How to fight bots wasting your ad spends & running ad fraud

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Bots and fake accounts on social media have polluted the marketing ecosystem, advertisers have concerns about ads not being served to humans & spends being dispensed towards an outcome with no RoI. Here industry experts outline how no action towards fighting bots is ‘setting up a brand campaign for failure’.

Bots are not just responsible for causing a discrepancy in the Twitter-Elon Musk deal but are also polluting the whole marketing ecosystem. Brands custodians and industry experts share insights on how bots have improved and are constantly evolving, the damage they cause to marketing campaigns, and how can brands prevent ad fraud.

The Uprising Of Bots

Imran Kantawala, Vice President, Sharekhan shares that the ecosystem has a lot of flab (bots), and captchas and OTPs too have not been able to cut the fraudulent traffic coming through.

Dhiraj Gupta, CoFounder & CTO NetAd, mFilterIt, states that brands need to analyze and assess ad fraud, as a campaign not reaching a real person is considered bad traffic and known organic traffic is being pulled by publishers. He adds that when the first-party data is diluted with bots, “You’re setting yourself up for failure”.

He mentions that the bots technology is becoming more and more sophisticated there are several databases available that can be used to execute spam activities, and shares an example of a database of over 10,000 phone numbers that can be OTP-verified.

Jahid Ahmed, Vice President & Head – Digital, Content & Social Media Marketing, HDFC Bank says the uprising of bots “Judiciously justifies to CMOs, this is why you need us”.

The Fatality By Bots

Along with disrupting the user experience on multiple stages, bots are also responsible for triggering a concern with advertisers that their marketing campaigns are not being served to humans who may be the potential target audience for their offerings.

Jahid Ahmed states that almost 25-30% of media spends can be whitewashed via bots. Dhiraj Gupta shares that every dollar spent on ad fraud is funding the fraudster to improve its technology and make it better.

He further adds that the advertising spends that indirectly reaches a bot account via shared revenue with the platform, that (for example) runs illicit activities, the advertiser would be in a way funding those activities.

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The Defence From Bots

Fake websites, offers on product offerings, and analytics that assesses all the points where the brand’s name is mentioned across the web and social media platforms, is the starting point for finding and fighting bots.

Ahmed mentions that basic keyword blocking will not optimally block spam or bot accounts, most platforms do not support all Indian regional languages and hence may not understand the context if there’s a usage of synonyms, and context-led actions are important to fight bots.

Agencies should not be sidelined, API integration should be aligned, and there should not be a blame game scenario, brands, tools, and agency partners are equally responsible for optimization.

He further adds that companies need to proactively crawl through the web and platforms, and find fake pages and activity hovering around brands. Fraudsters can easily bid on the cheapest keyword and appear higher up on search results, and social media platforms have dents too with fake pages and jobs. He mentioned that in a span of 60 days he found 4000 instances of ad fraud and they were able to take 92% of them down.

Imran shares that contactability from the brand’s end can be verified to improve the credibility of a presence on any channel.

Experts further share that the digital world requires cleanliness too; AI-based optimization channels can support the fight against bots and all companies should holistically act against bots as a whole.

4-5 per cent of ad spend cost dedicated towards this initiative will save more than 25 per cent of spends.

Dhiraj Gupta, Jahid Ahmed, and Imran Kantawala spoke at Impact 2022: The Future Of Modern Marketing, an event hosted by MMA, and were a part of a panel discussing ad fraud and ways to prevent it.