Global advertisers will lose $6.3 billion to bots in 2015, according a new report published by White Ops, a fraud detection company, and the US-based Association of Advertisers. The study looked at current bot levels observed across a sample of 35 major brand advertisers, an then applied the fraud rate to the estimated $40 billion spent globally on display ads and the estimated $8.3 billion spent globally on video ads.
While organised criminal networks are often behind the fraud, the actual bot traffic primarily comes from everyday computers that have been hacked. Over 67 percent of bot traffic observed in the study came from residential IP addresses, so be can operate remotely while home computers generate ad fraud profits.
The study says that using the computers of real people—people who are logged in to Gmail, sharing on Facebook, and buying on Amazon—the bots are regularly targeted by advertising. The bots were observed to click more often, although ‘not improbably more often that real people’.
Some of the more sophisticated bots could even move the mouse, making sure to move the cursor over ads. Bots put items in shopping carts and visited many sites to generate histories and cookies to appear more demographically appealing to advertisers and publishers.
The study found that video is being particularly hard hit by bot traffic, accounting for 23 percent of all video impressions observed. Bot traffic ranged from 2 percent to 100 percent in video placements, and one campaign was as high as 63 percent. Some participants ran multiple video campaigns, with up to 90 million video ad impressions from a single participant, but here was no correlation found between campaign volume and bot levels.