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CTV Ad Fraud Schemes Cost Publishers $144M a Year

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NEW YORK—While connected TV (CTV) advertising is hitting record levels, the problems of fraud that have long plagued the digital ad business are also threatening CTV advertising, with DoubleVerify (DV) reporting that CTV ad fraud is costing publishers at least $144 million a year. 

Over the last year, DV reported that it uncovered multiple major CTV fraud schemes that had the potential to cost CTV publishers over $144 million annually, at an average of $20 CPM across CTV. Upon discovery, DV blocked and neutralized them for its clients.

"CTV ad fraud doesn’t just impact advertiser ad spend, it also impacts publishers’ bottom lines,” said Mimi Wotring, senior vice president of publisher sales and client services at DoubleVerify. “Schemes like MultiTerra and SneakyTerra siphon millions of dollars of revenue from high-quality CTV publishers without their knowledge. Through the incredible efforts of our Fraud Lab, DV helps preserve the monetization opportunity for these publishers who deserve a premium for their inventory and engaged audience access.”

DV reported that the types of fraud include: 

  • MultiTerra- Uncovered in late 2020, the botnet was designed to create fraudulent inventory in CTV and mobile environments. MultiTerra undermines the monetization potential of legitimate CTV supply providers by artificially inflating inventory volume and directing media investment away from these platforms. This particular botnet generated more than three million fake impressions a day at its peak in CTV and mobile environments. At the time, the inventory value of the impression requests was on track for stealing over $1 million a month.
  • SneakyTerra- Uncovered in late 2020, this was the first server-side ad insertion (SSAI) scheme known to hijack real CTV device sessions. At its peak, the highly sophisticated scheme spoofed over 2 million devices each day, and may have cost more than $5 million per month.
  • LeoTerra/StreamScam - Uncovered in late 2020, “StreamScam” highlighted a very common approach to CTV fraud related to SSAI. In these types of schemes, fraudsters set up counterfeit SSAI servers and then manufacture CTV inventory across an unlimited number of apps, IPs and devices.
  • ParrotTerra - Uncovered in early 2021, a CTV fraud scheme dubbed “ParrotTerra” showcased a scheme where fraudsters set up counterfeit SSAI servers to generate fake CTV inventory across countless apps, IPs and devices. While similar to LeoTerra, which DV detected in July 2020, ParrotTerra scaled over three times as many unique device signatures daily and spoofed over 35% more apps.

To fight the problem DV has set up a Fraud Lab with a dedicated team of data scientists, mathematicians and analysts that performs ongoing detection and analysis of new types of ad fraud across channels in order to uncover the latest schemes as they occur. 

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.