Combating Ad Fraud in Digital Audio and Podcasts


Digital Ad Fraud and Its Rise Into Digital Audio and Podcasts

Digital audio consumption continues to grow at an accelerated rate. As a result, digital audio is rapidly becoming a popular medium for digital advertising across industries.

Ads in digital audio represent a unique opportunity to monetize one of the fastest-growing content mediums, but it also gives rise to the threat of digital ad fraud. Read on for an examination of how online ad fraud works and how companies are working to combat it. 

Common Types of Ad Fraud

Digital advertising fraud can happen across channels, and ill-intentioned parties have been quick to leverage the digital audio ads craze. Both content creators and ad publishers should be aware of these potential schemes that impact podcast advertising and other digital audio ads. 

Ad Bots

The trend of “automating everything” has not stopped short of advertising. Digital audio is now leveraging programmatic ad capabilities, which is supposed to help advertisers better target their audiences by showing ads to specific groups of listeners. This is also known as client-side ad insertion, and it has plenty of benefits — unless ad bots try to turn this method on its head. 

Ad bots (also known as “botnets”) are used for a variety of reasons, including to help sketchy publishers profit more. The purpose of an ad bot is to mimic that of a real listener (and often thousands of listeners at once). By creating fake traffic, advertisers pay for more impressions or listens, but their ads aren’t actually being heard by real users. 

Even with more advanced platforms, it can be difficult to distinguish between an ad bot and real human interaction as fake clicks can create invalid traffic all the way through to your website analytics tool. As a result, fraudsters can rapidly eat away at an advertiser’s marketing budget, and the advertisers will have little to no results (e.g., leads, sales, or even quality exposure) to show for their campaign. 

Vanity Metrics

When choosing an ad publisher to run a campaign, it’s essential that advertisers look past vanity metrics and only base their decision on verifiable information. For instance, an advertiser interested in working with a podcast might prioritize one with the most social media followers or monthly listeners, but publishers can inflate these metrics.

With the help of bots and automated systems, publishers can grow their follower count or number of listeners inorganically, misleading advertisers so that they pay more. As the digital audio space continues to grow, we can expect metrics to shift towards those representing true engagement, as they have with social media and other advertising channels. 

To verify that a digital audio channel like a podcast is worth the investment, look to metrics such as impressions and playback. Solutions like Backtracks Analytics, Backtracks Player, and Backtracks SDKs already support integrated digital ad fraud detection and advanced analytics to help you avoid publishers that provide inaccurate information. 

Frequency Plays

One final method that publishers use to ultimately get advertisers to pay more is known as “frequency plays.” This method simply entails keeping a browser open so that it can play audio and ads, often as part of an incentivized experience. While real humans might be on the other end, the ad is often played in the background or played on a device they aren’t actively using.

The result of this method is high-frequency reporting, which makes it seem like ads are getting a lot of impressions. However, there is frequently a lack of information as to where the listens are coming from, and publishers often end up seeing very little engagement. That’s why choosing a verified data partner that can provide trusted listener and traffic data, like Backtracks Analytics, is crucial to ensure you don’t waste your ad dollars. Backtracks only counts unique plays and does not suffer from frequency play attacks. Backtracks Analytics are also accredited by the IAB (an ad industry association) for advertising measurement.

Along these same lines of incentivizing plays, “click farms” drive invalid ad traffic. Both of these schemes often take the form of mobile apps that offer points for viewing and clicking on ads. In turn, a publisher appears more desirable on ad networks, which drives up orders for ad placements and allows them to charge more. 

How to Combat Ad Fraud in Digital Audio

Any advertiser looking to enter the digital audio advertising space should remember that it holds a fantastic opportunity. With more human listeners than ever and a growing number of podcasts and publishers across niches, brands that tap into digital audio ads now can leverage lower prices than traditional media and unlock a more authentic way to connect with their target audience.

However, it’s essential to be aware of the potential of digital advertising fraud and take steps to combat it so that you don’t waste your ad budget on fake listens or background plays. 

Fraud Detection in Measurement Tools

By far, the best way to combat digital audio ad fraud is with the help of fraud detection tools. More and more measurement and analytics platforms are beginning to implement such tools to help advertisers understand where ad listens are coming from and if they are legitimate.  

Backtracks is one such tool that offers fraud detection, attribution, and other valuable features to inform your audio ad strategy. With the help of Backtracks, you can make sure that you aren’t wasting money on fraud while learning more about the humans that hear your ads.  

Trusted Data Partners

In addition to choosing the right measurement tool to help you detect fraud in the long term, it’s also important to partner with trusted publishers. Opt for publishers who use third-party and verified analytics from trusted data partners to report their advertiser data.

Additionally, use campaign management software that is established, verified, and accredited by the reporting bureaus. One certification mark to look for is “Certified by IAB” which is the Interactive Advertising Bureau. For example, Backtracks Podcast Analytics and Advertising Measurement is IAB certified. 

Measure Conversions

To truly get the most out of digital audio advertising, you should measure ad conversions, not just listens. Use a trusted attribution tool that tracks conversions all the way through checkout.

Measurement tools allow advertisers to gain more transparent and actionable insight into digital audio advertising performance. You can even track the exact revenue your audio campaigns are generating with metrics like verified audience reach, ad conversions, and detailed campaign metrics.

Try Backtracks Today!

Bot traffic and other types of ad fraud have become a major challenge in recent years, making it more difficult for advertisers to actually find legitimate publishers, evaluate ad space, and make the most of online advertising. Fortunately, there is emerging software with real-time reporting and advanced tools to help you detect fraud, track conversions, and help with attribution.

If you’re looking for such a solution, Backtracks is a transparent and intuitive platform designed to help you reach your business goals with fewer mistakes and less guesswork. With seamless integrations into existing processes, properties, and ad operations, Backtracks can help you make the most of your ad budget while combating ad fraud across digital audio mediums. Ready to learn more? Explore today.


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