Fake Marketing vs Real Marketing – How to Stop Online Ad Fraud from Decimating Your Marketing Budget

How Much Is Your Company Spending Just to Get Your Ads SEEN (Let Alone Clicked On)?

Consumer trust in online ads is in decline, and for good reason. Ad fraud continues to incrementally worsen the online experience, making it harder than ever for legitimate companies like yours to get your ads seen by your desired target audience, or to measure their effectiveness with any reliability.

There’s only one way to definitively conquer the ad fraudsters and stop sending them money for fake clicks, fake URLs, invisible ads, impression laundering, and all the other technologically complex ways criminals are stealing your ad dollars.

But before we reveal that solution, it’s important that you have an accurate understanding of what’s at stake, and how much your company might be losing to ad fraud, what we’re calling “fake marketing.”

business person holding money lost to ad fraud

What Ad Fraud Is Costing You

In 2015, monetary losses to ad fraud are estimated to be $7.2 billion.  That same year, companies spent a total of about $12 billion in online advertising, which means about 60% of their ad spend was completely wasted

By 2018 estimated losses to ad fraud had risen to $20 billion.  It’s even worse today, because the fake marketing technology is only becoming more sinister and easily manipulated. One Russian cyber gang we won’t name because what they were doing is so reprehensible was making $3 – 5 million per DAY from all the fake URLs, bots and other schemes they had running in lieu of just doing an honest day’s work. Fortunately, they got caught, but that was just one out of countless others still in operation.

So keep that 60% number in mind – you will need it in a moment to do a little math exercise.

What Can You Do to Stop Ad Fraud?

A number of technologies and companies peddling them (meaning – you’re paying for this) have been created to fight online criminals and ad fraud. You can fight back with tools that can detect fraud, prevent it from interfering with your ads, and measure how often it’s happening.

Some of the tools you can use will do things like:

  • Confirm ad delivery, and measure its visibility to real people
  • Monitor botnets and questionable website traffic using cybersecurity platforms
  • Detect fake traffic using heuristic-based and machine learning algorithms
  • Build statistical models to help detect questionable traffic patterns
  • Create your own set of fake ads to trick the bots (called honey pots)
  • Requiring ads.txt in the online ads where it’s relevant

Isn’t marketing fun? (Wait… is this still marketing?)

You can learn more about other ways to fight back against ad fraud and ensure your ads are getting seen on this page from Clear Code

But that’s not all. You also have to fight off malware and virus attacks on your website, deal with fake email phishing scams made to look like they were sent from your company, and protect your customers’ privacy and data.

Can all this be done? Yes – to a point.

What does it cost?

Might be better not to go there.

What About Facebook and Social Media?

Facebook and other platforms have been having their own problems maintaining trust with online consumers in recent years. According to Forbes, one study found Facebook’s audience tool promised 41 million 18-to-24-year olds could be reached in the U.S.

Sounds great until you find out that’s 10 million more people in that age bracket than even exist. Whoops.

Online platforms self-report their metrics to you, and in most cases you have little choice but to trust them. Plus, criminal networks create hundreds of thousands of fake user account on social media, and use those to artificially inflate traffic and click data. Some celebrities have been found to have far more followers than they actually had (and some had even purchased those followers – people who didn’t even exist).

And we don’t even have room to talk about mobile app fraud and the increase in over-the-top video ad fraud.

Some ad industry specialists believe technology will one day magically solve all this, and they look to things like blockchain with great optimism, and criticize an over-reliance on metrics like clicks and impressions since those are so easily faked.

But so far, all previous technological advances have failed to stem the ever-rising tide of ad fraud and other forms of online crime. In contrast, they seem to just make it worse by giving cyber criminals even more ways to steal and cause problems for real companies.

business people shaking hands

The Fallout from Ad Fraud – Plummeting Consumer Trust

This is where the news gets really bad.

A Marketing Sherpa study examined perceptions of trust for various media channels. They asked how well viewers trusted 13 different marketing channels. The bottom eight were ALL digital. The highest of those eight was search ads, such as Google, at 61%.

The most trusted channel overall? Print Ads.

The lowest? Social media ads, online banners, mobile ads – these all fell below 50%, with mobile ads trusted by only 39% of consumers.

And is it any wonder?

This goes back to the declining user experience mentioned at the start. People are tired of clicking on ads that don’t go to where they should. They’re fed up being bombarded with unwanted pop up ads (at 25% – the least trusted channel). The more they hear about ad fraud, phishing, fake ads, fake news, fake accounts, bots, and all the other untrustworthy, unverifiable aspects of online marketing, the less they trust it.

With all this in mind, it’s time for that math exercise promised earlier.

The Real Math of Online Advertising Budgets

Here’s your math exercise. Do your best to estimate the following amounts:

$______ Amount spent creating your marketing plans

$______ Amount spent creating ads – copy, design, revision, approval

$______ Amount spent distributing ads on various platforms and channels

In a perfect world, that’s your marketing budget. Measure how much money you make as a result of those ads, you have your ROI.

What does a campaign cost?

Get a custom-built sample campaign with real targeting data, ad creative, cost estimates, and distribution plans.

Use the Project Estimator

But in the world of fake marketing – if you want your ads to be seen so they even have a chance of being clicked on – the costs keep piling up:

$______ Amount spent on cyber security software platforms to fight malware, protect privacy, etc.

$______ Amount spent verifying ad delivery and visibility

$______ Amount spent building statistical models and algorithms to detect fake ad traffic

$______ Amount spent policing the various ad platforms you’re advertising on

$______ Amount spent creating fake ad honey pots to trick the bots

$______ Amount spent lobbying congress to do more to fight cybercrime

$______ Amount spent reimbursing your customers and paying for the fallout when breaches still happen despite your best efforts

$______ Amount spent testing (and investing in) new technology the tech titans promise will fix all this one day

Now, add all that up, and perhaps more, and THAT is your actual digital marketing expense against which you can calculate your ROI.

But wait – there’s more.

Remember that 60% number back from the start of this article? About 60% of online ad traffic is fake. Assuming all those costly efforts listed above bear some fruit, let’s suppose you manage to cut that in half – a pretty impressive feat. Now only 30% of your online ad traffic is fake.

So you need to add one more cost to all the others: Wasted Expense.

$______ Amount wasted – multiply total ad spent by 0.3

Add that to the previous total, and that’s your final ad budget.

How to Never Worry about Ad Fraud Again, Ever

What if you could wave a magic wand and wipe out all those additional expenses you have to pay out just to hope your ads get seen online by people who aren’t going to trust them anyway? Again, we’re not even talking about the quality of the actual ad. This is just to be SEEN.

The good news – you can.

There is an advertising channel that gets 100% ad deliverability. Yes – 100%. Every single ad gets delivered, without exception. Every ad gets seen, and you can verify it.

Even better, this advertising channel is highly trusted by consumers (remember those dismal 40% trust ratings for digital channels?).

When you factor in all the other costs ad fraudsters and cybercriminals have forced you to spend as part of the “cost of doing business,” this form of advertising costs far less than what most companies spend online – for each real, verifiable impression. You must keep that in mind. The metrics used by most online platforms can’t be verified unless you pay even more money, and even then it’s an ongoing battle of technologies as the fraudsters keep finding new ways to work around it all.

What is this ‘miracle’ channel with above 80% trust ratings and 100% deliverability?

It’s called Front Door Marketing.

example of hispanic door hanger on door

Front Door Marketing – Beyond the Reach of Cybercriminals, Guaranteed to Be Seen

Power Direct delivers premium quality front door marketing campaigns to targeted households. Yes – you can target households by specific demographics, with over 4000 variables at your disposal.

Front door marketing is #realmarketing. 

Consumers trust print marketing at 82%. That’s mostly newspapers and magazines. They trust direct mail about 76%.

And to be clear – with front door marketing we’re not talking about flimsy door hangers from a local restaurant that blow away in a windstorm. We’re talking about

  • Mass produced high quality mini-billboards
  • Delivered by hand to specific doors that fit your target profile
  • Being seen by every single household that gets one
  • Verified delivery from on-site auditors, who create daily reports,  and your own platform to watch your doorhangers being delivered in real-time. [link to previous blog]

100% deliverability.

100% can’t-click-away, can’t-change-the-channel visibility.

100% the only marketing piece they will see on their door – we never deliver more than one piece at a time.

Direct to consumer offers, specials, and incentives to come to your stores, visit your websites, and respond to your offers.

That is what marketing is all about, right?

Or do you enjoy sitting in windowless rooms talking to cybersecurity experts about web server logs, IP spoofing, contextual data segments, and ad verification vendors?

Talk to a Power Direct specialist about a Front Door Marketing campaign