All About CTV and Ad Fraud

September 19, 2023

Where there is money to be made off of digital advertising inventory, there will be fraudsters — and that’s just as true of connected TV (CTV) as any other medium. Despite perceptions that CTV is harder for malicious actors to get into, ad fraud seems to abound. In 2021, DoubleVerify reported that CTV ad fraud spiked by 70%. According to Insider Intelligence, CTV ad spend is expected to reach $26 billion in 2023. Additionally, they predict U.S. CTV ad spending will be “50.0% the size of linear TV ad spending by the end of 2024.” As these numbers continue to climb, it’s imperative to address fraud in CTV.

While the mobile industry has been internally dealing with fraud for years, and mobile measurement providers (MMPs) and partners like FeedMob have learned how to spot, and even stop fraud, CTV is still emerging. In this article, we’ll explore fraud on CTV, its prevalence, how it presents itself, and how advertisers can fight back.

What is CTV ad fraud?

Ad fraud comes in many forms, but when it comes to CTV the most common form of fraud is bot traffic. Like most types of digital ad fraud, illegitimate traffic, and fraudulent views are at the heart of it.

Back in 2021, Fierce Video reported that DoubleVerify unearthed a huge fraud scheme that used “screensavers to hijack CTV devices to generate impressions even if the screen is off. The company used an average $20 CPM across CTV to estimate that each month SmokeScreen generates more than 300 million ad requests, valued at over $6 million, and warned that the scheme is still active on unprotected CTV platforms and advertiser campaigns, impacting nearly 10,000 devices daily.” And that wasn’t even the first CTV fraud scheme the team exposed that year.

How can you fight CTV ad fraud?

Fraudsters evolve their methods as quickly as technology finds ways to combat them — but those of us in the mobile attribution business are positioned well to deal with fraud on CTV.

Detecting CTV ad fraud is not a one-to-one comparison to mobile and desktop — and ultimately requires a more sophisticated approach. Without cookies, Ads.txt specs, or device IDs identifying fraudsters on CTV is a new challenge. As AdExchanger reported in 2022, “There are technical differences between mobile and CTV ad serving. CTV relies more heavily on server-side ad insertion (SSAI) technology to stitch video ads into content. Also, TV screens are inherently less interactive than other devices, and the lack of engagement signals severely limits viewability, including whether or not a detected ‘viewer’ is a real person or a bot.”

As was the case in the early days of mobile ad fraud, technological solutions continue to evolve to fight CTV fraud. Some bespoke solutions are specifically tackling the problem of CTV fraud, but MMPs have also developed solutions to help accurately attribute CTV traffic — and, by extension, tackle fraud. Here’s what our partners who address CTV say about their attribution:

  • Adjust’s SDK and S2S solutions offer deterministic attribution capabilities to measure connected TV app installs from campaigns run on connected TV devices.”
  • AppsFlyer’s “CTV measurement platform helps streaming services grow their key KPIs – including installs, signups, revenue, and in-app events – with the industry’s most trusted measurement data.”
  • Branch says clients can “get attribution from all of your OTT campaigns, ads, notifications via ESPs, pre-install partnerships, and more.”
  • Kochava says it can “attribute cross-screen conversions from OTT/CTV to mobile, tablet, and other connected devices.”

With a good MMP on your side, accurate attribution can help you identify fraud when it takes place. Third-party incrementality measurement companies can also be useful in CTv applications. As MMPs do not see all conversion data from sources like web — and are also limited in deterministic data from SKAN — more advertisers are looking for an incrementality solution that can apply the same logic across all advertising channels. An effective incrementality measurement partner would also help identify fraud as there won’t be incrementality from fraudulent sources.

Of course, heading off fraud before it happens is ideal. At FeedMob, we have vetted over 500 partners to narrow it down to the most trustworthy sources of traffic, and we’re now applying that rigorous approach to CTV.

Posted: September 19, 2023

Category: Mobile Insights Blog, Mobile Performance Strategies


FeedMob Team

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