Online advertising fraud is an industry-wide epidemic, not merely the managed nuisance brands need to accept as the cost of doing business online. That’s the take-home from
Adweek’s in-depth investigationinto how advertisements from blue chip brands wind up on sketchy video-sharing sites and how so-called “click farms” beef up the traffic of reputable publishers by employing robots or people to click links.
Most startling about the Adweek report was its implication that even advertising exchanges run by name brand internet giants like AOL and Yahoo are not immune to selling fraudulent ad impressions. According to Adweek’s Mike Shields, ad buyers said that inventory on AOL’s premium exchange, Advertising.com, was sometimes offered by unidentifiable websites, as well as live video chat sites and other ad networks where actual human beings are unlikely to see them.
Additionally, Yahoo’s targeting platform Genome has sometimes published ad impressions in questionable corners of the internet, like the file-sharing site MediaFire and ad networks like eHealthcareSolutions and Blackboxmedia.
What makes the growing problem of ad fraud, which one web security firm estimates has cost advertisers $US6 billion, so difficult to rein in is that it’s not clear which parties have an incentive to stop it.
Brands have long seen ad fraud as a cost of doing business, and publishers actually benefit from the pumped up numbers delivered to them by click farms because they can then charge higher advertising rates. As Shields points out, ad buyers are similarly dis-incentivized to get their hands dirty curbing fraud because it makes them look stupid for buying fake impressions in the first place.
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