You Ask, I Answer: Ad Spend Lost to Fraud?

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You Ask, I Answer: Ad Spend Lost to Fraud?

Andrew asks, “Digital ad spend dwarfs PR spend globally – yet how much of that digital ad spend is being lost to fraud, etc?”

You Ask, I Answer: Ad Spend Lost to Fraud?

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Christopher Penn 0:13

In this episode, Andrew asks, digital ad spend dwarfs PR spend globally get how much of that digital ad spend is being lost to fraud, etc? There’s a few different answers here.

But the answers are all directionally the same a lot, a lot of it.

So first thing we have to figure out is what constitutes ad spend waste, right? What constitutes ineffective use of digital ad spend? There are the obvious things like, Oh, you showed a bunch of ads to people who are unqualified buyers, right, your targeting was off, etc.

And there was no reason to send, you know, people to an ad to that ad.

If you’re selling, you know, left handed Smoke Shifters and you’ve targeted an audience.

It’s predominantly right handed, you’ve kind of wasted your money.

That’s not fraud, but it is definitely just not helpful, right? It’s kind of useless.

In 2019, Augustine fool who is a researcher who does a lot of stuff in the digital ad space, identified that about 70% of ad spend is fraudulent.

The specifics are fake users, bots, fake profiles, malware, injection of stuff, spoofing, ad stalking, attack, manipulation, all sorts of stuff, essentially, whatever a malicious actors can do, to get an ad to count as shown, which would then trigger the spend, without ever actually delivering any performance.

Now he identifies an additional 10 percenters outright blocked, which to me feels a little low.

We know that about 30 ish percent of Internet users have some form of ad blocker on.

And so like I said, I feel that that number is a little on the low side.

But of course, if you go by that, then 70% of ads are fraudulent 30% of block, then you have 0%.

Which, when you look at your ad performance, that’s not entirely on unreasonable, right.

Think about that.

What percentage of ad spend results in a sale? Not a lead, but a sale? And does it pay for itself? This is a question that a lot of us have to tackle on a regular and frequent basis.

I’m selling a Google Analytics course right now.

But at trust, Google Analytics, GA, for course.

I’m selling this question of running ads, I’m running Google ads for it.

And I’m spending about 100 bucks a week on ads.

And I’m running until essentially I’ve gotten 30 days, or the the price of two courses, because of course sells for 497.

So given those two things, how many have I sold through ads? So far? I’ve been running ads for about 25 days, I’ll take the guess.


Zero of spend money.

My targeting is pretty good.

I’ve loaded my personal mailing list into it.

So it’s not like it’s being shown just randos and I’ve got a decent daily ad spend.

I’ve got a decent budget for creatives.

Okay, it’s not great.

It’s not like mind blowing ly good creative.

It’s basically me talking about the course.

No sales.


Now, again, think about that.


My mailing list about my course.

With me is the ad creative should sell at least one right? When I look at sales from directly from the mailing list not from ads being run now targeting the mountains database, but directly from the mailing self assault about $11,000 with the courses, right? So the list is right, the targeting is right.


The audiences right? If you bought the course, thank you.

The ads to that same audience run simultaneously with email campaigns, no results.

We do work with a bunch of clients where they are running a bunch of ads and the conversion rate to a sale like round one ish percent and a lot of cases.

So that raises the legitimate question is in fact ah 100% of our ad budget being wasted.

Right? It’s certainly above 50%.

Christopher Penn 5:08

And so that’s a valid question.

How much is being lost for fraud? The one of the figures given is approximately 70%.

Which makes you wonder, is it really worth it? Right? Give some thought to this.

Some thought to this math.

In what other industry? Would a 1% success rate be? Okay.


If you are in Major League Baseball, is a 1% batting rate acceptable? Oh, yeah, I get kicked off that the only make the team you will not even make any major league team with a batting rate that low right.

20% is what they’re looking for.

I think, Babe Ruth was like 33%, lifetime.

1%? No.

Think about medicine.

Think about surgery, would you want to go to a physician, a surgeon whose survival rate was 1%? Right? I mean, you’re at that point, you’re better off doing it yourself.

If you are buying food, and only 1% of food you buy is not rotted, would you shop at that grocery store? New? Definitely not.

And yet, in digital advertising, we think 1% is awesome.

Like, yeah, I got a 1% response rate to that ad.

So put another way, you fail at 99% of your time.

Right? So the question is, is it worth it? Think about how much money you spend on ads? What else could you use that money for? That was still marketing.

There was still marketing, but might be a better use of that funding? Could you use influencers and brand building instead? Could you hire a public relations firm could for as long as it’s a good one? Could you just go out and bribe people like, Hey, I’m gonna give you a $10 coupon to try our service, which is effectively what it is.

Could you fly a plane, buy a plane, fly a plane and just AirDrop leaflets all over a city? The question we have to ask ourselves is, what is the biggest bang for our buck? Or the currency of your choice? Are you being as efficient as possible with your spin, because as we head into even more uncertain economic conditions, because we don’t know what’s gonna happen, being a little bit more parsimonious, with our budgets being a little more careful about what actually works.

That is sound policy.

That is sound strategy right now.

So if you’re seeing 1% success rates in a channel, and and you have the data is good.

And then you see like 20% success rate in a different channel, it is foolhardy to keep shoveling money into the 1% channel.

Instead shovel into this 20% channel or whatever your highest converting channel is until you see diminishing returns.

So that’s how much is estimated because we don’t know estimate being lost in digital ad fraud, a lot of money, a lot of it.

Do your homework.

Do you do the math about what’s most effective for your business and then double down on the things that are working? Really good question.

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