Klick Health

Understanding media fraud

VP, Media

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Recent news articles about the existence of “bogus traffic” have triggered a resurgence of interest in online media fraud. In addition, several companies have sent emails or LinkedIn messages with misleading or outright false statements claiming they can protect you against the massive impression and click fraud plaguing the online advertising space.  While online advertising fraud is real, these companies offer protection against a threat that generally costs far less in false impressions than the licensing fees charged to protect.

Messages from fraud mitigation companies

Companies that focus on ad fraud mitigation are frequently sending messages through email and LinkedIn to senior executives at companies with the following (or similar) language:

I’m the VP at FraudCompany. We monitor billions of impressions across the display/ programmatic ecosystem each day in search of fraud. Based on our most conservative estimate, we believe that [Your Company Name] is wasting over 1 million annually by buying fake ad impressions. Please let me know if you’d like to discuss our analysis in detail and/or how the fraud is occurring.

Separately, if you’re interested, we can run an audit (at no cost) on the display that you are buying via the exchanges (OpenX, Doubleclick, etc.) so that you can see the proof for yourself. You will know exactly which publishers/sites the fraud is coming from and the results will be immediately actionable. The audit would require about 2 hours of integration work on your end. Let me know.

While these claims are appealing, they are misleading and do not reflect the reality of the current Klick-run campaigns.  In this POV we outline the methodology used by Klick to address online media fraud and address the statements associated with the belief the online fraud can be completely controlled for.

Fraud elimination claims

Messages like the one above make several claims:

1) They are monitoring billions of impressions across networks

Companies that focus on fraud mitigation monitor efficiency/programmatic purchasing networks that make up only a portion of our overall media buy.  Unlike large eCommerce or Consumer Packaged Goods sites with tens of millions in programmatic spend, total programmatic spend for pharmaceuticals is a fraction of that.

2) They can extrapolate your wasted spend

The prediction of “wasted” spend is only a modelled extrapolation from a small sample.  The overall media budget is split between programmatic media buys, dedicated media programs with companies like WebMD, Email programs through advocacy groups, etc.  The extrapolation from a programmatic buy would only represent a portion of the media initiatives.

3) They are willing to conduct a free audit of your properties

The free audit is a gateway to accessing information about your systems and media programs.  While the audit is free, the licensing costs for these programs are significant. Most of these fraud mitigation companies do not divulge the cost of their services on their websites, but they can cost tens of thousands of dollars per month.

4) The results of the audit will be immediately actionable (eliminating fraud)

The approach these companies use relies on a pixel that detects the type of device trying to visit a site. The system tracks the “digital fingerprint” of the device and cross-references it against a database they claim to maintain of fraudulent clickers.  This system is a limited approach at best and can only be achieved by modelling as opposed to true fraud identification. The action may be as likely to eliminate a real lead as it is a fraudulent one. These companies rely on a lack of concern for false positives from the client.

With healthcare marketing to small patient communities, such as rare diseases or clinical trials, eliminating false positives can be far more concerning than the incorrect clicks.

How Klick mitigates the risk of fraud

Klick relies on three key strategies to mitigate the risk of fraud in our media campaigns for all our clients:

  1. A balanced media buying approach
  2. Regular campaign optimization
  3. Constant campaign monitoring

A balanced media buying approach

We split our efforts (and your dollars) between “efficiency buys” where we are using larger networks – the volume is higher and the cost is lower – and “premium buys” where the costs are higher but the value of the clicks is higher. This mitigates the risk at the top of the funnel. Premium buys on endemic content or news sites are far less susceptible to click fraud.

Regular optimization

Companies that focus on fraud mitigation are right. There is always some fraud. It is an unfortunate fact of sneaky people existing in this world BUT we don’t optimize campaigns on clicks or impressions, we optimize on engagement and we optimize weekly.

If a campaign were to show amazing Click Volume or Impression Volume but low on-site engagement, we would kill that channel outright or at the very least – lower the investment while we investigated. For this to be fraud, the click bots would have to be customized to be signing up for seminars or completing the Self-Assessment for fraud to escape our detection, and this is extremely unlikely.

Constant monitoring

We use IP blacklists and analytics alerts to identify and stop click fraud as soon as we find it and we work with the vendors regularly to get credits where we feel there it may have happened. These blacklists are regularly updated with the most current list of suspicious sources of click and impression fraud.

The state of online media

Companies that focus on fraud mitigation will do some of what they say – they will tell you what percentage of your impressions or clicks are PREDICTED to be fraud and will suggest that if you buy their tool or switch your media to them they will be able to save you from paying for phantom clicks. The problem is that you sadly HAVE to pay for some phantom clicks. It’s the nature of digital media.

The only way to completely control it would be to remove any efficiency buys from our campaign (and even that doesn’t solve it completely.) The result would a far lower risk of click fraud but also, fewer legitimate visitors to the site. There’s simply no way to meet the need without some click fraud. What we do is control the amount of waste by careful monitoring and optimizing out those campaigns that appear to be more susceptible to click fraud.

Klick Health contacts

For further information about Klick’s approaches to monitoring and protecting against click, impression, and lead fraud please contact the head of Klick’s media department:

Dori Cappola
VP, Media
phone: 416-214-4977 x2644

More About the Author

Dori Cappola

With nearly 20 years of media experience, Dori brings a unique perspective on bringing direct response elements and optimization tactics to the pharmaceutical space. She leads a team who have highly specialized skill sets covering media strategy from digital to broadcast to point of care. At Klick for 5 years, Dori oversees a host of brands and indication areas, focusing on transparent media designed to drive ROI.

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