Fake consumers, created by cyber crime organisations, are making up almost a quarter of video ad views, according to new research released today by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and digital security firm White Ops.

A further 11% of views for display ads are triggered by bots in an attempt to acquire a segment of the billions of dollars spent on digital advertising.

Online fraudsters set up sites to mimic the online actions of consumers, leading advertisers to believe they have an audience and unknowingly pay out to botnet operators.

Bots are accounting for 23% of impressions on video ads, while 19% of retargeted ads were consumed by bots.

The study, ‘The Bot Baseline: Fraud in Digital Advertising’, which is comprised of 36 ANA member companies, including Kellogg’s, Mastercard, Nestle, Walmart and Heineken, predicts advertisers will suffer a loss of $6.3 billion to bots in 2015.

Digital deception

Lower-priced ads have long been a target of bot fraud. However, research from White Ops suggests publishers and premium websites, which charge far more for ads, are also at risk.

In one example, the study found bots clicking on video ads on one premium lifestyle site, which has not be named, were accounting for 98% of views.

“We found a lot of bots suddenly inflating the audience of websites we recognise that are clearly not being run by international organised crime,” said Michael Tiffany, the CEO and co-founder of White Ops.

“The ad industry was treating the bots as a faceless swarm,” said Tiffany. “What no one was anticipating is that the bots are extremely effective of looking like a high value consumer.”

White Ops monitored 181 online advertising campaigns and 5.5 billion impressions across 36 ANA brands from August to October, tracking display, video, mobile and social campaigns.