Ad fraud detection ‘does nothing’: A Digiday+ Slack town hall with ad fraud expert Augustine Fou

Augustine Fou, ad fraud researcher and consultant, joined Digiday+ members for a Slack town hall on April 26 to talk about the state of online ad fraud. The full conversation is available exclusively to Digiday+ members, but lightly edited excerpts appear below. Click here to join Digiday+.

Here are Fou’s views on:

Buying ads through exchanges and intermediaries 
“Marketers should get as close to the inventory sources as possible. … As long as marketers continue to look to buy ‘scale,’ they will be ripped off by ad fraud because there is no scale to real humans visiting sites — that is a finite and scarce commodity (which should cost more). The only way to achieve ‘scale’ and more impressions is by manufacturing it.”

Ad fraud detection vendors
“Vendors are cashing in on the fraud problem, and the companies paying for it are not getting what they thought they were buying (protection against fraud). The bad guys and the tech they use are far superior to fraud and bot detection companies’ tech, so most fraud gets marked as clean, and the client (marketer) continues to get ripped off, thinking they are fine. Bad guys simply get a subscription to the fraud detection vendors and A/B test their bots and fraud methods to ensure they get marked as clean (or they get a friend to get a subscription). … [Companies] are paying for fraud detection services that don’t work, and they are still getting ripped off.”

Premium publishers benefiting from ad fraud
“For good publishers who can survive until then, there is a lot more money coming back their way when marketers wake up and realize all of this digital programmatic stuff was a complete scam, and there aren’t 100 billion unique users going on the internet and generating the 70 trillion ad impressions every year that they are buying. The amount of real ad impressions shown to real humans on real publisher sites that have real content is extremely small — like less than 1 percent of what is out there now.”

More in Media

YouTube is under fire again, this time over child protection

Adalytics Research asks, ‘Are YouTube advertisers inadvertently harvesting data from millions of children?’

Illustration of a puzzle that spells out the word 'media.'

Media Briefing: Publishers pump up per-subscriber revenue amid ad revenue declines

Publishers’ Q2 earnings reveal digital advertising is still in a tight spot, but digital subscriptions are picking up steam.

Lessons for AI from the ad-tech era: ‘We’re living in a memory-less world’

Experts reflect how the failures of social media and online advertising can help the industry improve the next era of innovation.