Brands continue to pour more and more billions of dollars into digital advertising campaigns – nearly all of which are visually designed and/or wordsmithed to compel consumers to click. Research by AppNexus finds that advertisers in the US. spent nearly $100 billion on digital ads in 2018, and projects that digital ad spend will surpass offline ad spend by the end of 2020. Naturally, criminals willing to engage in fraudulent behavior are eager for their own piece of this gigantic pie. A report by The&Partnership uncovered that ad fraud cost brands $16.4 billion globally in 2017 and that as much as 20 percent of total digital ad spend may have been wasted due to fraud.
Digital advertisers leverage ad networks that they pay specifically for ad impressions, clicks, and/or audience actions (such as downloading an app or completing a purchase). As should be expected, the most common types of ad fraud target each of these metrics: unviewable ads trigger impressions without actually making it possible for users to see or engage with ads, click fraud uses click bots or farms to produce falsified click data, and user or install fraud will even leverage real people to carry out the specific actions that advertisers will have to pony up for.
The underlying integrity of this system requires that advertisers have confidence in ad metrics and trust that they’re getting what they pay for, but that’s not the only harm done by ad fraud – ad fraud increases the prices advertisers must pay to truly reach audiences, and those costs are ultimately paid by customers in the form of higher prices.
However, I believe the swiftly arriving Era of Voice can bring about a sea change that will introduce entirely new and unprecedented ad experiences, along with rich new metrics with the power to thwart current ad fraud practices. Led by Alexa, Siri, and other smartphone and smart home technologies, consumers are quickly adopting and adapting to interactive voice interfaces as a preferred alternative to clicking on a screen.
According to Gartner, “Voice-first” interactions will increase such that by 2020, 30% of web browsing sessions will happen without a screen. At the same time, by 2022, Voice shopping is poised to exceed $40 billion in the US and UK – a fact brands should be building their strategies around sooner rather than later.
With Voice interfaces, clickable ads will necessarily be replaced by AI-powered interactive Voice ads, equipped with speech recognition, natural language understanding, and deep learning technologies to effectively engage potential customers in natural dialogues. For example, simply by speaking, users interacting with voice ads will be able to take suggested actions (such as visiting a site or downloading an app), ask for specific information, or end unwanted ads. At the same time, consumers’ natural human responses to these interactions will yield incredibly dimensional data that fraud practitioners will find impossible to reproduce.
This rich voice interaction data should prove doubly beneficial to marketers, as brands are empowered to optimize campaigns in real-time by calibrating interactions in reaction to actual user responses, while also potentially increasing their marketing investments with the knowledge that ad fraud is a non-factor. In an environment that saw an 800% surge in mobile in-app advertising fraud in 2018, interactive voice ads will offer a welcome refuge for marketers in search of a more trusted and fraud-proof ad format.
Additionally, whereas “traditional” digital advertising is commonly ignored across our screens – so much so that marketers estimate that need to be exposed to an ad three times or more for it to reach us at all – interactive voice ads offer much more personal experiences. As a result, each ad interaction is more valuable and effective in holding user attention and earning engagement. This will significantly shift the nature of ad metrics, as marketers embrace a less-is-more approach, and consumers receive higher quality ads that make high quantities unnecessary. In turn, this lower quantity will give ad fraud far, far less space to hide within data – making it even less likely.
As the Era of Voice ushers in a renaissance of interactive ads that harness the more engaging nature of conversations, consumers and brands stand to gain all the advantages of ads that are shorter, more meaningful and provide more trusted, accurate, valuable, and fraud-proof data.