The Rampant Problem Of Fake Online Ad TrafficHere in America, we like to get what we pay for. Stretch the dollar. Pinch the pennies. VALUE. So, you would think the fact that between $3.6 and $4.5 billion worth of online advertising impressions are totally, 100 percent fake would cause a little outrage, right?
It turns out, fake web traffic is rampant. According to a recent study by MdotLabs, “Fake display-ad impressions are estimated to account for about 30% of overall online traffic.” As many as 15 billion fake impressions are generated per month by PPV (pay-per-view) networks. Global fraud could “easily top $10 billion,” reports MdotLabs.
Fake Web Traffic: Where’s the Outrage?
On Oct. 13, Adweek reported findings from Lindsay Buescher, who discovered that her client, Red Bull, had been cheated out of $150,000 worth of online advertising. Red Bull, which spends “90 percent of its online budget direct with publishers,” had to blacklist over 77 sites its ads were running on, including big-time (alleged) fraudster FreeStreams.
Buescher found that FreeStreams and other sites her client was buying media from weren’t playing the pre-roll ads they sold. Even worse, some sites ran through the videos constantly, racking up views nobody was seeing. Still, other sites didn’t even exist.
This wasn’t the first time claims had been brought against FreeStreams, but it might be the nail in the coffin. Fortunately, the righteous anger is building as groups like the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) move toward standardizing advertising formats and guidelines.
Bots & Ads More Sophisticated Than Ever
Though some industry leaders are organizing and petitioning for regulation, fake web traffic is getting more slick and sneaky by the day. As the WSJ reports, “At their most sophisticated, botnets [the robots responsible for fake online ad traffic] can mimic the behavior of online consumers, clicking from one site to the next, pausing at ads, watching videos, and even putting items in shopping carts.” Other ads, according to the IAB, may be hidden as 1×1 pixels in a real user’s browser or tucked away in the URL.
Fake Online Ad Traffic: Should You Be Concerned?
At the present, the online media buying scene is very much up in the air. While most of the seriously affected companies are major brands like State Farm, Target, and Amazon, small and mid-sized businesses could be victims, too.
If you (or your marketing/advertising agency) are currently buying ad space with an online advertising network, be sure to do your research and verify their services. Too-good-to-be-true CTRs and dirt-cheap cost-per-impression prices could be telling. As the saying goes, “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”
Have you had any experiences with fake online ad traffic? Whom do you trust to handle your online advertising buys?
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