Women’s World Cup leads to spike in online ad fraud

So-called ‘bad actors’ in online advertising are trying to cash-in on the huge popularity of the Women’s World Cup, currently underway in New Zealand and Australia, with ad fraud strategies.

That’s according to new data from global adtech Integral Ad Science (IAS).

It’s little wonder, really, following a nail-biting finish match which saw England go through on penalties to the quarter-finals, leaving the UK on tenterhooks to see how far the team can go.

This 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup has been one of the most talked-about tournaments in women’s football history.

But with its growing global attention, bad actors are trying to cash in on its popularity through fraudulent advertising practices: trying to trick advertisers who want to reach this growing global audience into spending their budgets on fraudulent ads.

Ad fraud spike

Ad fraud rates spiked up 59% from July 1 to July 20 leading up to the Women’s World Cup. This spike is responsible for an additional 260 million fraudulent impressions.

Source: IAS
Source: IAS

Large-scale events are a catalyst for increased ad fraud globally, said IAS. During the 2023 Winter Olympics, for example, fraud rates nearly doubled, generating an additional 181 million ad fraud violations and similar spikes were seen during the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Commenting on this study, Emma Jowett, VP of Sales Northern Europe at IAS said: “Though it’s fantastic that the Women’s World Cup has seen such an increase in interest in 2023, bad actors are now seeing it as a bigger opportunity to try and cash in through nefarious advertising practices.

“The advertising world needs to be extra cautious when thinking about reaching audiences around this World Cup and other large sporting events so they don’t get caught out wasting their budgets and giving their money to these bad actors.”

Ad fraud is an attempt to deceive advertising platforms into thinking that fake activity on the network is real user behaviour for the purpose of financial gain.

These methods could involve using bots that mimic human behaviour to give the impression an ad has been engaged with or directing budgets to websites that have a high number of visits, but that contain undesirable material such as pornography or fake news.