The 2022 political advertising season came early, and it came on strong. Leading up to Election Day, publishers will notice a high concentration of scam ads flowing through programmatic channels. Revenue from legitimate political and issue ads presents a windfall for publishers. But clickbait ads provide a short-term revenue boost that ultimately harms reputable publishers’ long-term monetization strategy.
GeoEdge’s CEO Amnon Siev elaborates on how publishers can navigate the unpredictable political advertising season.
This October, what ads should publishers expect to see that they haven’t already seen?
“Clickbait ads are like horror movies. They constantly reinvent themselves to be more provocative and grotesque to elicit clicks. This month, we can expect to see politically charged ads and issue-related clickbait ads that piggyback off current topics like rising energy costs, Hurricane disaster relief, and celebrity endorsements.
Clickbait scams land on publishers’ sites, pique users’ interest and lead them to fraudulent landing pages. These are typically social engineering schemes that encourage users to pay for items, products, and services that don’t exist or work as promised. Ad Ops teams should be on high alert for misinformation, offensive language/imagery, and scam offers coming in through programmatic channels.”
What tactics are deceptive advertisers using to make their ads appear legit?
“Behind the scenes, deceptive advertisers intentionally cloak, mislabel and miscategorize campaigns to reach publishers’ audiences. In 2020, publishers noticed ads slipping past their block lists because they were miscategorized as reputable brands or non-political verticals. At present, scammers’ favorite tactic is to “cloak” or disguise themselves as legitimate advertisers to be approved during a DSP’s probation period for new advertisers.
Scammers fingerprint users’ devices to decide which campaign to expose to which user, running real-time checks. These checks inform cybercriminals whether a user meets the scam’s parameters or whether they’re a system designed to block malicious campaigns from reaching users. Publishers must bolster their cloaking defenses- as nearly a third of all publishers are unfamiliar with this tactic used by scammers to fly under the radar.”
What’s the cost of cleaning up your inventory after serving misleading ads?
“The number of users who report bad ads pales in comparison to the number of users who see them. Publishers who serve clickbait scams face higher bounce rates and silent user churn after being pegged as a deceptive and unsafe brand. This year, 24% of publishers reported their users were scammed by clickbait served on their sites, and 32% faced backlash after users were scammed and complained on social media. Before readers silently churn or Ad Ops teams get bombarded by emails from frustrated audiences, publishers must review campaigns multiple times, reenacting different parameters/scenarios to determine their legitimacy.”
What solutions and support should publishers use to gain revenue without compromising user experience?
“It’s easy for fraudsters to jump into the ad-buying scramble before Election Day. Publishers who rely solely on social media comments miss catching countless campaigns that violate their ad quality standards.
While scammers are directly responsible for ad scams, publishers’ desire to fill inventory is partly to blame for poor ad quality. 54% of publishers said they feel pressured to run lower-quality ads to meet revenue goals.
Blocking clickbait creatives should be publishers’ baseline goal. User-first automation should prevent clickbait campaigns from ever being served, instantly refreshing the ad slot with a clean ad so as not to impact monetization. Beyond the baseline, publishers need a mechanism within the ad unit that allows users to report bad ads directly to Ad Ops teams, not to Google or third-party platforms.”
Defunding fraudulent ads and deceptive creative starts with automatically blocking clickbait scams and requires an investment in technology. User-first tech enables publishers to build long-term value over narrowly reaching quarterly profits.