The Fraudulent War Rages On

Eric Mischel, Senior Director of Product Management

Eric Mischel, Senior Director of Product Management

Fraud continues to be one of the greatest concerns in the digital advertising space. Despite the progress that has been made, our industry evolves at a rapid pace, which led to the emergence of new deceptive practices. As a result, buyers still have quality concerns around due to the presence of botnets, pixel stuffing, domain spoofing, and ad stacking – let alone the complex issues of spurious content.

Over the past year, buyers, DSPs, and some exchange platforms called for the industry to start policing itself. In fact, as recently as December of 2015 a study from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) found that advertising fraud cost advertisers $8.2 billion per year—with $4.2 billion lost to “nonhuman traffic,” $1.1 billion lost to “malvertising-related activities” and the remaining $2.4 billion lost due to “infringed content.”[1] It’s no surprise then that the buy-side of the industry was up at arms over these issues.

As tools became available from companies like Integral Ad Science (IAS), ForensIQ, White Ops, MOAT and various others, SSPs and publishers began scanning their inventory and removing the majority of suspicious and malicious impression requests.

These efforts provided industry-wide benefits. As inventory is scanned and turns out to be quality rather than fraud, buyers’ trust in the publishers in question inevitably increases. This trust in turn results in demand partners increasing their willingness to buy a publisher’s inventory, as they can be more secure in how their campaigns are targeted and delivered.

Despite initial pushback from publishers due to the increased cost and the complexity of scanning and qualifying their inventory, we are seeing more publishers begin to comply with buyers’ demands as proof that advertiser spend will shift away from questionable inventory to verified inventory continues to stack up.

Fraud and Quality: Not One-Way Streets

While the sell-side of the industry made large strides in verifying the quality of their inventory in response to requests from the demand side of the industry, these actions have been rather one-sided to date. Malware, spoofed landing pages, unidentified creative attributes and various other nefarious things continue to flow forth from the buy-side.

Malware and other fraudulent activity is a danger to all parties within digital advertising, with cascading effects. Not only can a user’s device become infected via malware, for example, they also are likely to install an ad blocker, or to avoid a publisher’s site entirely as a result of other fraudulent activities. This causes a reduction in inventory volume, which can in turn reduce not only a publisher’s revenue, but also their trust in programmatic and potentially lead them to move back towards ‘safer’ direct sales models.

The issues compound as SSPs and exchanges are forced to build out additional tools to throttle back DSPs in an effort to maintain quality on their platforms based on aggregated advertiser data. Unscrupulous advertisers are running campaigns that knowingly disrupt the user experience or spoof landing pages in an attempt to fool publisher-implemented block lists. In the end, quality advertisers can get caught in the slurry, losing access to high-value inventory because of the actions of other, nefarious buyers that happen to be utilizing the same platforms.

At the same time, while the OpenRTB standard the majority of buyers use allows creative attributes to be passed to SSPs, they are almost universally not being passed. The OpenRTB standard also allows for SSPs to provide creative restrictions to DSPs and buyers, but this information is passed it’s often ignored. As a result, SSPs were forced to develop their own solutions in order to protect their publishers from creative formats that are likely to interfere with the way in which publishers intend their content to be consumed (one of the greatest sins publishers can commit in the eyes of consumers, who have little to no tolerance for interruptions to their user experience).

At PubMatic, we not only developed our own solutions, but also partnered with outside companies to handle Abhorrent Advertiser Activity, and we’re not alone in doing so. We, and other platforms, employ teams of people dedicated to finding and stopping ‘bad ads’. But these are just Band-Aids that treat the symptoms of the problem rather than addressing the real causes. While we can pre-scan demand to ensure compliance, we must both identify and classify before we can perform any comparison. Until we treat the source of these issues, we will remain in a reactive state.

A Long-Term Solution is Needed—and Does Exist

Just as SSPs and publishers implemented tools and established processes to police inventory, DSPs and buyers must do the same and help to eliminate questionable advertising. While the tools to achieve this exist today, we need to ensure that our technologies, processes and policies allow us to take advantage of them. Self-serve platforms must implement a layer of creative approval. Buyers and advertisers must register their creative attributes, for all creatives, as well as the actual landing page, and the advertiser name needs to be passed in all bid responses. These three reasonable actions, all of which are supported by the existing OpenRTB protocol, are all that is required to show good faith in the eyes of the publisher community.

An open, fair and transparent market requires that both sides see exactly what is being bought and sold. Publishers and SSPs have done their part, and now we ask the same from the demand side.

We urge those companies on the buy-side of our industry to take steps towards advertiser transparency under the banner of publisher confidence. Programmatic buying, in all its forms, is at risk whenever malware or an explicitly forbidden creative is served. While no solution will be 100% effective, any effort from the demand side to address the root of the problem will have positive effects. The inclusion of creative attributes and correct, transparent, landing page URLs will both reduce brand control violations and provide additional targeting data to buyers to help their own spending decisions.

At PubMatic, we continue to improve both our internal processes as well as our products and solutions, while also partnering with the best industry solutions for identifying and counteracting malware and other fraudulent activity. We continue to strive to provide the highest quality demand while abiding by our publishers’ creative restrictions. In this ever-evolving world of digital advertising we will remain vigilant. We ask that you do the same.

To find out more about PubMatic’s Ad Inventory and Quality tools, part of the company’s revenue management platform, SEVEN, contact your PubMatic Account Manager or email


PubMatic Empowers Buyers to Discover Global Audiences

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PubMatic today announced the launch of Private Marketplace Guaranteed (PMP-G) deals that bring together the certainty and premium audiences of direct deals to the advanced audience targeting of programmatic. Additionally, buyers using PubMatic Curated Audiences capabilities can now segment and target audiences at scale in the same guaranteed environment with the packaging of multiple private marketplace (PMP) offers from various publishers, all under a multi-publisher single deal ID.

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The Luxury Buying Experience of Private Marketplaces

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By Paul Chu, VP Advertiser Solutions, PubMatic

Close your eyes. Imagine walking into a store, with your eyes still closed, and trying to buy something without being able to see anything – the salespeople, the products, the shelves and racks… nothing. That’s what it’s like for digital advertisers and agencies buying in some programmatic marketplaces. In the past, this was acceptable for advertisers, because although they were buying inventory blindly, they could buy at scale, measure their campaigns and still achieve a reasonable return on advertising spend.

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March Madness: The Number One Seed in Ad Spend


As March Madness tips off this week, the first round teams lace up to step on the court, and employees in offices across the country prepare their brackets, we are reminded of the marketing power behind mega sporting events and why it’s important to begin thinking about them as immense marketing opportunities.

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The Perfect Marriage – Programmatic Advertising and Presidential Campaigns

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By Jaime Lefkowitz, Sr. Director of Mobile, PubMatic

With Super Tuesday behind us, and the primaries heating up, candidate’s ability to leverage the power of programmatic advertising has never been more critical. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have emerged as the frontrunners for their respective parties, but other contending candidates remain in the race, and they need to have the right strategy in place if they want to come within reach of the oval office.

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The 4-1-1 on Private Marketplaces

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A Conversation with Hussain Rahim, Director of Product Marketing at PubMatic

Private marketplace (PMP) adoption continued to increase in 2015, and there are no signs of it slowing down in 2016. eMarketer estimates that PMP spending will reach $3.65 billion this year and grow 35% to a projected $4.93 billion by 2017. But like so many other fast-growing areas in digital advertising, there is some confusion that surrounds it. In order to shed some clarity on the subject, we sat down with Hussain Rahim, Director of Product Marketing at PubMatic to get some answers.

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Three Reasons Why Private Marketplaces Are So Popular With Buyers & Publishers


By John Stoneman, VP EMEA

As programmatic advertising continues to grow globally, its growth in many markets is partially fueled by the rise of private marketplaces. In its early years, the word “programmatic” solely meant the buying and selling of advertising inventory in a real-time open auction. Recently, however, we have witnessed the rise of invitation-only programmatic marketplaces called private marketplaces. These private marketplaces (PMPs) provide publishers with the ability to designate certain parts of their advertising inventory to a select buyer or group of buyers, which differs from the open auction where the advertising inventory is open to all bidders.

In the U.S., the market where programmatic got its start, private marketplaces have grown massively in popularity. PMP is projected to account for 28% of an $11.8 billion programmatic market by 2016 up from just 2.0% in 2013, according to eMarketer.

Here are three reasons why PMPs have become a favorite of so many buyers and premium publishers.


PMPs allow publishers to determine the buyers or advertisers that will be allowed to bid on certain parts of their inventory. This control often means that publishers feel more comfortable about selling their premium inventory programmatically, since they have selected the advertisers that they are offering it to. It’s the type of control that buyers and publishers have always had during the traditional direct sales process and PMP can bring it to programmatic.

PMPs provide buyers with added inventory transparency as being part of a PMP means they will have already identified a publisher they are comfortable buying from. PMPs also provide buyers with access to some types of premium inventory that may not be available in open auction. Finally, PMPs provide premium publishers with an extra level of confidence about the creative that will appear on their digital properties, helping to address any concerns they have around brand safety.

Workflow Automation

PMPs offer the superior workflow automation that is the hallmark of programmatic advertising when compared with traditional direct sales. Both publishers and buyers benefit by significantly reducing the traditionally time-consuming process required to execute traditional direct sales.


PMPs allow publishers and buyers to extend an existing direct relationship into programmatic. As more inventory is bought programmatically, PMP is an easy way for both buyers and sellers to maintain the rewards of an existing direct sales relationship whilst at the same time benefiting from the efficiency and effectiveness of programmatic execution.

Programmatic is exploding globally, estimated to reach 48% of all global digital display spending this year. As that growth continues, PMPs will play a significant role as buyers and publishers seek to take advantage of its benefits as we move further into the age of programmatic.

Click the hyperlinks to learn more about PubMatic’s PMP and programmatic direct offerings for publishers and buyers.

Cheat Sheet: Everything You Need to Know About Viewability


There may be no bigger hot button issue in digital advertising right now than ad viewability. Every industry event seems to have at least one panel discussion focused on the topic and there’s been an endless stream of commentary on the issue in the media. Yet for a subject that receives so much attention there’s still a great deal of confusion surrounding it.

That’s why we put together a “cheat sheet” for everything you need to know—but might’ve been afraid to ask–about viewability.

What is viewability?

“Viewability” is an online advertising metric that tracks only impressions actually seen by users. For example, if an ad is loaded at the bottom of a webpage but a user doesn’t scroll down far enough to see it, that impression is not considered viewable.

Is there an agreed upon definition of viewable?

There are two main governing bodies pushing for a standardized definition of viewability: the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the Media Rating Council (MRC). Digital media differs from other forms of media in that ad effectiveness is measured on an impression-by-impression basis. Traditional media such as TV commercials use measurement based on averages, such as how often a commercial is played on TV. Because digital media is measured on an impression-by-impression basis, it is not enough to serve the ad for it to be considered effective. The ads must also be seen.

For display ads, the IAB and MRC define a “viewable” impression as one that is at least 50 percent visible for a minimum of one continuous second. For video ads, it is defined as 50 percent visible for at least two seconds. “50 percent visible” means that 50 percent of the ad’s pixels appear above the fold.

Are there other standards of viewability?

Viewability is a growing concern among advertisers because non-viewable impressions can be considered an ineffective use of budgets. A survey conducted by Integral Ad Science (IAS) in December 2014 showed that 78 percent of advertisers surveyed felt that the IAB and MRC standards for viewability were not strict enough. In the case of video, for example, the IAB and MRC standards do not take into account whether the sound is on for an ad, which can detract from the ad’s effectiveness. Many advertisers have therefore begun implementing their own metrics for viewability.

How much of a problem are non-viewable impressions in the industry?

Even using IAB’s and MRC’s current standards, eMarketer estimates that only 50 percent of ads served on desktop are considered viewable. Mobile performs better by consistently achieving 70 percent or higher in viewable ads, but viewability remains a hot button issue in part because so few marketers agree on or even know what current viewability standards are. Recent research from Econsultancy found that 43 percent of senior marketers in the US and UK use viewability to determine the success of their programmatic ad campaigns, while research by firm SQAD found that nearly half of the marketers it surveyed thought that the minimum amount of time a video should be displayed for it to be considered viewable was five seconds or more—over twice the current standard.

What is PubMatic’s approach to viewability?

At PubMatic we have decided to tackle the viewability issue head-on in a transparent way we believe will help both buyers and publishers. We recently signed an agreement with Integral Ad Science (IAS) that will allow us to provide viewability metrics to both our publishers and demand partners.

Today, many of PubMatic’s demand partners already use a third-party tool to help measure viewability. What makes PubMatic different is that we plan to have IAS scores passed on to the publishers—not just media buyers. Our publishers will be able to use this data to create Private Marketplace offerings for their most viewable ad inventory, for example. Since viewable ads help marketers achieve their campaign goals by showing ads to audiences, they’re frequently willing to offer a higher bid for viewable inventory. Offering packages of their most viewable inventory is a great way for publishers to maximize the value of their digital assets. It also provides buyers transparency into inventory that they haven’t had to this point.

To learn more about PubMatic’s Brand Shield solutions click here.