The Price of a ‘Good Deal’: Ad Fraud in the Digital Age

Listen up, people! We need to talk about the rampant ad fraud that is plaguing the digital advertising industry. It's like those counterfeit handbags you see on the street - it's everywhere, and no one seems to care.


The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may seize millions of dollars of fake designer sandals, purses, scarves, and wallets, but it’s only a small percentage of the counterfeit goods that actually get through. The CBP can’t afford to check every shipment, and the parties moving the counterfeit goods are actively disguising them as something else.

It’s the same with digital ad fraud, but worse. The fraud problem is 1,000 times larger than the physical counterfeit goods because digital ads are just bits and bytes – there’s no physical product to move. The humans behind the ad fraud or facilitating it are sitting comfortably behind computer screens, never even having to look at the counterfeit products they are profiting from.

But here’s the thing – people don’t care about ad fraud because they want to get “good deals.” Just like how people want to buy cheap counterfeit handbags, advertisers want to buy low-cost ads. They don’t care if the ads are fake or if they’re not shown to actual humans – as long as they get to show off their large quantities of impressions and clicks to their bosses.

And despite the occasional press releases from fraud detection companies, ad fraud continues – most of it in plain sight. Buyers demand it insatiably, and sellers continue to sell it, despite the risks of getting caught occasionally. It’s just the “cost of doing business.”

But let’s be clear – fraudulent ads are being sold “right on Fifth Avenue,” in broad daylight, just like counterfeit handbags. And it’s not ignorance on the part of the buyers – they know it’s counterfeit, but they still want to buy it.

So marketers, listen up. If you don’t care about protecting your digital ad investments, no one else will. You get what you pay for when you buy low-cost digital ads in large quantities. You’re not paying for ads that are shown to humans; you’re paying for nice-looking excel spreadsheets and fancy dashboards that report big numbers to you.

Are you the buyer who likes buying counterfeit handbags because they’re cheap? Or are you the marketer who wants to do real digital marketing? The choice is yours.

What's your opinion?