Your Slow Ads are Basically the Same as Ad Fraud

Ad fraud is bad: we’ve established that. It’s the bane of our entire industry, but your brand can be associated with things that seem fraudulent, completely unfairly, when it might just be that your ads are plain bad. I’ll take a look at ad fraud and how it can sink its claws into your campaign, and then I’ll get onto how you can be implicated in fraud, even if you’ve taken every precaution to keep away from it.

Read our comprehensive guide to ad fraud and how to spot it

You’re probably thinking it doesn’t affect you or your brand, but here’s something to think about: ad fraud is now so well-established that people assume it’s present even when it might not be. 52.6% of brand professionals agree that ad fraud is the biggest threat to their ad budget – and we think they’re right. $100 billion of losses from brand spending due to ad fraud were forecast this year by Juniper Research for 2023.

Ad fraud is the key reason you’re losing money on your ads – but while you’re doing your bit to clean up ad fraud, you can also clean up other elements of your advertising. Here’s how.

How Do You Spot a Victim of Ad Fraud?

Before we get onto cases where it looks like ad fraud, but isn’t, a look at how we can detect ad fraud, and how we can stamp it out as far as possible.

As an example of fraud that may not affect the end user, but certainly affects the bottom line of brands, we’ve got click farms. It’s pretty easy to tell if you’re the victim of click farms, but only when you’ve been advertising for long enough that you have a reasonably robust set of analytics to look at.

When this is the case, you might notice an anomalously high CTR for one or two months, but also that almost no-one who clicked on the ad then went on to buy your product, or even engage meaningfully with the online store.

We live in a world where, according to analytics firm Pixalate, 17% of digital display advertising impressions in the United States during Q3 of 2018 went to invalid traffic, with the numbers higher in parts of the developing world. The key is protecting your brand not only from fraud, but also from the perception of fraud.


Revenge of the Click Farm

Back to that anomalous CTR: there are two possibilities here – either you have a shockingly bad user experience on your online store, and for our purposes, let’s assume that’s not true – or you’re the victim of click farms. These are designed to send false or skewed figures for your ads, and can give the impression either that more people are interested in your content than is actually the case.

There are many other forms of ad fraud. If users clicking on your ad are taken to another site altogether, that is a fairly clear sign that your brand is a victim of impression laundering, or possibly click hijacking, or both, and this means that the advertiser gets no benefit for placing their ad on the site.

You can avoid this, or at least prevent it as far as possible, by working with a reputable creative management platform, which takes appropriate precautions to make sure that fraudsters can’t jump on the back of your well-planned ad campaign.


Is Your Brand a Fraud Victim, or Just Making Terrible Ads?

It’s a shame that we’ve got to the stage where every ad is suspected of being fraudulent, but there’s only one way around it – make sure your ads load promptly (within a second or less of being called, ideally), and that they are designed in a way that encourages public trust. This means not over-stuffing the ad with information, and ensuring that there are no hidden links, colour clashes, or distractions.

An ad might remain on your screen, sitting on top of the story you were reading, long after you thought you’d got rid of it by clicking on the ‘X’, and that might indeed be because of fraud. Or, it might be because you’re using outdated software to design your ad, which is basically the same as ad fraud, because it has the same infuriating effect on your potential customers.

Let me give you an example: your slow-loading, medieval, video ad, which you thought looked great when you had it designed, takes 25 seconds to load on an Intel Atom-powered Windows tablet convertible. I hear what you’re saying. “It’s hardly my fault if a user buys a chronically underpowered computer that can’t even load an ad in decent time.” Have you thought how that sounds? You’re blaming the user’s hardware for the fact that your space-invading ad is taking what, in digital terms, is weeks to load?


Out of the Stone Age

Here’s the thing – whether we like our audience’s choice of hardware or not, we’re the ones who are stepping into their space by sending ads to their screens. Everyone understands why you would want to show the full capabilities of your product using video – but if it takes such a long time to load, the loss of goodwill for your brand more than counteracts the ‘wow’ factor you might have otherwise achieved with the ad.

Ad fraud is a stain on our industry, but so are sucky ads in general. When the technology is available to present objects using rich media, and in a fast, light format that will appear the same to virtually any user of any hardware, your Stone-Age ad technology is going to lump your brand in the bin with all those victims of ad fraud. In short, slow-loading and heavy ads are, in the eyes of users, just as bad as fraudulent ads – and they should be to you, too.