Ad Fraud and Ad Blocking

14 January 2016

Written by Bob Wootton, ISBA's director of media and advertising

ISBA welcomes the excellent call to arms in The Guardian by Johnny Hornby, one of industry’s most decorated and high-profile players, though it’s probably also indicative of the malaise that is gripping the business that he had to take to those pages to surface it.

Ad Fraud is not the single most threatening issue for our industry – there’s another, ad blocking, and ISBA has already done and continues to do a lot in both spaces. Tackling these issues and repairing the fractured relationship between advertisers and their consumers is a high priority for ISBA's members.

Ad Fraud

Ad Fraud is the sale of bogus ad spaces and audiences - which are typically not even human but machine generated - as real opportunities to put ads in front of human audiences.

This fraud is a criminal act, mostly perpetrated by well-organised criminals.  Unfortunately, the online ad industry and all its components are a knowing or unknowing accomplice.

Some estimates suggest that 50% of all online ad impressions offered are fraudulent.

The Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards (JICWEBS) is now an autonomous body comprising representatives from advertisers (ISBA), agencies (IPA), publishers (AOP) and online players (IAB).

It has published a ‘Taxonomy’ which determines precisely what constitutes ad fraud, enabling all parties to identify and move to avoiding it.

It is now testing and accrediting companies that promise to identify fraudulent ad space and audiences, so industry can use the outputs to blacklist the fraudsters.


We reckon that around one person in five has now downloaded software to block ads when online, so it’s a mass phenomenon.

Conversations have happily moved beyond the days when everybody dumped all the blame for adblocking on publishers, which was both disproportionate and counterproductive.

ISBA is about to issue short, actionable guidance to its members on the several measures that need to be taken by the various players right through the online value chain. ISBA also continues to welcome the Internet Advertising Bureau’s LEAN initiative in this space.

Early uptake of each and every one of these steps will be necessary if industry is to stem the tide of consumers blocking ads.  Whether they will be sufficient in themselves or whether further measures will be needed is not yet clear, but together they will make very a significant start.

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The leadership of any system comes from its head, and advertisers sit at the head of the (online) media value chain.  It is very clear to us that every layer of the value chain has its part to play on both ad fraud and adblocking and that this must therefore be driven by a mandate from advertisers.


For further information please contact 

Hicham Felter
ISBA - The Voice of British Advertisers
Communications Manager
T: 020 7291 9020
M: 07901 528 980

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