Dr. Augustine Fou is an independent ad fraud researcher and founder of Fou Analytics, which helps clients create integrated marketing campaigns and objectively assess their performance. With a PhD in materials science and engineering, and over two decades of marketing experience, ranging from faculty, expert witness, coach, and upper management, Dr. Fou has passionately dedicated his career to helping marketers increase the productivity and effectiveness of their advertisements.
According to estimates, fraud in digital advertising is a multi-billion dollar problem, fraud detection services might be missing a large majority of it, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. But what is ad fraud and how can marketers and advertising agencies detect and combat it? We sat down with Dr. Augustine Fou to learn more about this pernicious problem.
“Everyone’s heard of ad fraud,” says Augustine, “but they might not be up-to-date or familiar with all the ways scammers can fake performance metrics, leaving marketers with seemingly good results while walking away with all the ad spend.”
“At its roots, ad fraud is about bots VS humans. In the old days it was about bad guys setting up fake websites and generating fake traffic with bots. The motives are to make money and the means are to pump up analytics to make it look like the activity is happening, when it most definitely is not.” explains Augustine.
Augustine goes on to describe how the mobile app economy is creating new attack vectors for scammers, and generating new ways to fake traffic.
“Agencies are taking it seriously,” Augustine concedes, “but they have limited tools to detect the fraud. Many digital advertising trade organizations say that fraud accounts for less than 1% of online traffic, but that’s simply not true, which is why I had to develop my own tech to audit campaigns and provide marketers with more details so they can identify potential fraud.”
So with tangible impacts on marketing positions, and intangible financial repercussions, we asked Augustine what marketers can do to analyze their campaigns for fraud and work around this issue.
“It’s about discipline,” says Augustine. “Make analyzing your metrics a daily routine, trust your gut and look for things that are out of the ordinary. Isolate results, look at bounce rates, time on page. If a human actually meant to come to your website, they’ll do something. Since blocking all the fraud is impossible, create whitelists that include the sites you know you get verified traffic from. Don’t be the advertiser that’s buying weight. Think quality over quantity.”
Augustine wraps up the conversation with some solid advice.
“Keep things simple. Start with content creation, meaning, your site has to add value once you drive all the traffic to it. So before you spend on ads for your site, work on creating content so you have something worthy or of value to offer to your visitors. A dollar spent on an ad, that value is used up the moment the ad is displayed, whereas investments into content compound over time.”
For horror stories on ad fraud gone wild, successful strategies from brands that battled ad fraud and won, and for specific advice on how to set up your social media campaigns to prevent wastage, listen to the full episode on the links provided in this blog, or look for “What Gets Measured” on your podcast player of choice.