Press Releases

Fighting Copyright Infringement and $6.8 Million per Month in Ad Fraud

Matt McLaughlin May 1, 2013

Today DoubleVerify announced the full deployment of a technology breakthrough in Fraud detection. This breakthrough enabled us to uncover elaborate advertising Fraud activity that originated from ad impressions on over 1,200 websites classified as copyright infringement. We also released a DV Fraud Lab Report, DoubleVerify uncovers Ad Fraud benefiting Copyright Infringement Sites, Costing Online Advertisers $6.8M per month, which provides the full details of this Fraud analysis and how the new product enhancements improve our industry-leading, MRC-accredited verification services. The DoubleVerify blocking, monitoring and inventory integration products are now identifying and protecting our customers from activity on these Fraudulent sites and proactively for similar occurrences that may occur in the future.

DoubleVerify data scientists analyzed over 1,000 advertiser campaigns delivering more than 10 billion impressions on 3 million plus websites in a recent 30-day period to reveal just how wide-ranging this most recent Fraud activity was:

  • Over 1,200 websites in copyright infringement categories were laundering ad impressions through a set of seemingly legitimate sites with advertiser-friendly content.
  • 3.0% of all Network/RTB-purchased impressions were delivered via sites participating in this Fraudulent activity.
  • 0.1% of Publisher-purchased impressions were delivered via sites participating in this Fraudulent activity. This likely occurs when publishers purchase 3rd-party inventory for audience extension or other off-site fulfillment programs.
  • DoubleVerify estimates that nearly $6.8 million dollars per month is siphoned away from advertisers and legitimate inventory sellers due to media buys on the sites participating in this Fraud.

This massive Fraud activity originates from user traffic on websites classified as copyright infringement. These sites have two primary characteristics that spur them to resort to impression laundering Fraud:

  • Significant consumer interest that drives substantial site traffic, combined with
  • Low advertiser interest in appearing on the site because of objectionable content

The ad impressions from this traffic are ‘laundered’ through a complex series of redirects that make the ads appear as though they originated on legitimate sites containing advertiser-friendly content. Further, the Fraudulent ads use code hiding the ad creative from being displayed in the user’s browser, resulting in advertisers paying for impressions that are never seen. Many of our advertisers view this as a particularly insidious form of online advertising Fraud. Imagine a movie studio’s anger upon discovering that not only are they being bilked out of their marketing dollars because of online advertising Fraud, but that the nefarious funds are funneled back to sites they are actively trying to avoid because their activity damages their primary revenue stream of selling or licensing their intellectual property.

“Copyright infringement is a significant issue that is siphoning dollars away from the creative community,” said Jon Taplin, Director of Annenberg Innovation Lab, who has been working to drive awareness of and bring transparency to advertising on copyright infringement sites. “DoubleVerify’s identification of this impression laundering Fraud is a significant milestone towards cutting off the funds that these sites need to continue their operations. DoubleVerify’s technology and verification solutions are a welcome addition to the tools that advertisers, agencies, networks and exchanges can employ to ensure that advertising dollars are not contributing to the problem of copyright infringement.”

Integration of these Fraud detection breakthroughs into our MRC-accredited Fraud-Detection and Verification solutions enhances DoubleVerify’s industry-leading platform in both of the critical elements necessary for fully effective protection against online advertising Fraud.

The first needed element of an effective Fraud-protection solution is timely and comprehensive identification of participants. As a leader in the ongoing fight against emerging Fraud techniques we are continuously identifying and adding sites with the telltale signs of display advertising Fraud to our classification system. This recent technology breakthrough allowed us to take our site identification to a whole new level. It facilitated the initial discovery of Fraud participants and was enhanced using new algorithms from our Fraud Lab data scientists, which together resulted in the comprehensive mapping of the sites engaged in this impression laundering Fraud. This resulted in our solutions providing additional protection against over 1,200 sites that are now classified as participating in Ad Impression Fraud. Perhaps more importantly, the deployment of these fingerprinting techniques and expansion mapping algorithms into our verification solution speeds the future protection from additional sites engaged in Fraudulent activity of a similar nature.

The second required element of an effective Fraud-protection solution is an ability to fully penetrate the transparency gap created by an complicated and/or obfuscated ad-serving chain. Overcoming the transparency gap allows DoubleVerify to correctly identify every site involved in the transaction (especially where the traffic originated for laundered impressions) so that effective Fraud protection can occur. DoubleVerify fully incorporated the recent technology enhancements into our dual-verification (crawler and pixel) technology to penetrate complex, obfuscated and Fraudulent ad-serving chains and in order to provide our customers the most effective Fraud-protection solution.

We believe that pre-bid Fraud solutions that rely on the URL supplied by the RTB provider often can’t provide effective protection from online advertising Fraud. Our data scientists recently examined impressions running through major online ad exchanges. They discovered that the RTB transparency gap on the pre-bid URL was nearly 30%. The RTB transparency gap occurs when the URL the ad is displayed on differs from the URL utilized by the exchange for pre-bid Fraud prevention, blacklist compliance, or other URL-based targeting or blocking. The RTB transparency gap often may be caused by legitimate, non-Fraudulent complexity in the ecosystem — but impression laundering that further obfuscates the serving chain certainly adds to this discrepancy. Pre-bid Fraud-protection solutions simply have not overcome the RTB transparency gap and therefore can’t provide effective protection against Fraud for the advertiser.

The only effective method for Fraud prevention is employing a solution that combines accurate Fraud identification with technology that eliminates the transparency gap across all impressions. DoubleVerify offers MRC-accredited verification solutions to marketers that lead the market in these areas. Advertisers deploying our BrandShield proactive blocking solution have the highest protection through the immediate elimination of ads to Fraudulent sites. Those brands using the BrandAssure monitoring solution will see the sites flagged as non-compliant within their reports and their dedicated Performance Management team will actively work with them and their inventory partners to remove these sites from the buy. Our real-time platform integration solution, BrandShield Connect, provides ad networks and exchanges the technology necessary to penetrate the transparency gap and preemptively identify the safety of the ad impression before it is sold. All of our solutions were enhanced from this technology breakthrough and further extended our market-leading position in the two critical elements, participant identification and transparency gap elimination, for effective Fraud protection.

DoubleVerify remains committed to eliminating all types of Fraud and driving accountability and performance measurement in online advertising to maintain the value of the medium and credibility of its participants so that together we can build a better industry. We are proud that this technology advancement provides enhanced protection against online advertising Fraud for our customers as well as a reduction in funding for sites identified not adequately protecting intellectual property rights. We believe these are meaningful steps toward the ongoing delivery against this commitment.

PS – If you want to join us in building a better industry, DoubleVerify is hiring!

Fraud Definition and Clarifications

  • DoubleVerify’s MRC-accredited Verification solutions utilize two content categories to classify sites as Fraud and provide clarity for our customers:
    • Confirmed Ad Impression Fraud – Sites with significant direct evidence confirming that Ad Impression Fraud is taking place. Ad Impression Fraud manipulates ad serving, ad display or traffic activity such that ad impression measurements are incremented inappropriately because the ads cannot be seen by a user, are not served within operationally viewable parameters or were displayed as a result of machine-generated traffic.
    • Suspected Ad Impression Fraud – Sites with significant circumstantial evidence that Ad Impression Fraud is taking place such as site data, traffic patterns, viewability data and relationships to sites with Confirmed Ad Impression Fraud. Ad Impression Fraud manipulates ad serving, ad display or traffic activity such that ad impression measurements are incremented inappropriately because the ads cannot be seen by a user, are not served within operationally viewable parameters or were displayed as a result of machine-generated traffic.
  • For the purposes of this post, any description of Fraud means Ad Impression Fraud. Sites described as Fraudulent means those in this study that we have classified into the “Confirmed Ad Impression Fraud” or “Suspected Ad Impression Fraud” contextual categories. Fraudulent activity or Fraudulent impressions means the advertising impressions on Fraudulent Sites
  • As used by the IAB Verification Guidelines, DoubleVerify contextual category definitions, this post, and related releases and reports, the use of the words Fraud, Fraud Site, Ad Impression Fraud, Fraud activity, Laundering, Laundering Site and other related terms are not intended to represent Fraud or Laundering as defined in various laws, statutes and ordinances or as conventionally used in U.S. Court or other legal proceedings, but rather a custom definition strictly for advertising measurement purposes.
  • The statements made in this post regarding Fraud all relate to DoubleVerify’s observations and data collection during April 2013. These statements shall not be construed to imply information or conclusions regarding activity that took place outside of the studied period.

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