For marketers, spending money on campaigns and impressions is part of their job. But nobody wants to spend money on something that doesn’t bring in results – so it can be bitter for marketers to see their budgets go toward buying fake impressions, or real estate on questionable sites.
Enter Forensiq, a New York-based company that helps marketers, agencies, ad exchanges, publishers, and basically any company involved in buying and selling display ads with ensuring their inventory is legitimate.
Founded four years ago, the company’s original focus was to help universities and insurance companies ensure real people with verifiable identities were entering their information into online forms. But now, Forensiq has built technology designed to detect ad fraud through matching ads to a fraud intelligence database, checking for cookie stuffing, ensuring the right browsers and right mobile devices are viewing ads, and so on.
“We’ve got even more proactive ways of identifying fraud – not just identifying fraud, but pre-emptively allowing you to block the purchase of an impression,” said David Sendroff, CEO of Forensiq.
“So in the pre-bid environment, we can evaluate the characteristics of that impression, and tell you that the risk is high, and that you could avoid that impression based on the historical reputation we’ve had with, say, the IP address, or on the cookies perhaps, or on the URL, or other characteristics – browsers, data, and that things come through the pre-bid environment.”
While the ad inventory landscape isn’t exactly a Wild West, as there are some industry standards and regulations put into place by organizations like the Internet Advertising Bureau, it is still a mecca for people who want to commit fraud, said Dean Harris, chief marketing officer for Forensiq.
“I’ve been in the media buying business for quite a long time. One of the reasons everyone needs our product is because in the digital ecosystem, people do not always get what they pay for,” he said.
“In many cases, there’s fraud that’s included in the inventory, so our service helps get that fraud out of the ecosystem. And if you think about it, if you run a campaign and you get a certain percentage, or impressions that are never seen by a human, inventory is never going to convert, and it’s never going to work, so in effect, marketers are going to get less than they paid for.”
Harris added ad fraud can be even more prevalent in programmatic ad-buying, where marketers bid in real-time on a targeted ad placement. That’s because there’s less transparency with that kind of buying, as marketers don’t know exactly what they’re getting.
Forensiq’s latest tool is an add-on called “True URL,” which was released earlier this month. The tool tracks the potential for cross-domain iframes, where fraudsters will claim an ad will show up on one site. However, they will then nest that ad within several different iframes – so while a marketer may believe their ad is showing up on one particular site, it may really be on a completely different site that contains something like adult content.
It also checks for fake URLs – for example, a marketer may have bought an impression for CNN.com, but the real URL is actually “drunkenstepfather.com,” Sendroff said.
Sendroff and Harris weren’t able to share exact numbers on how much ad fraud Forensiq is able to detect, as it really depends on what kinds of ads, exchanges, and traffic sources marketers are using.
However, Forensiq offers a free two-week trial to marketers that want to assess how much fraud they are encountering in their own campaigns. At the end, it will show marketers how to build new campaigns, based on measuring their risk of buying from fraudulent sellers.
Pricing depends on the volume of impressions, with a starting range of seven or eight cents per cost per thousand impressions.