Click Fraud a Growing Concern for Online Advertisers

Undertone Networks Identifies Best Practices for Safeguarding Against Click and Impression Fraud

NEW YORK – In the world of online advertising, the “click” has been causing quite the commotion. Many industry organizations and even business publications like The Wall Street Journal have reported on click fraud as an increasing problem in online advertising. As a result, Undertone Networks has identified three key best practices for agencies and advertisers to ensure the safety of online ads and the brands represented.

Recently, click fraud has impacted many brands and publishers, including The New York Times and even Microsoft. Companies spend large amounts of money on online advertising and click fraud can cost brands not just ad dollars, but also credibility. In October, ClickForensics reported the overall industry average click fraud rate for Q3 2009 was 14.1 percent, up from 12.7 percent for Q2 2009. As advertisers, publishers and ad networks are getting smarter, so are the attackers. A recently uncovered click fraud ring run out of China involved 200,000 IP addresses and more than $3 million worth of fraudulent clicks.

“While we’re moving away from the click as the de facto measurement tool for online campaigns, it does persist for many of our clients, as do more complex transactional metrics. The integrity of any measure we put forth as a campaign goal is critical to our clients,” said Erin Matts, chief digital officer, OMD US. “Optimizing online ad campaigns based on clicks – either fully or in part – is common, but buyers and advertisers must remember that there are risks. It comes down to the networks and partners advertisers work with, so companies should choose wisely.”

As an ad network dedicated to best practices and best placements, Undertone has identified three key practices for protecting online ads from impression and click fraud:

1. Engage the ad server as the first line of defense: Most ad servers allow advertisers to pull reports on the country of origin for impressions and clicks. Do your homework on your ad-serving platform to understand how they count and handle click fraud and closely monitor site visitors, time spent and activity related to each click. These related measurements will help you identify not only fraudulent activity, but which clicks are truly valuable.

2. Don’t pay for irrelevant international impressions: Up to 40 percent of publisher site traffic comes from outside of the United States and ad networks are used as a clearinghouse for this inventory. Too often unsuspecting advertisers are serving domestic creative to international audiences who can’t act. Unless international users are your target, specify U.S. traffic only in your insertion orders. A growing percentage of click fraud is through foreign IP addresses so monitoring this traffic will reduce your exposure.

3. Modify terms and conditions on media contracts: By far, the most proactive measure advertisers can take to prevent fraud is to modify the contracts they use with media partners. These amendments include specifically excluding incentivized traffic, use of ad exchange inventory, as well as practices like ad stacking and daisy-chaining which makes companies more vulnerable for click fraud.

Undertone values the work it does with agencies like OMD Worldwide, named AdWeek’s “2008 Global Agency of the Year,” and recognizes the threats that click fraud poses to the brands represented. To ensure brand safety, Undertone hand-acquires all of its inventory, ensuring above-the-fold placements, and works with only quality, professionally produced Web sites – all backed by Undertone’s Quality Guarantee.

“Click and impression fraud only highlight the need for clients and agencies to hold their network partners to a higher standard,” said Mike Cassidy, CEO, Undertone Networks. “While no network – or publisher – is 100 percent safe, we believe that Undertone can play an important role in helping to minimize the risk advertisers face.”

Underscoring the importance of addressing issues in click fraud and the need for better ad campaign measurement, Undertone conducted a webinar recently to address current concerns and discuss best practices for safeguarding agencies and advertisers against click fraud to ensure safety for their online campaigns. The webinar is available for download at:

About Undertone Networks

Undertone Networks, an online advertising network, provides advertisers with quality placements on the Web’s best sites. The company carefully selects its media partners and hand-purchases all its inventory, delivering above-the-fold visibility and brand protection for marketers who care where and when their ads run online. The Undertone approach ensures that media buyers and the advertisers they serve can drive successful brand awareness and direct response initiatives with a comprehensive blend of high-impact ad formats, rich media, targeting capabilities and personalized service. The company is based in New York, with fully staffed offices in major U.S. markets. For more information, visit