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Connected TV Companies Utilize Varying Strategies to Protect Against Ad Fraud

New solutions emerge for combating ad fraud, as ad-supported viewing continues to increase

Connected TV Companies Utilize Varying Strategies to Protect Against Ad Fraud

4 Min Read

Fraud makes headlines. Whether it’s a failed music festival or a New York City “socialite”, fraud is rampant and the advertising world is not immune. While ad fraud has often been associated with display and mobile inventory, where there are ad impressions, there is opportunity. Connected TV has begun to see its own challenges in verifying traffic. Some companies, like Roku, have developed methods to address fraud, but there may be a simpler answer. Ad platforms that offer a curated list of premium inventory available through a Private Marketplace (PMP) offer an added layer of security to ad campaigns and ensure your ads can’t run on any fraudulent channels. Either way, it’s an essential issue to address as the streaming world continues to move toward ad-supported viewing.

Roku Debuts a Virtual Watermark to Track Publisher Impressions

There have been multiple CTV ad fraud schemes over the past few years, resulting in millions of dollars of wasted ad budgets. Last year, a scheme dubbed “SmokeScreen” used fraudulent screensaver apps on streaming and gaming devices to serve ad impressions when the screen was turned off. Advertisers were cheated out of millions of dollars, paying for impressions that were never actually seen. And SmokeScreen wasn’t the first scheme to dupe CTV viewers. However, they all rely on similar tactics, exploiting weak points in the supply chain and “spoofing” publishers, device IDs, and users to create fake impressions.

Last week, Roku debuted their newest solution to directly address the issue of device spoofing.  They have developed a watermark that will integrate with their systems, validating that the ad impressions are being seen on an actual Roku device and not a desktop or mobile device masquerading as a streaming device. This will aim to verify the publisher ad requests so that advertisers can ensure that their ad is actually reaching a real person. Multiple publishers and ad tech providers have signed on to implement the Roku watermark, and Roku has added it to their OneView platform to create a safe marketplace with verification of the impressions purchased there.

Worried About Fraud? Stick to Premium Inventory

The announcement from Roku doesn’t come as a surprise as the issues with ad fraud on CTV continue to be explored. In fact, security was one of our top predicted trends for CTV in 2022. But you don’t have to worry that you are at the mercy of a beta testing schedule to make sure that your ad impressions are safe—there are measures you can take now to ensure that your campaigns aren’t subjected to spoofing or other fraudulent activities. 

Not all ad inventory is created equal and it’s essential to consider where your selected ad platform is getting their impressions to help ensure security. Look for a platform that is transparent about their inventory sources, such as Performance TV. Guarantees like Living Room Quality ensure that your ad is only running on premium networks–there is no concern about them popping up on fake screensavers as with the SmokeScreen fraud. Your ad platform should be sourcing ad inventory directly from publishers to create a private marketplace of impressions that are vetted before they are served. MNTN’s PMP adds another layer of security because each ad that runs is served with a unique identifier. This identifier signals to the publisher to provide the appropriate pricing, but as an added bonus, helps protect advertisers and publishers against spoofing as fraudsters don’t have this ID. Regardless of which platform you use, select one that offers access to transparent reporting which allows you to monitor exactly where your ad impressions are running so no served impression is unaccounted for. 

Premium Inventory Continues to Increase as Networks Add New Tiers

The good news is that there is plenty of opportunity to advertise on premium content. There is a common misconception that people aren’t willing to watch ads and therefore your campaigns will only be served on obscure, longtail channels. In reality, 9 out of 10 CTV viewers watch some ad-supported content and this type of content is continuing to gain popularity. Subscription prices add up quickly and monthly rates are starting to exceed what users consider ideal pricing, a rate that has remained unchanged since 2019, according to a recent Morning Consult poll. Many streamers are taking inventory of their recurring charges, opting to subscribe to only a few paid services and rounding out their viewing with ad-supported channels. After all, most people have moved away from cable in an effort to cut down on their monthly bill, not replace it with an aggregation of subscription costs. 


Premium channels are taking note of this shift in the market, adjusting their platforms to offer less expensive (or completely free!) ad-supported tiers to address this common concern. HBO Max is perhaps best known for adding in an ad-supported tier for a reduced price after their launch of the SVOD service, but with the merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery, they are considering adding an additional, completely free tier, according to Morning Brew. And others are starting to follow in those footsteps as SVOD services continue to raise prices and drive viewers towards less pricey options. As the popularity of free ad-supported channels continues to grow, choosing the right platform to tap into this inventory can give peace of mind that your ads will reach engaged viewers rather than black screens.