Ad fraud is a growing problem, with fraudsters devising a seemingly never-ending number of methods designed to take money out of your pockets and hurt your campaigns. In fact, according to Juniper Research, the ad fraud problem is expected to reach $100 billion by 2023, more than doubling from the $42 billion bad actors made off with in 2019.
One of the more common techniques of ad fraud is called ad stacking. This article provides a brief overview of ad stacking and what you can do to protect yourself against it.
What is ad stacking?
Many advertisers spend money on impressions. The more times users see their ads, the more money the publisher receives. This setup encourages publishers to rack up as many impressions as they can.
In an ideal world, publishers would try to increase impressions by serving up great content and promoting it as best as they can. Unfortunately, not every publisher is a good guy. Seeking to make more money the easy way, some publishers opt to use ad stacking to make it appear that particular ads got more impressions than they actually did.
Simply put, ad stacking is the process of placing ads on top of one another. That way, a user might see one ad without realizing it’s “stacked” on top of eight other ads—each of which register an impression. In such a scenario, one of the advertisers is paying for what they signed up for, and the other eight are being defrauded.
Similarly, ad stacking can also be used in pay-per-click campaigns where advertisers pay publishers every time a user clicks on an ad. Imagine, for example, someone clicks on an ad for a role-playing game. A shrewd fraudster might stack 10 ads for similar games together. That way, in the event the user ends up downloading one of the other games at a later point in time, they will receive attribution—and the associated payouts from it.
How can ad stacking impact campaigns?
In addition to wrongfully taking money out of advertiser pockets, ad stacking also impacts campaigns by skewing the resulting data. Since marketers won’t have any real idea whether a user actually saw an ad or not, they won’t be able to determine how effective their advertisements were.
For example, imagine you’ve created the most persuasive ad in the history of humanity. Unfortunately, the publisher uses ad stacking to inflate their revenue numbers. Eventually, the publisher tells you that your ad got 31,500 impressions, but none of those impressions resulted in any sales or conversions. You end up thinking that your ad must be the reason behind that, and you go back to the drawing board to create a new one—even though the original ad was the best option.
Why is it important to detect ad stacking?
There are a number of reasons you need to make sure your business is protected against ad stacking. For starters, you don’t want to be ripped off. If you’re paying for an impression or paying for a click, you expect to get what you’ve agreed to purchase. You wouldn’t be happy paying for a full pizza pie only to get home, look in the box, and see there’s only one slice inside, would you?
Beyond that, you don’t want fraudsters to take any of your hard-earned dollars. While you might not mind paying publishers for ad impressions or clicks, you certainly don’t want to pay someone who’s deceiving you. You also don’t want someone to receive commissions when a user downloads an app six weeks from now, just because they deceptively stacked ads and gamed the system.
Last but not least, there’s the data part of the equation. When you’re the victim of ad stacking, the data you generate from your campaigns is faulty. It is impossible to make the best data-driven decisions moving forward. On one end of the spectrum, this might cause you to invest more time than you need to on creating another set of ads because you didn’t get any conversions on your first set. On the other end of the spectrum, you might end up throwing away perfectly executed advertisements simply because “the data”—which isn’t accurate at all in this case—suggests that’s what you need to do.
Now that you understand what ad stacking is and why it’s a problem, let’s turn our attention to what you can do to protect yourself from experiencing what’s it’s like to be on the wrong end of this type of ad fraud.
How can an ad fraud solution protect you against ad stacking?
The good news is that, by familiarizing yourself with the ad stacking problem, you can then start to take proactive steps to protect yourself against it.
One way you can prevent ad stacking fraud is by scrutinizing each publisher you decide to do business with to determine their trustworthiness. Here are some questions you can consider asking:
- Where does your traffic come from?
- How do you vet your publishers?
- Do you use a certified fraud solution to mitigate ad fraud?
- Is your traffic filtered in real time?
The answers to these questions should give you an idea about whether you’re comfortable giving a publisher any money from your ad budget.
Beyond this, you can also invest in an ad fraud detection and prevention solution to determine whether the traffic you’re generating from your campaigns is from legitimate users or unscrupulous actors.
Remember, detecting and preventing ad stacking starts with data. But that data has to be reliable and valid. With the right ad fraud solution in place, you’ll have the data you need to figure out whether ad stacking is affecting your campaigns. For example, if you have a ton of clicks or impressions but zero installs, that should encourage you to drill down deeper.
If you come across fraudulent traffic, an ad fraud solution will enable you to blacklist site IDs, device IDs, and more to block that traffic. That way, you get the peace of mind that comes with knowing the data you collect on your campaigns is valid—and that fraudsters aren’t reaching into your pocket to steal the money you deserve.
Anura is your first line of defense against ad stacking.
Anura is a robust ad fraud detection and prevention solution built by advertisers, for advertisers. The solution not only protects your business against ad stacking, it also protects you from a myriad of other kinds of ad fraud—including cookie stuffing, affiliate fraud, bots, click fraud, e-commerce fraud, lead fraud, impression fraud, pixel stuffing, malware, human fraud, and more!
In addition to being a powerful plug-and-play solution, Anura comes with top-notch support. The solution’s algorithm is continually updated, too, enabling you to rest comfortably knowing you’ll have protection against the newest types of fraud moving forward.
To learn more about how you can use Anura to protect your business against ad stacking and other kinds of ad fraud, request a demo today.