budgets artificially. This results in advertisers paying for non-genuine clicks that do not lead to meaningful user engagement or conversions.
  • Ad Placement Issues: With the surge in ad inventory and increased competition, ads are likely to be placed on low-quality or fraudulent websites. This can damage the integrity of your brand image and associate your brand with inappropriate or harmful content.
  • Ad Attribution Challenges: Fake impressions and clicks contaminate data, making it more challenging for advertisers to accurately attribute conversions and determine the impact of their advertising efforts. 
  • Malvertising: Malicious ads redirect users away from their intended destination, leading to potential infections, financial fraud, and compromised customer data. Ultimately, this affects sales, undermines consumer trust, and damages brand reputation. 


How to Mitigate Holiday Ad Fraud

Ad fraud runs rampant during the holidays. But there are several strategies that brands can use to help limit their exposure to non-human traffic during the holiday season:

  • Understand traffic sources
    Traffic sourcing is the most common way in which bot operators make money. Audience extension in particular can introduce high bot percentages by extending content to providers that source traffic. In fact, one HUMAN investigation uncovered audience extension sites with as much as 97% non-human traffic. Be vigilant about traffic sources and build language into RFPs and insertion orders that requires publishers to identify all third-party traffic sources. 

  • Don’t target too much
    In any situation where supply does not meet demand for a target audience, non-human traffic will follow. While it may be tempting to create highly-targeted audience segments, avoid too many restrictions on potential supply.

  • Monitor bids in real time
    Use real-time sensor data parsed through technical, statistical and machine learning algorithms to quickly make a bot-or-not decision.

  • Adopt an ad fraud prevention technology
    Bots are getting more and more sophisticated each day. To really protect traffic and improve the efficacy of digital ad spend, consider implementing an anti-ad fraud solution. Adopting this technology in advance will ensure you are prepared for the holidays and allow you to spend Q4 focused on what really matters.

  • Educate and train internal teams
    Educate your marketing teams about the various forms of advertising fraud and provide regular training on fraud detection techniques. Staying updated on the latest fraud trends helps empower your team to recognize and combat fraudulent activities effectively.

Stop Bots from Getting a Piece of the Holiday Pie

The Human Defense Platform offers advanced ad protection solutions to stop automated fraud and malvertising. Programmatic Ad Fraud Defense and Malvertising Defense use machine learning, data analytics, and real-time monitoring to identify and block fraudulent ad activity. Data Contamination Defense filters out bots from your data, so you can analyze performance and make strategic marketing decisions. 

As Q4 approaches, businesses must brace themselves for the increased threat of ad fraud. Implementing an ad fraud protection solution will safeguard ad budgets, protect data integrity, and preserve consumer trust. By mitigating the risks associated with ad fraud, businesses can ensure that holiday ad campaigns are effective, efficient, and secure.