DoubleVerify Takes A Crack At CTV Fraud With New Supply Certification

DoubleVerify introduced a certification program on Tuesday to detect CTV fraud and invalid traffic.

The exploding prices of streaming impressions have been a beacon for fraud, said Roy Rosenfeld, SVP of product management and head of DoubleVerify’s Fraud Lab. “And there’s an opportunity for fraudsters because CTV as a medium and how ads are delivered to content is totally different than web-based or mobile content,” he said.

The new DoubleVerify program includes five ad tech platforms at launch, Amobee, The Trade Desk, AppNexus, MediaMath and SpotX, that integrate with the measurement companies video tag for pre-bid analysis.

CTV fraud can enter the ecosystem in a few different ways. Some CTV apps are fraudulent: They either don’t exist or have paltry downloads and are juiced up with fake impressions. Bot networks that target mobile or desktop video campaigns also spoof the device type to masquerade as high-priced CTV.

But the most troubling contributor to CTV fraud, Rosenfeld said, is server-side ad insertion (SSAI), sometimes called ad stitching or dynamic ad insertion.

SSAI is when content and ads are bundled into one stream by the programmer or distributor. CTV requires a clean viewing experience, because audiences won’t accept buffering and lag like they do with mobile or desktop video players. SSAI ensures that consistent viewing experience and speeds up content delivery.

But SSAI also means that campaign verification comes from the publisher, instead of being collected by DoubleVerify at the device level, Rosenfeld said.

Buyers trust the reporting from major programmers like direct campaigns with Comcast or Hulu, but lesser-known CTV apps also push content through SSAI services and thus obscure where an ad played and the verification info, like the app name and household or IP address.

“Is this a legit app stitching ads into video streams or a fraudulent app claiming the same thing?” has become a too-common question for DoubleVerify in the CTV category, Rosenfeld said.

SSAI fraud is also easier to pull off in the CTV space because there isn’t as high adoption of app-ads.txt, said Nick Frizzell, SpotX’s VP of inventory quality and planning. For browser environments, near universal adoption of ads.txt means buying platforms know if a vendor is authorized to sell inventory from a certain publisher.

CTV fraudsters can launder impressions through an SSAI service and claim it’s a campaign from a well-known app. Without the benefits of app-ads.txt, buying platforms can’t confirm whether that SSAI vendor or ad network is authorized to carry inventory from that CTV app.

“The intermediary category is something we’re worried about and we see thriving in the CTV space, Frizzell said.

Industry initiatives like app-ads.txt and CTV measurement standards being developed by the IAB and IAB Tech Lab are a step in the right direction, he said: “But an important part of the work is also changing the mindset many have that CTV is inherently brand-safe, viewable and fraud-free.”

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