Automotive brands who advertise online in the United States will waste more than $US500 million this year on ads that nobody sees, according to the digital advertising company Solve Media.
In a new report on fraudulent web traffic, Solve Media tracked thousands of websites that exclusively write about cars and other vehicles. It found that in the first quarter of 2014, 22% of those sites’ pageviews came not from prospective car buyers, but from bots programmed to impersonate human web traffic.
Assuming that other sites car brands advertise on are plagued by a similar rate of fraudulent web traffic, Solve Media calculated car companies would waste $US541 million out of the $US2.5 billion eMarketer estimates the auto industry will spend this year on digital branding in the U.S.
“Bot fraud, and ad fraud at large, follow the dollars,” Solve Media CEO and co-founder Ari Jacoby told Business Insider. “If you look at the different verticals of interest across the online and mobile advertising landscape, automotive looms large.”
Solve Media works with about 8,700 web publishers to limit bot fraud through its CAPTCHA technology, which proves that visitors are human by forcing them to type out a block of text they are shown.
This process opens up advertising opportunities for brands that want people to type in a message like “Just Do It” or “I’m Lovin’ It,” and Solve Media takes a cut of the publisher’s advertising profits from the new inventory.
Fortunately for the auto industry, Solve Media found that the rate of bot fraud was lower on car sites than it was generally elsewhere on the web. The quarterly report said that 32% of global traffic across Solve Media’s publisher partners was confirmed to have come from bots, with an additional 22% looking “suspicious.”
While the amount of global suspicious traffic held firm from Q4 of 2013, Solve Media said the amount of suspicious traffic in the U.S. dipped slightly from the previous quarter, a change it chalks up to a decrease in advertising spend caused by the end of the holiday season.
Jacoby said that while bot traffic for the auto industry remains a big problem — the industry has been increasing its investment in online advertising — he credited car brands with demanding that their ad agencies only purchase ads they know will be shown to humans.
As a result, Jacoby said, the automotive publishers who take their ad dollars have had to work harder to stop bot fraud.
“As an industry, automotive has done a ton of work to really create lean processes, and inefficiency and overall waste in these environments are a scourge,” Jacoby said. “They’re basically saying, ‘We deserve a secure media opportunity, we deserve a zero-waste environment.'”
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