How Healthcare Marketers Beat Ad Fraud

How Healthcare Marketers Beat Ad Fraud

Ad fraud is one of digital marketers’ biggest obstacles in serving effective and efficient ad campaigns. This is of particular concern for healthcare marketers who are taxed with complying with heavy industry regulations and has contributed to the healthcare sector’s resistance in joining the shift to digital media marketing. According to eMarketer, healthcare and pharma spend less on digital ads than any other industry.

Ad fraud cost the industry over $14 billion in 2017, according to a study by Appnexus, Luckily, measures to mitigate the risks of ad fraud and even to prevent it and are being utilized by wise digital marketers and the trend is turning down. Healthcare marketers have found ways to confidently run digital campaigns and beat ad fraud by accepting that it exists as a risk, understanding it and taking the necessary steps to mitigate that risk.

What is Ad Fraud?

Ad fraud, at its most basic, is when an ad that you’ve paid for doesn’t get served in the way that you intended. This is orchestrated by fraudsters who have discovered ways to trick the system into showing fake campaign results and revenues. There are many complicated ways in which this happens, but some simple examples of the results are:

  • Your ad is only seen by bots
  • Your ad is seen by traffic that does not match your identifying data
  • Your ad is placed on a web page or next to content that your brand does not want to be associated with

Ad fraud more commonly affects programmatic ad buys than direct buys, which has discouraged some digital marketers from using programmatic technology to place ads. Appnexus sites ad fraud as the second leading reason marketers chose not to use programmatic, despite its efficiency and cost-effectiveness. However, programmatic has implemented safeguards against ad fraud, including prebid filtering for invalid traffic and ad viewability measurements. This, paired with an ad fraud prevention strategy, makes it possible for marketers to beat ad fraud while using programmatic.

Steps to Preventing Ad Fraud

While using a programmatic technology provider that provides a comprehensive ad fraud solution, marketers often employ further steps to protect their spend, such as using 1-to-1 targeting and third-party verification vendors. Marketers are also choosing to join industry non-profits that are aimed at ad and data compliance.

1-to-1 Targeting using First Party Data

One of the biggest strategies to combat ad fraud is to use 1-to-1 targeting. Based on first-party data, 1-to-1 targeting uses cookies to identify traffic that is known to be in a selected target segment of an ad campaign. This means that programmatic technology will only show ads to those who are confirmed to be real people and in the selected segment. If you are using 1-to-1 targeting, your ads will not get served to anyone whose cookie is not in your segmented database. This strategy highly reduces the risk of losing spend on fabricated impressions or clicks.

Brand Safety Platforms

Brand safety platforms leverage ad fraud prevention technology so that ads are not stolen or placed on sites that are risky to brand integrity. Third party vendors can help marketers using programmatic be sure that their ad campaigns are not compromised by: Brand safety platforms leverage ad fraud prevention technology so that ads are not stolen or placed on sites that are risky to brand integrity. Third party vendors can help marketers using programmatic be sure that their ad campaigns are not compromised by:

  • Integral Ad Science uses its proprietary technology to ensure that ads are seen by real people who are targeted consumers. Their technology monitors and analyzes three major areas of activity: behavioral and network, browser and device, and malware. These measures are so effective, Integral Ad Science was one of the first companies to receive the TAG Certified Against Fraud Seal for their fraud detection and prevention innovations.
  • DoubleVerify fights ad fraud by authenticating activity, webpages and URLs so that that bot traffic doesn’t consume ad spend and reduce company profit margins. It provides brand integrity protection by preventing risky ad placements and blocking inappropriate content associations. It digs deep into content, identifies possible risks and enables advertisers to reach niche markets without worrying that they will be associated with negative views, such as hate speech, extreme violence, or adult related content. If an issue arises suddenly that puts brand integrity at risk, DoubleVerify also provides immediate damage control to quickly remove ads.


In efforts to create safe and ethical industry standards, some non-profit organizations have taken up the mission of guaranteeing responsible data collection and preventing fraud and illegitimacy in the digital advertising space. Marketers are choosing to partner with these organizations to build industry integrity and longevity. In this way, the marketing industry is self-regulating, with stakeholders taking the initiative to fight against unethical and fraudulent activity.

  • The Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) has emerged as a leader in this arena, helping to create practical policies and procedures that allow for high industry standards. Areas of focus include data security, accountability, notice, choice and use limitations. They have been particularly recognized for their work in the mobile application space since 2013 and have developed useful tools that can identify issues and violations early on so that they can be addressed quickly.
  • Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) assists the digital marketing industry with establishing responsible privacy practices that help create transparency for consumers in the areas of Multi-Site Data and Cross-App Data collection. DAA emphasises data regulation, consumer control and overall accountability for information. It also provides insights on how to beat ad fraud and make the digital marketing space a better place for all involved.

Putting It All Together

While the amount of ad fraud still in existence is hard to measure precisely, a recent article in The Wall Street Journal indicates that thanks to the efforts of safeguards, organizations and other ad fraud initiatives, ad fraud is declining. It was estimated that losses due to ad fraud had declined as much as 11% since 2017 and that many of the ad-fraud schemes still in existence have retreated to platforms without as much scrutiny and security in place.

It is possible for healthcare marketers to safely invest in programmatic ads. Healthcare marketers can safeguard the companies they work for by partnering with a reputable ad servers, such as Adfire Health. Adfire Health leverages our proprietary database of over 8 million verified healthcare professionals to execute safe 1-to-1 targeted digital campaigns across mediums and devices, to get ads to those who need to see them. In addition, we use both Integral Ad Science and DoubleVerify to combat ad fraud. We always comply with privacy laws and comply with the regulations set forth by both the NAI and DAA.

If you’d like to learn more about how we fight ad fraud in programmatic campaigns, reach out to us at

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