Cybercriminals are using increasingly sophisticated automated click bots to perpetrate fraud against auto dealers. - Illustration by Julie McMurry via Pixabay

Cybercriminals are using increasingly sophisticated automated click bots to perpetrate fraud against auto dealers.

Illustration by Julie McMurry via Pixabay

The importance of digital advertising is undisputed. By the end of 2018, an estimated $273 billion will be spent on digital advertising, accounting for approximately 43% of global advertising dollars, according to an eMarketer report.

In the automotive industry, digital advertising has become particularly important. Customers now spend 60% of their time online during the car-buying process, according to the 2018 Car Buyer Journey by Cox Automotive.

This increased emphasis on the digital world, though, has created a new threat: digital ad fraud. Fraudulent publishers see the growing digital ad dollars and are looking to make a fast buck by having click bots adversely affect the numbers. Advertisers globally are estimated to lose $6.5 billion each year to bot fraud, according to The Association of National Advertisers.

Dealers must acknowledge this threat and build a plan to counteract digital ad fraud to ensure each dollar spent is reaching a real consumer.

Brand Safety and Bot Fraud

For starters, let’s take a look at the threat of automated click bots. There are a couple ways fraudulent actors use these bots to attack:

Brand safety: An ad fails brand safety standards if it is placed somewhere near irrelevant content. Irrelevant content includes ads showing up for the wrong target demographic, in the wrong target market, or adjacent to unrelated materials.

Bot fraud: Bot fraud is any attempt to deliberately inflate views or clicks by having bots visit ads or pages to boost fake traffic numbers.

Given the billions of dollars at stake, what tactics can businesses deploy to guard against fraud? There are two factors dealerships should focus on in their defense efforts: strong partnerships and proactive reviews.

First, choose partners that have a proven history of combatting ad fraud. Some companies specialize in protecting against online threats. Many offer analytic programs that seek to eliminate fake website traffic. Their objective is to build trust among digital advertisers or measure ad engagement metrics to help increase transparency into ad views.

Second, dealers and their partners should adopt a proactive approach of vigilance against ad fraud. Having a strong review process before engaging with advertisers is key. Constantly vetting potential domains is a key step to ensure your ad money is spent properly.

Commit to Vigilance

Eliminating ad fraud will always be a tall order. Criminals have become advanced at disguising and changing the algorithms of bots in order to avoid detection.

However, by finding a partner focused on protecting your investment and deploying a vigilant approach in fending off these threats, you can better manage the threat, thereby increasing your chances of a strong return on your advertising investment.

Ultimately, taking these steps ensures your digital ad dollars are spent on potential customers, not fake clicks that will never lead to a sale.

Andy MacLeay is director of digital marketing at, a Cox Automotive company.

Originally posted on Auto Dealer Today