Method Media Intelligence
Bringing Trust Back to Digital Media

Method Blog

The Method Media Intelligence blog serves as a resource for interviews, news, and opinions from the team. 

Adtech Won’t Fix Ad Fraud Because It Is Too Lucrative

Every hour of every day a million little crimes are committed online. And every time it happens, hundreds of legitimate businesses all over the world, with boards and shareholders and mission statements — some of them publicly listed — put the proceeds of those crimes in their own pockets. They do so knowingly. 

Some people might consider it extraordinary that technology businesses — businesses that claim they can discern the intent of one buyer from a billion in milliseconds — somehow can’t recognize when millions of ads a month are served to a single unique user ID in, for instance, Belarus.

Method Media Intelligence's Shailin Dhar states that "when you study actual bot traffic in isolation as well as in live ad exchanges, you realize quickly that the truth can be described best as ‘take the industry estimates of the financial impact of fraud and multiply by ten.’”

Pixalate Says it Uncovered ‘Sophisticated’ Android Ad Fraud Potentially Worth $75 Million Annually

Ad safety company Pixalate has uncovered what it says is a ‘sophisticated’ mobile app fraud potentially costing advertisers up to $75 million a year if allowed to run unchecked.

The company says it discovered that Android app, MegaCast which allows users to broadcast content to Google’s Chromecast, was using ‘mobile app laundering’ to generate fraudulent ad impressions.

Megacast has been downloaded more than 1 million times, has more than 15,000 reviews and an average user rating of four stars, according to the Google Play Store. However, Method Media Intelligence's Shailin Dhar says those can also be manufactured at will to lend legitimacy and reduce suspicion.

“It gives them the scope to send as many ad requests as they want,” he told Which-50. “That’s how botnets were created initially. People would download a piece of screensaver software that would eat up CPU power and processing capacity because it would run invisible browsers in the background.”

Even Privacy Advocates Are Tracking You Online

Each time someone visits CAPrivacy.org, software gleans what information it can about them, then sends that information to Facebook, including their IP address, what web pages they were on before and after visiting, and so on. At this point, both the visitor and the website have basically lost control of what happens with that information. 

At least 79 percent of websites globally have one or more trackers that collect data on their users’ online behavior, according to a 2017 study by Ghostery, a company that makes ad blockers and privacy software. Over 21 percent have more than 10 trackers. Google trackers run 60 percent of the time any web page loads; Facebook’s run 27 percent of the time. Both companies have trackers running on CAPrivacy.org, because the group put them there. It may be hard to find a clearer testament to how entrenched such tracking has become as the default setting of the entire internet. 

The inability of websites to resist the temptation of these tools is vital to Facebook’s and Google’s domination of the internet—and a big part of how they’ve gathered so much information about practically every person online. “Everyone is using Google Analytics, and everyone is using the Facebook pixel,” said Praneet Sharma, the chief executive of Method Media Intelligence, an ad tech consultancy.

Brands And Agencies Are ‘Resistant’ To Solving Viewability And Ad Fraud, Say Researchers

Ad fraud and invalid traffic are the topics of this piece from Andrew Birmingham of Which 50.

MMI's Shailin Dhar stated that "for all the promises that digital data promotes, there still remains a gap in understanding the systems that generate them. The open, complex systems of the internet seem to be shrouded behind abstractions of what is marketed and what is actually possible."

Praneet Sharma added that “as the funders of this system, it’s ironic that advertisers have so little share of this data ‘currency’. For this system to make good on all its offerings and capabilities, the brands must be given full transparency of each and every penny spent, and gain a full awareness of its limitations". 

Method Media Intelligence has created Proactive Auditing to address current challenges in digital advertising. Proactive Auditing provides full receipts of digital campaigns by tracking every impression. A dashboard provides clients with real time access to campaign metrics to identify wasted spend and enable clawbacks and rapid optimization.

 

 

Kerrisdale Capital Hit On QuinStreet A Harbinger For Ad Arbitragers In An Age Of Growing Transparency - Which50

Read commentary from Which 50's Andrew Birmingham about the Kerrisdale Capital report on QuinStreet. Kerrisdale Capital is a New York based hedge fund which focuses on short activism. 

Andrew Birmingham interviewed Shailin Dhar of Method Media Intelligence for his view on QuinStreet. “Re-brokering and arbitrage are the main pillars of affiliate and performance marketing. The main reasons are that if you can create an image palatable enough for actual advertisers, you can go out and find 100 individual parties that will provide small amounts of traffic that can be aggregated to look like an attractive level to advertisers.", Shailin said. 

In addition, he said, “advertisers will slowly but surely get wind of the fact that the party they purchase leads from usually has zero idea how they were generated. Lead scrubbing is essential; it was my first encounter with ad fraud in 2011.”

Ad Fraud Interview With Focus Agency

Read Shailin Dhar's interview with Petr Michl of Focus Agency. This interview follows Method Media Intelligence's presentation at the 2017 Prague Marketing Festival. 

Shailin commented on how ad fraud has become such an easy way to generate illegitimate revenue, and marketers are currently behind the curve on preventing wasted spend. Last year US advertisers were estimated to spend $7-8B delivering ads to robotic visitors, while less than $0.2B was spent on ad fraud prevention. 

Method Media Intelligence serves advertisers by detecting invalid impressions and working with agencies to account for the use of advertising dollars. Proactive auditing is one tool MMI uses to empower advertisers to generate a higher return on advertising spend. 

Ad Fraud off the Charts

In the April 1st AdContrarian newsletter, Praneet Sharma of Method Media Intelligence points out the main reason that fraud estimates are widely inaccurate.

Recently CNBC reported $237B would be spent on digital advertising in 2018, and the Wall Street Journal reported 28% of internet traffic showed "non-human signals". Using these projections, $66B of advertising spend will be spent on fraud this calendar year. 

Since fraudsters are one step ahead, it is reasonable to assume there is some undetected fraud. Praneet believes that "avoiding detection will be the major obstacle that fraudsters will present." Therefore, improved detection methods are critical to reducing the amount of wasted spend.

The Advertising Industry Needs to Balance out Its Programmatic Transparency Quest

The Drum’s digital editor Ronan Shields reflects on some of the key talking points of The Drum’s Programmatic Punch, NYC, conference hosted earlier this week. Method Media Intelligence's Shailin Dhar was on the ad fraud panel, discussing how advertisers and agencies can win the fight against fraud in this industry.

Shailin added that “fraud is not 5%, it’s more like 50%, when you look at the amount of non-human traffic on the web, you’d be looking at almost 60% [of total traffic], the fact that we’re pretending [it's not that big of a problem] is just bizarre".

How to Tell When Someone Is Talking BS About Blockchain - The Drum

Blockchain has become one of the most overused buzzwords in many industries. In this article from Rebecca Stewart of The Drum, the claims and solutions related to the applications of blockchain technology are examined.

Method Media Intelligence's Shailin Dhar believes that "a lack of clarity and misinformation in the marketplace are the two biggest challenges holding blockchain back", and "everyone would benefit from creating education cycles in their organizations to make sure their teams have a sufficient understanding of what the word blockchain means to them and the environment they operate in".

Method Media Intelligence to Present at Programmatic Punch on March 28th in New York City

Shailin Dhar of Method Media Intelligence will be presenting at Programmatic Punch on March 28th in New York City. Programmatic Punch is a one-day event by The Drum focused on changes in the digital advertising industry. 

Shailin Dhar will be on the ad fraud panel. Specifically, the speakers will discuss how ad fraud effects every aspect of marketing and the damage that is done to brands when they appear against inappropriate content. 

Lessons on Preventing Ad Fraud and How to Seal the Cracks - The Drum

Read an interview between Shailin Dhar and Danielle Gibson of The Drum. In this interview, Shailin describes how current industry practices allow ad fraud to continue.

In addition, Shailin details MMI's "exoneration method", which starts with the assumption that traffic is invalid and seeks to validate, using a "guilty until proven innocent" approach to detection. In addition, MMI's traffic quality metrics are determined by measuring 100% of impression events as opposed to sampling only a fraction of a whole data set. 

For more, read the full interview.

Method Media Intelligence to Present at Blockchain Xplore on February 27th in New York City

Praneet Sharma and Shailin Dhar from Method Media Intelligence will be presenting at MetaX's Blockchain Xplore event at the Microsoft Technology Center in New York City on February 27th, 2018. 

Blockchain Xplore is a one-day, educational conference designed to drive a deeper understanding of the potentials of blockchain-based technology for the digital advertising industry.

The title of their talk is "The Bots Who Stole Christmas".

Inside Adform’s ‘Hyphbot’ ad fraud takedown - TheDrum

Read this article from Ronan Shields of The Drum, in which the operation of "Hyphbot" is described. Hyphbot is the designated name of a botnet discovered by Adform, estimated to generate revenues of $500,000/day by consuming 1.5 billion daily ad requests. Adform's CRO, Jay Stevens, called Hyphbot a "call to arms" for the adtech industry.

Adform consulted MMI for peer review prior to the publication of their findings. Read the whitepaper here.

Method Media Intelligence to Present an Intro to Digital Ads and Ad Fraud at the RocketSpace Campus

Method Media Intelligence will present an Intro to Digital Ads and Ad Fraud at the RocketSpace campus to corporate members on December 13th. At this event, Shailin Dhar and Praneet Sharma will give an overview of the monetization of the internet, and an in-depth look into how user attention and user data get fed into the ecosystem of online advertising. 

RSVP for the event here.

Shailin Dhar and Praneet Sharma Presented at the 5th Prague Marketing Festival

Shailin Dhar and Praneet Sharma presented at the 5th Prague Marketing Festival on Friday, November 10th. The event brought together 1,700 marketers and 9 speakers from around the world to discuss current challenges in digital marketing. 

Shailin and Praneet covered the basics of ad fraud: what it is, why it happens, how it is done, and what individuals can do to help stop it.

Read their presentation here.

Here Is What The IAB’s Ads.Txt Initiative Will Do And What It Won’t Do - Which50

Read this article from Andrew Birmingham of Which50. The focus of this piece is the benefits and limitations of the ads.txt initiative

Shailin Dhar explains that ads.txt increases transparency of who publishers are selling inventory to, but does not fundamentally address the problem of fraudulent traffic. The benefit of ads.txt is that it can show if an impression was either spoofed, resold, or injected by adware.