Two of the biggest challenges in the digital ad space are ad-funded crime and click fraud. At least one expert believes we already have the means to stop ad-funded crime if we really wanted to. Does the same apply to click fraud? Do we have the means to stop both but are just choosing not to?
At first glance, the proposition seems absurd. Why allow advertisers to collectively lose tens of billions every year in order to protect a criminal enterprise we can easily snuff out? It doesn’t make sense. Yet Sky anti-piracy expert Allie Wooten insists that’s the case.
Wooten’s specialty is ad-funded crime, particularly in the piracy arena. She knows firsthand that pirated content is heavily supported by both subscriptions and digital advertising. That being the case, Wooten believes it is entirely possible to identify pirates and cut off their funding.
She makes a good case. If we can identify piracy platforms, which Wooten says is doable, we can go after both subscribers and advertisers. Subscribers can be warned that they have been found out, thereby encouraging them to cancel their subscriptions. Advertisers can also be warned that they are doing business with pirates.
Wooten makes no mention of click fraud in her case for stopping ad-funded crime. That is probably a good thing. Click fraud is a bit different in the sense that it is perpetrated against advertisers rather than with their support.
In a piracy situation, advertisers are willing to buy ad space on pirate sites because they can reach a wide audience at a lower cost. They are not the victims here. Content owners are the victims. But in a click fraud scenario, it is different. Click fraud perpetrators make advertisers their victims.
The Google click fraud experts at FraudBlocker.com point out that it’s a lot easier to identify piracy platforms than click fraud operations. Click fraud prevention software and human security experts can uncover fraudulent activity easily enough. But identifying the people behind it is extremely challenging.
Assuming Wooten’s position is correct, the key to stopping both ad-funded crime and click fraud is to cut off the funding. Cutting off pirates has already been discussed. So what about click fraud perpetrators?
The only way to cut off their funding is to deny them the opportunity to earn money from click bots, click farms, ad stacking, cookie stuffing, etc. And that’s a lot easier said than done. Click fraud perpetrators are particularly good at covering their tracks. They are very good at disguising their activities long enough to make a tidy profit.
One final point Wooten makes is that money may be the issue in both cases. Think of it this way: whether you are talking ad-funded piracy or click fraud, the companies behind ad tech make money every time digital ads are clicked or displayed.
Google, Facebook, and Microsoft all run their own PPC ad platforms. Most of their ads may be farmed out to third-party publishing networks, but each of the three companies still earns revenue on the ads they sell. Do they risk some of that revenue by trying to clean up the digital ad environment?
Some people believe that ad tech isn’t doing enough to fight either problem. Others say the blame lies largely with advertisers and publishers. But really, no single entity is to blame. If we do have the means to stop ad-funded crime and click fraud, it is time to do so.