Are you or your client’s ad spend being lost to fraud or invalid traffic? Even worse, are your ads appearing next to inappropriate or irrelevant content? With the landscape of digital constantly evolving, so too are the ways in which ad spend is lost by organisations and agencies alike to ad fraud and Invalid Traffic (IVT).

In fact, advertisers could have lost as much as $23 billion globally to ad fraud in 2019 according to CHEQ. Further to this, 2019 research from Harris Poll and (Google) 3rd party verification partner DoubleVerify has identified that 67% of consumers would stop using a brand product that appeared beside objectionable or fake content.

While digital advertising spend is expected to drop 0.2% across APAC in 2020 (to US$86.93 billion) YoY according to S&P Global (largely due to the current uncertain times), the industry is expected to bounce back in 2021 and grow 12.5%.

“In Australia it (Invalid Traffic) now occurs in 30 per cent of all programmatic traffic”

Source: Australia Has The Third Worst Rate Of Ad Fraud In The World: Report, Which-50

Advertisers not looking at Ad Verification as a way to protect their media budget risk it becoming part of the large amount lost to fraudsters and Invalid Traffic (IVT), particularly with desktop, mobile, social media and online video ads expected to account for approximately 63% of APAC’s ad spend by 2024.

In this article, we explore how to achieve greater levels of control and accountability of your ad spend, and how to apply Ad Verification techniques within the Google Marketing Platform, specifically Display & Video 360 (DV360) and Campaign Manager (CM) to protect your media spend. These includes areas such as Brand Suitability & Safety, Fraud Prevention, Ad Viewability and Geo-targeting.

What is Ad Verification?

Ad verification is the process that advertisers take to quality check their ads and digital media from a safety, transparency and accountablity point of view – ensuring they are served within brand-safe environments to maximise viewable and valid (fraud-free) impressions. This is acheived by displaying the right ads in the right context, at the right time to the right audience.

How does Ad Verification work?

Ad Verification | Workflow

By 2025, Ad Fraud could cost advertisers more than $50bn and be 2nd only to drug trafficking as the largest revenue source for organised crime

Source: REPORT: Ad fraud is ‘second only to the drugs trade’ as a source of income for organized crime, Business Insider

4 Ad Verification strategies to protect your media budget

  1. Brand Suitability & Brand Safety
  2. Fraudulent activity and Fraud Prevention
  3. Ad Viewability
  4. Geo-targeting

Ad Verification Strategy #1: Brand Suitability & Brand Safety

Ad Verification | Brand Suitability | Brand Safety

With the shift in the industry from using the term ‘Brand Safety’ to more being focused on ‘Brand Suitability’, it’s important to understand the difference between them. Brand Safety is a proactive strategy to prevent potential negative brand perception based on the potentially harmful influence or association with undesirable adjacent content.

On the other hand, Brand Suitability incorporates a much more holistic approach to where your ads will be seen and interacted with, it looks at understanding the context, meaning and implications of where your brand’s content is shown online and in what ways it will engage your audience(s).

Importantly, with 77% of brands saying that Brand Safety is a key priority for them, this article shows that organisations are using tactics such as blacklists (93.8%); keyword targeting (91%); whitelists (87.8%); and 3rd party verification partners (83.9%).

Within the Google Marketing Platform, these features are all available within Display & Video360 (DV360) along with Ad Blocking in Campaign Manager (CM). Before working with a 3rd party verification partner, it is worth speaking to your Google Marketing Platform Sales Partner to discuss how they can compliment the benefits that are already within the GMP.

Contact FiveStones to discuss Brand Suitability & Safety >

“A study by Forrester found 69% of brands spending $1 million per month reported that at least 20% of their budgets were being lost to digital ad fraud”

Source: Ad Fraud Statistics, Business of Apps

Ad Verification Strategy #2: Fraudulent Activity & Fraud Prevention

Advice from the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) back in 2016 identified that both people and technology are key in developing and implementing an ad fraud prevention strategy which is why you should consider in-housing the Google Marketing Platform.

Importantly, given the size and scale of Ad Fraud all over the world, understanding which channels that the GMP, whether Display & Video 360 (DV60) or Campaign Manager (CM), will protect your organisation’s media spend is key to mazimising your ad spend. According to Which-50, some key stats to think about around Ad Fraud across channels and devices includes:

  • Australia has the third-worst rate of Ad Fraud in the world (behind India – 39% and Columbia – 35%)
  • Fraud rates are highest in mobile in-app video advertising – 36% for phones and 31% for tablets
  • Web browsing on mobile devices ad fraud rates are much lower than apps (12% for phones and 11% for tablets)
  • Display advertising has less fraud than video, and in-app is again worse than web browsing. Smartphone and tablet in-app both had Invalid Traffic above 20%
  • Over 22% of programmatic OTT/CTV video advertising is invalid

As part of the process to reduce and eliminate Ad Fraud, Google has offered a refunds on Invalid Traffic by exchange since 2017.

A further example within the Google Marketing Platform on eliminating Ad Fraud, is the tracking of viewable impressions and determine the impact of Invalid Traffic (IVT) from the Active View reporting within Campaign Manager (CM).

Ad Verification Strategy #3: Ad Viewability

Ad Verification | Ad Viewability

An ad impression is considered as viewable if at least 50% of it is within the viewable space of the user’s screen – for at least 1 second for display, and 2 seconds for video.

There are a number of Viewability tactics you can use to ensure your ads are appearing in the right inventory to the right people, using Geo-targeting (location-based targeting) (see strategy 4 below) for a mobile-based audience group can be a powerful way to provide personalised ads that can achieve a high-level of viewable impressions at the point of sale where they can directly influence purchase behaviour.

Within the Google Marketing Platform, Active View tags are the tracking mechanism for the viewability of ads served through Campaign Manager (CM), however, you can set up your viewability settings within Display & Video 360 (DV360).

Target inventory based on viewability

1. Open a line item or insertion order, and navigate to the Viewability targeting page.
2. In the Active View section of Viewability targeting, select a predicted viewability percentage to control what impressions your line item will bid on. Predicted viewability percentages are directly related to how viewable each impression you bid on is likely to be.
3. Click Done once you’ve set your Viewability targeting.

How to add verification tags to a creative in Display & Video 360 (DV360) (synced from Campaign Manager (CM))

To add verification to display or video creatives, you’ll first need to upload your creatives to Campaign Manager (then sync them to DV360),  then follow the below steps in Display & Video 360 (DV360):

Display Creative

1. Within Display & Video 360 (DV360), go to an advertiser and click Creatives in the left menu
2. Open the display creative you want to wrap with a verification tag
3. Expand the Additional details section, then select Use custom tag wrapper
4. Copy the creative’s tag in the text box that appears, or click Cancel or deselect Use custom tag wrapper to avoid making changes to the creative. Send the entire code snippet to your verification service to have the tag wrapped and wait for your verification service to return the wrapped tag.
5. Once the verification service sends you the wrapped tag, return to the details page of your creative in Display & Video 360. Expand the Additional details section, then select Use custom tag wrapper again. In the text box, select all of the existing tag code and delete it, then paste the code from the verification service into the text box. Finally, save your creative.

Video Creative

1. Request a wrapped VAST URL including the macro ${DC_VAST_URL} from your verification provider. (The macro will be replaced with the correct VAST URL at serving time.
2. Open an advertiser and click Creatives in the left menu.
3. Open the video creative you want to add verification to.
4. Expand the Additional details section, then select Use custom tag wrapper.
5. Paste the wrapped VAST URL in the empty Tag field. Make sure it includes the macro: ${DC_VAST_URL}.
6. Save the creative.

Note: You won’t be able to preview the tag externally until you re-traffic the wrapped creative tag in step 5.

Ad Verification Strategy #4: Geo-targeting (aka location verification)

Geo-targeting is an advanced personalisation strategy that is used for driving in-store conversions. This involves verifying the location of your audience from a Geo-targeting perspective.

Importantly, within the Google Marketing Platform there is no need for a Geo-targeting verification partner. Geo-targeting in the Google Marketing Platform allows you to target people based on the latitude and longitude of their device then depending on their radius to the store different personalised ads could be set up via a feed in Studio.

Proximity Targeting

“Marketers surveyed said location data…improved ROI for their marketing and ad campaigns (74%)”

Source: Location data is a boon for marketers, study says, Mobile Marketer


To learn more about Ad Verification or Ad Verfication settings available in the Google Marketing Platform (specifically Display & Video 360 (DV360) and Campaign Manager (CM)), including Brand Suitability & Safety, Fraud prevention and Active View (Viewability), get in touch with the expert team at FiveStones today.