Fraudsters are set to hit online advertisers hard this year, costing them $7.2 billion globally as a result of phony web traffic generated by bots, new research has found.

The report, by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and White Ops, found that the industry is still struggling to get to grips with this costly type of scam.

This is demonstrated by the lack of change in bot activity – the rates recorded in 2015 were found to be similar to that documented in 2014.

These “fraudulent impressions” lead online advertisers to believe that their digital campaigns are reaching their intended audience.

"The level of criminal, non-human traffic literally robbing marketers’ brand-building investments is a travesty."

However, this is far from the case, meaning that the money they put behind such efforts, is ultimately wasted.

"The level of criminal, non-human traffic literally robbing marketers’ brand-building investments is a travesty,” commented Bob Liodice, president and CEO of ANA.

“The staggering financial losses and the lack of real, tangible progress at mitigating fraud highlights the importance of the industry’s Trustworthy Accountability Group in fighting this war.

“It also underscores the need for the entire marketing ecosystem to manage their media investments with far greater discipline and control against a backdrop of increasingly sophisticated fraudsters."

The authors of the paper, titled Bot Baseline: Fraud in Digital Advertising, outlined a number of recommendations for the online advertising industry.

This includes developing a better understanding of the programmatic supply chain; investing in third-party monitoring; and requesting transparency for sourced traffic.

“The study highlights the challenges faced by the advertising ecosystem as defenders, and the many techniques that a sophisticated, persistent adversary can exploit within the online advertising industry,” added Michael Tiffany, CEO of White Ops.

“Although our study definitively demonstrates areas of improvement ... we are still facing an uphill battle to achieve broad acceptance of the need for deeper focus on the fraud problem, and ultimately to reverse these financial trends.”