Why Reality TV is EXACTLY Like Ad Fraud

Why reality TV is exactly like ad fraud
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Reality TV, one of my favorite pleasures. Not a ‘guilty’ kind of pleasure, but a normal kind (I try to not subscribe to the notion of ‘guilty pleasures’). Whether it is a golden oldie, pioneered by Ms Hilton and her BFF, KUWTK, the never-ending series of Survivor, or the ratings block-buster MAFS … I love reality TV in all its forms and persuasions.

So, why is ad fraud EXACTLY like reality TV? Well, mostly because I need an interesting gimmick for this article. But actually, it is also true. Kind of. Here are the top 4 reasons why reality TV is exactly like ad fraud.

Disclaimer/ these views are solely the property of me and do not represent the company whatsoever.

Disclaimer 2/ I made this image, and am damn proud of it and enjoyed every second making it!


Reality TV is a true reflection of society, and marketing data is an accurate and informative reflection of marketing and advertising performance. HA! Oh, that was funny.

As much as it pains me to say, reality TV is not real (or is it? Somebody please tell me it is!). There are often circulating stories, about how reality contestants are forced into scripted lines, ‘reality’ is edited to fit a certain plot, and people are cast to fit archetypes (e.g. villains and the ones we love).

The same is true of marketing data. Since our all-pervasive advertisements have made their way onto the web, marketers, and advertisers have been measuring them. Things were fine, for some time. Then ad fraud came onto the scene.

And not the kind of “came onto the scene” that involves a large bang, glitter, and a tutu. The kind of “come onto the scene” that is hidden and in the shadows. Like the quiet on-stage hands, that seamlessly go undetected during the performance.

Why is this so? Marketing and advertising is lucrative. People are smart. Some of these smart people have figured out to exploit that industry. This, of course, leads to siphoned marketing funds going into the hands of fraudsters (clever people, but still fraudsters). A little unknown effect is that in the process of all this fraudulence, marketing and advertising data is often corrupted too. Business intelligence tools, ad-network data, Facebook and Google advertising data and especially MMP or attribution tool’s data are corrupted. Corrupted by fake installs, simulated clicks, and falsely inflated views.

Thus, while marketing and advertising data, seems like (and should be) this beacon of insight, it actually is just like reality tv – real on the outside, fake on the inside.


Does Anybody Care?

When was the last time you saw a reality TV show win an Oscar? Okay, they’re not eligible, and I don’t exactly care enough about award shows to give the best example in this instance, but you get the point!

While there are many people who live and breathe by the Hayu, there are just as many critics out there, ready to bash, dismiss, mock and boycott reality TV. The common sentiment among many of the neigh-sayers is “does anybody even care?”  Amidst the haters, reality TV has brought us many iconic moments, such as (I take no responsibility for any time spent watching these glorious moments, instead of working):

  • Hilarious woman cooks chicken in a microwave (flavor of love)
  • The shocking wife-swapping on MAFS (MAFS Australia)
  • This tattooed hunk getting his junk out for ‘art’ (The Bachelor Australia)
  • This genius who compiled the silent moments of Dr Phil (Dr Phil)
  • And lest we forget this solid moment, forever immortalized in meme:

So, although there are inumerous glorious moments, thanks to reality TV, there are just as many people who ‘don’t care’. To be honest, I could spend all day researching my favorite reality TV moments and collating them into a tidy little list, however, as the content marketing specialist for a third-party ad fraud prevention tool, that is not what my job entails. I’m here to talk about fraud.

So, let’s get back to the topic. The same is for ad fraud. There are just as many people who dismiss ad fraud, as there is people who roll their eyes at reality tv. I won’t bore you with the ad fraud statistics (spoiler alert: ad fraud costs a lot), however, amidst the plethora of reasons to sit up and protect one’s marketing and advertising budget, the market is surprisingly reluctant to take the necessary steps.

Does the market care that billions (yes, not millions, but billions) of dollars are siphoned out of marketing and advertising budgets yearly? Not really. Unfortunately, like global warming, these are hard cold facts. Although some might not sit-up and take notice, the facts remain.

The Same Fat Cats are Winning

For every episode of The Bachelor, that distorts innocent minds with unattainable romantic standards, there is a fat-cat sitting in their ivory tower, reaping the rewards. Okay, that might be a little dramatic. The message rings true though. Reality TV is big business. According to one study, every time an unassuming, every-day woman gets up on The X Factor stage, Simon Cowell makes $135,000.* The same is true of ad fraud. We estimated that marketing and advertisers lost $50 million per day to mobile ad fraud in Q2.

The only difference between ad fraud and reality TV? In the ad fraud equation, the only winner is the fat-cat fraudsters. And trust me, they are winnning a LOT. At least with reality TV, the viewers get television gold. Actually, that is a huge win in my book.

*This was a made-up, non-factual statistic. Like an un-statistic.

On a complete side-note, rather unrelated to the point of this article, I feel compelled to mention that often many reality television participants go through a lot of mental and emotional anguish, that they are ill-prepared for. Thus, whilst I do enjoy my dose of reality TV, I don’t enjoy watching, or endorse bullying or mistreatment. A light-hearted laugh, and appreciation, I am all up for though!


Multi-layered Madness

Whether it is the amazing spectacle that is reality TV, or ad fraud, both are made up of many different types and forms. Some types of this fraudulent activity include, ahem, SDK spoofing, click injection, click spamming, bots and emulators, fake traffic, invalid traffic, bot traffic, ad stacking, pixel stuffing, cookie stuffing, ad injection, invisible ad and many more! You can read about all the wonderful creatures of the ad fraud world here.

For every type of mobile ad fraud, there is a new Kardashian spinoff. For every time somebody cries on The Biggest Loser, an ad fraudster has developed a new way to steal your funds. It’s like an onion.


Final Thoughts on Reality TV and Ad Fraud

Why reality TV is exactly like ad fraud
This is how I see reality tv, if it was a collection of oil-painting-esque marbles.

Ad fraud and reality TV. Both a glittery, confusing ball of deception. A highly profitable sparkly ball at that! Love it or hate it, reality TV has a lot in common with ad fraud. A sentence I never thought I’d be saying, but there you go.

If you take anything away from this article, for the love of Janet, just please watch this video I shared above. Here, I’ll share it again.

You’re welcome.

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