October 15, 2014

Amazing Tale Of Online Ad Fraud

There ain't much fun left in the ol' ad business. Thank goodness we can still get a good laugh out of watching advertising dimwits get royally sodomized by the crooks in the online ad industry.

If you're as entertained as I am by the astounding dumbness of online advertisers, and amused by watching them piss away billions of dollars, you're going to love this story.

MediaPost ran a piece yesterday in which a video appeared that claimed that just one reasonably sized bot-net could be responsible for one billion fraudulent ad impressions every day.

This is just too good to be true.

It must also be said that the video was produced by a company that sells ad fraud protection, so they are not a disinterested party.

But if this is even close to true, it is beyond mind-boggling.

I am reluctant to post the video because it is clearly a commercial for the company in question. But it gives us such a lovely picture of how clueless online advertisers are being screwed that, on balance, I'm going to post it.

Online ad fraud is completely out of control and, incredibly, no one is taking it seriously.

I can see why ad agencies and online producers and ad networks aren't taking it seriously -- they're cleaning up. But how fucking dumb can the idiot clients who are flushing billions of dollars down the digitoilet be? I guess the answer is astoundingly fucking dumb.

Earlier this week, in a piece about digital ad fraud Rance Crain, president and editor-in-chief of Ad Age (who wisely referenced yours truly) had this to say...
"...marketers are in the most denial...despite the overwhelming evidence that there is massive fraud in the digital marketplace....It's gotten so out of control that ad trade associations are stepping in to save marketers from themselves."
Of course, no one wants to kill the golden goose. Everyone's making too much money. As Crain says...
"But why change? Fraud pumps up publishers' traffic, exchanges get paid a percentage for trading it -- the more clicks the better -- and agencies can bring those great results to clients."
This will never change as long as brain-dead advertisers keep feeding the fraud machine.

The really fabulous thing about all this is that advertisers are not just getting passively penetrated, they are insisting that agencies give it to them deeper and harder. They can't get enough of this stuff. "Thank you, sir, may I have another?"

As I wrote here over a year ago...
Not only are marketers ignoring the awful truth about the ineffectiveness of online advertising, they are turning a blind eye to the fact that they are being skinned alive by crooks and their willfully corrupt accomplices in the ad world...Fortunately for the thieves, charlatans, and hustlers, nobody seems to give a shit.
It is a truly amazing story.

Thanks to Dave Kissel for the link.


Davis said...

Great post. However, when you say online advertising, do you mean only display/banner/video advertising bought on a CPM basis or ALL online advertising?

Cecil B. DeMille said...

Funnier, still, is that advertisers have bought - wholesale - a deeply flawed system of "metrics" that enables this dumpster fire to continue apace.

If the metric was actual sales, we wouldn't be having this conversation. That's common sense, which is apparently just as difficult to find as, say, a banner ad that sold something.

Stuart Fogarty said...

You need to understand fraud online. It needs two parties - sales house and publisher. A complicit buyer and a seller. Then it needs an Advertiser or Agency that's pretty stupid. So it doesn't happen in the mainstream. It only happens widespread in the heads of traditional Agency people who are demented because the business has moved past them. And they did nothing about it. Now they want to try and get it back by trumpeting fraud. But it's gone. Forever.

bob hoffman said...


May I ask what planet you are from?

Charlotte said...

Okay so I get this right: online ad fraud DOES exist and is committed by willing parties who KNOW the fraud exists and is perpetuated by dumb ad people who are behind the times.
But it doesn't happen in the mainstream because the mainstream knows about the fraud and avoids it.
I'm waiting for the programmatic buying tool to come out of the shed.

Stuart Fogarty said...

Sure Bob. Planet traditional Ad Agency for 20 years. Now Planet Digital. If you don't get, you don't get it.

Stuart Fogarty said...

And RTB, programmatic buying will change the face of Media both digital and traditional - allowing Clients by pass Agencies. But if you're a buyer and you buy stupidly, it doesn't matter how you do it either.

Jan said...

Long time reader, rare commenter.

I'd like to throw out there that the clients themselves are often complicit.

I'm an agency side digital guy who is constantly warning his clients of fraud and telling them they need to correlate online ad spend to real world objectives and success.

I've got a client at a well known giant conglomerate brand who couldn't give two fucks about moving the needle. All he cares about are the online vanity metrics that he can wave in front of his boss so he can angle his way into his next step up the MBA career ascension ladder. Fans. Clicks. Buzz. That's how he can show he made a difference and get a promotion - the only tho that makes a difference. If he doesn't sell product, he just argues that it can't possibly be his fault - look at all he's accomplished!

Amazingly, this corporation is going through rough financial times. Hard to imagine, huh?

LeShann said...

funny you should say that, because a lot of network buying, which tends to be more exposed to fraud as it reaches very wide inventory (as opposite to large, impactful ad formats on select pages), is tied to sales/conversion and optimized straight for it (ie, you don't pay for the impression).
Less display buys are based on impressions these days, a lot of them are based on conversions, so impression fraud isn't necessarily as impactful as one might think it is. That doesn't take away the fact it's not dealt with properly by the industry and a lot of people happily keep a blind eye.

Augustine Fou said...

Thank you for the post... fraud applies to all forms of digital ads, although the impression based ones are the easiest to defraud (use bots to generate impressions). Search fraud (also known as click fraud) is harder to commit because it is a 2-step process -- 1) the bot has to type the keyword to cause the search ad to load, and 2) the bot has to click the ad to cause the CPC revenue to be generated for the bad guy.

Choller21 said...

"Then it needs an Advertiser or Agency that's pretty stupid."

Plenty of them. It's almost mandatory isn't it?

Cecil B. DeMille said...

I've written my share of banner ad headlines. Fuck, a few have actually been pretty good. The problem usually isn't with the creative, it's with the ask. Clients have been conditioned to ask for banners that say things, not sell things.

I digress. Unless and until I meet a live human being who's bought something through a banner ad, I will continue to rely on my anecdotal evidence, as I find it more trustworthy than anything people in the digital space would say. (This is not referring to you, LeShann, as you seem sensible.) Credibility - it's what's for dinner.

truthbtold0000 said...

Once I ran a team of about 80 software testers and script writers whose sole goals were, using a program named TestComplete, to automate scripts that mimic human interaction with computers on a server farm of 150-200 virtual machines running 24x7.

Your profile of the MBA ladder climbing guy just gave me an idea for a dirty little USP and target market. :)

Jim Powell said...

#youjustdontgetitdoyou the king of comebacks today.

adfraud.org said...

Adfraud.org is a wiki where this is discussed and the news is aggregated.

LeShann said...

I have actually seen campaigns where online display had a pretty strong influence on brand metrics. I honestly think that creatively speaking if we approached digital display (which is usually seen at a glance at best) in a more static way, like we do print or outdoor, we could see higher returns. It's a good nudging media, which can sometimes be enough to boost mental availability in some categories.

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