Thu 12 Jun 2014 05:52:09 AM PDT
Adtech fraud: you can't cheat an honest man
updated 14 Aug. 2014: copy edit
More news from the world of online ad
fraud. Florida-Based Ad Fraudsters
Skim Millions From Advertisers, Then
Some of the globe's most recognizable
brands—including Oreo, GlaxoSmithKline, Burger
King and Sprint—were bilked out of millions of
dollars by a Florida company that used fake websites
to skim from the ad-tech ecosystem.
Naturally, the industry's response to fraud is to turn
up the creepy. (adtech, privacy, fraud control: pick
Remember how they always used
to say ad tracking was anonymous? Well,
not so much any more. Ari Jacoby, CEO of Solve Media,
Fortunately, a new trend has emerged where users
are ‘logged in’ to sites through existing social
media accounts like Facebook or Google+. Publishers
who also utilize the log-ins are then able to link the
user to a logged in account, verifying humanity. In
addition, social log-ins give advertisers access to
a bevy of information about consumers and allow them
to serve targeted ads.
Making adtech creepier makes it less vulnerable to fraud, but only by compromising privacy.
But where does adtech fraud come from in the first place? Unfortunately, the fraud we see, in examples like the Florida story, is just the mushroom on top of the fraud fungus that is inherent in the fundamental value proposition of adtech.
Before adtech came along, there had long been an understanding of reciprocity between advertisers, publishers, and the audience. Advertisers get some attention from the audience, and in exchange, they pay publishers to hire people to write articles, take photos, and all that good stuff.
If you read a collection of short stories, you're probably reading work that was originally paid for out of some company's ad budget.
Adtech is enabling advertisers to break
the deal. Instead of paying for content in
order to reach a user, the advertisers pay the
surveillance marketing industry to track users onto
increasingly skeevier, cheaper sites, and show the
ads there. (And incidentally, instead of paying
an ad agency 15%, they're paying 55-75% to adtech
As they say on the Internet,
What could possibly
go wrong? Of course, not every ad impression
ends up on a bottom-feeder site, but the original
sites have to lower their ad rates to compete.
So this post is a longer way of explaining that thing I posted on Twitter yesterday. Privacy tech such as Privacy Badger can help fight fraud in a publisher-friendly way, but only by squeezing out the third-party tracking that powers adtech in the first place.