Up To 15% Of YouTube Ad Slots Were Hijacked By A Banned Malware Promoter

Up to 15% of
YouTube’s ad inventory being offered on some ad exchanges were hijackedby a company that has sold slots to malware providers in the past, according to Spider.io, a London company that monitors malware on the internet.

We last updated you about Sambreel, the incredibly clever hijacker of reputable media ad space, back in 2011, when Facebook sent it cease and desist letters over its Facebook “skin” product. Sambreel made “PageRage,” which allowed users to customise their Facebook pages with themed skins, such as Lady Gaga and sad-looking emo dolls. Those skins also covered over Facebook’s own ad slots with slots sold by Sambreel. There was litigation, which Sambreel lost.

Sambreel was then banned from offering ad inventory through the major exchanges, Spider.io says: “With Sambreel’s adware publicly exposed, major sell-side platforms and ad exchanges like PubMatic, Rubicon Project, and OpenX dropped Sambreel as a supplier of display ad inventory in 2012.”

But Sambreel came back with an even more clever way of hikacking YouTube’s ad inventory for itself. It posed as a legit ad exchange, and thus gained access to YouTube inventory being offered on other smaller legit ad exchanges. It was thus able to take bids for YouTube ad inventory from major brands such as Amazon, American Airlines, AT&T, Cadillac, Ford, Kellogg’s, Toyota, Sprint and Walgreens. Up to 15% of YouTube ad inventory being offered on some exchanges was through Sambreel, Spider.io claims.

At that point, Sambreel did something that was simple but brilliant: It sold YouTube’s relatively cheap non-video display ad inventory to video advertisers — even though the two different kinds of ads are supposed to run in separate slots, with separate bids, Spider.io says:

Video advertisers typically pay an order of magnitude more for each ad slot than display advertisers pay. Spotting the opportunity for arbitrage, some publishers have started to buy display ad slots from leading display ad exchanges. The publishers then immediately pass these purchased display ad slots on to leading video ad exchanges for sale to video advertisers — as though the ad slots are video ad slots.

Forbes reports that YouTube has since managed to shut down the practice.

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