Dataxu, a leading software provider for marketing professionals, has identified an alarming and consistent pattern which has it stepping up its defense-in-depth approach to ad fraud leading up to “The Money Fight” boxing pay-per-view between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor on Saturday, 26 August.

Lawrence Epstein, the Chief Operating Officer of the UFC, has predicted that it will be the most pirated event in history, and we at dataxu have found evidence to suggest it may also be among the biggest nights in history for ad fraud.

As a part of the defense-in-depth strategy, dataxu’s programmatic supply chain experts actively hunt to identify and blacklist sites that are buying fraudulent traffic, for instance by serving their sites within 1×1 pixel iframes on illegal streaming sports and entertainment sites that are invisible to the naked eye.

How does this work and how do we know?

  • This fraud tactic is identifiable by utilising a web-debugging tool to show code loading on a page.
  • The bogus sites (example: VideoJelly.com) that are buying fraudulent traffic are often seen loading their site in the 1×1 iframe with a muted autoplay, auto-refreshing video ad unit.
  • They can churn out thousands of impressions while an unaware user is illegally streaming a sporting event or movie.
  • Advertisers running on these bogus sites are then charged for high completion rate views that no one actually saw.

When analysing daily traffic patterns on several of these bogus sites using SimilarWeb Pro, dataxu noticed a common trend of huge traffic spikes on the same dates. Those same spikes also appeared when analysing the traffic of the illegal streaming sites such as the hundreds of domain variations for FirstRowSports. What was causing those spikes? Pay-per-view events like this weekend’s marquee fight. In 2017, DoubleVerify has noted a nearly 50 per cent increase in video impression site fraud on Saturday night PPV events.

The showdown between 49-0 Mayweather and UFC 155lb champ McGregor is the most anticipated combat sports event in recent history and has the globe buzzing about the possibilities of such an unconventional duel. Many predict it to be the highest grossing PPV in history but millions will want to view the spectacle without paying the $90+ price tag. Showtime Boxing, who is broadcasting the PPV in the US, has already filed court injunctions against 44 sites to block the piracy but that hasn’t stopped dozens of other streams from already surfacing online before the fight.

The massive interest in this fight is sure to have fraudsters and illegal streamers working overtime on fight night, and dataxu has prepared for a fight of its own. In anticipation of the fraud surge, dataxu has amped up its manual hunting of these sites buying this type of fraud traffic.

We’ve identified dozens of bogus sites actively buying traffic by these unethical means, as well as the sites that are injecting them into their pages. We’re fortunate to have a partner like DoubleVerify power our Fraud-Free Guarantee and to complement its fraud detection, we also perform additional analysis to build on our blacklist at both the domain and publisher ID level, including any sites buying pop-under traffic on these illegal streaming sites. We also recently debuted our Validated Inventory Marketplace that can be activated for any of our clients to further protect themselves from situations exactly like this.

Dataxu is not stopping there, and plans take the fight to the fraudsters the night of the event. We’ll be actively hunting these sites and blacklisting any new bogus domains buying traffic in real time and will follow up with a post mortem after the fight.

Marketing professionals: are you protected against spikes in site fraud during major live events like this or is your campaign performance going to get knocked out this weekend?

Analysis

Fraud Sites

Illegal Streaming Sites

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