NEW YORK: The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) has responded to concerns about digital advertising scams and has recruited fraud detection specialist White Ops in an attempt to establish the true extent of bot fraud.

During August, some 30 ANA members across a variety of industries — including automotive, CPG, financial, retail, tech, and travel — will include White Ops tags in their digital media in order to track the level of fraud taking place on display, video, mobile and social campaigns.

Bot fraud involves online ads being viewed by automated computer programs rather than real people. In a recent campaign for automaker Mercedes-Benz, some 57% of its online ads were viewed by bots. And Vivek Shah, chair of the Interactive Advertising Bureau in the US, has talked of traffic fraud reaching "crisis proportions".

The results of the ANA study will be aggregated and released in the autumn, although participants will also get reports relating to them with a breakdown of the overall fraud rate by platform, format, and channel.

"If you look at different campaigns or networks, the range of bot traffic can be 1% or more than 90%," Michael Tiffany, White Ops CEO and cofounder, told Ad Exchanger. "The point of doing this study is to try and put some bounds around the problem in a definitive, measured way."

Estimates of the extent of advertising fraud vary widely but, according to Ted McConnell, a consultant in the digital marketing space,  $14bn per year is the minimum, or "more than 5,000 bank robberies per day, with a getaway car that travels at the speed of light". And, he observed, were banks really being robbed at that rate "the government would declare martial law … your civil liberties would be toast".

Part of the problem, he argued, was that "waste is endemic to advertising, so advertisers don't miss the money".

Online video ads are particularly at risk, as bot operators are attracted by the higher CPMs available. Mobile is currently least affected, but only because it still accounts for only a small, but rapidly growing, share of digital adspend.

"It's not a technical limitation," Tiffany warned. "Bad guys follow the money."

Data sourced from Ad Exchanger; additional content by Warc staff