Nearly a third of all online ad traffic in China last year was fake or invalid and cost the marketing industry an estimated 28 billion RMB, a study by advertising technology company Miaozhen Systems has found.

The company’s report, China Digital Advertising Invalid Traffic Report in 2019, is believed to be the first of its kind to examine “invalid traffic” in new advertising formats and media. Invalid traffic is defined by Google as including fraudulent traffic as well as accidental clicks.

Researchers hunted for invalid traffic across all new media ad formats, including PC and mobile as well as digital TV, offline and indoor ads, online consumer leads, social media, and KOL marketing. Data from 65,000 campaigns by 2,000 brands across 1,200 platforms was collated.

Researchers found that 31.9% of all online traffic in China was fake, up 1.7% from 2018; in addition, 57.5% of Key Opinion Leaders’ fans were fake in 2019.

The amount of invalid display traffic, however, was down from 43.7% in 2018 to 42.6% last year; invalid video traffic, however, was up from 20.4% in 2018 to 22.6% in 2019.

The study identified 48% of all social media traffic as being invalid last year, and 57.7% of KOL fans were found to be fake. In the “baby and mom” category of KOLs, the invalid rate rose to 65.1%.

More than a quarter (26%) of online sales leads were invalid, which has “major implications for auto and other industries that rely on online lead collection”, the report’s authors said.

Just 4.2% of outdoor ads were invalid or not displayed.

Last year, Campaign reported on a Group M study that valued the risk of fraudulent advertising globally at $22.4 billion, and calculated that 80% of the fraud originates in China.

Globally, Group M estimated, fraudulent inventory represented 10.8% of the total spend on digital advertising; but this percentage rose to 30.7% in China, far ahead of the next highest market for fraud, the US, where 3.4% of the total spend was estimated to be fraudulent.

Sourced from Miaozhen Systems, Campaign