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DMD Pharma Innovators Series: Dr. Augustine Fou, Cybersecurity and Ad Fraud Researcher

Dr. Augustine Fou is an industry-recognized thought leader in digital strategy and integrated marketing, and former Chief Digital Officer of Omnicom's Healthcare Consultancy Group, a $100 million agency group serving pharma, medical device, and healthcare clients. Dr. Fou has over 22 years of management consulting experience, creating and optimizing marketing across traditional and digital channels. Dr. Fou completed his PhD at MIT in Materials Science and Engineering at the age of 23.


For DMD’s ongoing Pharma Innovators Series, David Reim recently spoke with Dr. Augustine Fou, a cybersecurity and ad fraud expert and the principal at Marketing Science Consulting Group, Inc. They discussed the challenges ad fraud presents in the healthcare space and how pharma marketers can overcome them in order to realize the full potential of digital marketing.

David Reim: Augustine, you’re on the cutting edge of detecting non-human traffic at websites. Tell us about your research.

Augustine Fou: My research focuses on the measurement accuracy of bot detection and human detection. That’s a key point. All other current fraud detection only detects for bots, which are also known as non-human traffic (NHT) or invalid traffic (IVT). They don’t detect for humans, but that’s telling half the story.

For example, if you detect 10% bots, it doesn't mean the other 90% is human. You need to verify that. So I use a technology toolset developed in-house to collect data in order to verify the measurements of other detection technology companies.

I’m finding that while some measurements are accurate, there are a large variety of ways that fraud detection can go wrong. Knowing how measurements can go wrong or be tricked is the key to ensuring clean data and accurate measurements. 

Reim: What are the economic effects of non-human traffic within the healthcare space?  Who does it hurt?

Fou: Fraud due to bots, or non-human traffic, hurts everyone in the ecosystem. In healthcare and pharma advertising, the harms can be even more egregious. For instance, in the case of bots pretending to be oncologists by visiting pharma websites, or important safety information being delivered to bots and not the physicians and patients for whom it was intended, fraudulent non-human traffic could even lead to loss of life. These harms far exceed the loss and waste of ad dollars that all advertisers face when using digital marketing that has ad fraud. 

By starting with the verified human and then constantly re-verifying that their identity is real and not compromised, DMD is offering clients a way to do marketing to real humans and avoid all the problems of fraud and non-human traffic.

Reim: How interested are your clients in managing, leveraging, and investing in their digital channel efforts?  Where are the gaps?  

Fou: They know they need to increase investment in digital, because doctors and patients are spending more and more time in digital channels and using less and less of print materials and other channels like TV. But they remain wary of the non-human traffic that is misdirecting their dollars to cybercriminals.

They’ve tried various fraud detection technologies to detect for bots, but they’re finding it’s not enough. Those measurements simply report a percent of bots, but don't provide any details about what those bots are and where they came from, nor do they provide specific actions for remediation. Marketers need a way to measure for humans and to ensure those are the actual physicians they want to show their ads to—and they need to do so in a compliant, privacy-friendly way. 

Reim: What do you find interesting about digital audience identification technology in this context?

Fou: What I was immediately drawn to among the DMD product offerings was the ability to take a physician that has been verified using offline data and find that person online when they visit various pharmaceutical and informational sites.

By starting with the verified human and then constantly re-verifying that their identity is real and not compromised, DMD is offering clients a way to do marketing to real humans and avoid all the problems of fraud and non-human traffic. This allows marketers to achieve the promise of digital, reach the real audiences they intend to reach, and deliver marketing messages and real information to the people who need it. Other forms of digital ad tech cannot achieve this. 

Read the complete interview here.

About DMD

DMD, an IQVIA business, offers the only authenticated database available that can reach, report, and respond to the dynamic digital behavior of fully opted-in physicians and NP/PA prescribers. Through this database, pharmaceutical marketers, hospitals and health systems, medical societies, publishers, medical marketing agencies, and others have digital access to more than 90% of physicians with email addresses and real-time web activity data that unlocks precision targeting and engagement capabilities across the most influential healthcare audiences.