Study: Major Brands Are Victimized by Phony Traffic
MADISON, WI, October 3, 2013 (ADOTAS) — MdotLabs, launched last month to help advertisers avoid being victimized by invalid traffic, today released the results of a follow-up study to its “Impression Fraud in On-line Advertising via Pay-Per-View Networks” that shows major brands well-known to most Americans are paying heavily for ad impressions that are never seen by human eyes. Among the brands are: American Express, Allstate, Maybelline, GE Capital, Disney, Comcast, Subway, LL Bean, Farmers, Starbucks, Honda, EA Sports, Priceline, Staples, Lifelock, Audi, Samsung, Avis, Choice Hotels, AT&T and another dozen or so.
“Our previous research that was presented at the USENIX Security Symposium showed just how these PPV networks operate in terms of paying publishers to run their tags and generate fake traffic – this most recent study takes the logical next step and catalogs which brands are being most victimized by these networks,” says MdotLabs CEO and co-founder Timur Yarnall (pictured). “And it’s important to note we’ve had a chance to thoroughly research a only small fraction of the PPV networks currently in operation.”
MdotLabs investigated the problem of PPV networks by posing as a web publisher and signing up for several different traffic generation services. Once these services disclosed their tags and methods, the MdotLabs team was able to locate other sites that were working with the same PPV networks. Using a variety of analysis methods on data sets collected over the past year, the MdotLabs team focused their efforts on 10 different PPV networks that span hundreds of publisher sites.
“We conservatively estimate the number of invalid impressions that are generated from these PPV networks alone to be on the order of 15 billion per month. Assuming the modest quality level for sites that are part of PPV networks, we estimate the cost to advertisers for this fraudulent traffic to be on the order of $180 million annually,” says MdotLabs Chief Scientist and co-founder Dr. Paul Barford.
“Fake display-ad impressions are estimated to account for about 30% of overall online traffic,” says Yarnall. “That puts display fraud waste at $3.6 to $4.5 billion annually in the US alone. That doesn’t include video, mobile, or the rest of the world. We believe the estimate would easily top $10 billion on a global basis.”
Brands are cheated when they pay for display ads on a CPM basis and, unknown to them, much of the traffic from those audiences is invalid or driven by bots. They are also cheated when bots instead of humans click on ads purchased on a CPC basis.
“Traffic which is not the result of genuine interest from a desired human user, including malware generated traffic, non-human (bot) traffic and fraudulent traffic generation techniques – especially from traffic exchanges – is costing online advertisers and their partners, tens of billions of dollars in wasted impressions,” says Dr. Barford, also a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Wisconsin. “MdotLabs has developed campaign security analytics that provide highly accurate and timely detection of invalid impression and click activity for both online and mobile traffic. Our AdSecure Platform will assure campaign protection for brands and agencies.”
“We are already saving brands millions of dollars annually by working directly with their agencies and DSP partners to remove wasted ad spend,” says Yarnall. ”We’re happy to release this research as a way to further industry efforts to remove invalid activity, and look forward to releasing additional case studies and research on an ongoing basis.”
MdotLabs, launched in late July, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Broadcast Interactive Media (BIM), a leading digital ad network and data services provider of revenue and technical solutions to online publishers and a trusted resource for hundreds of local broadcasters and media sites worldwide. MdotLabs’ AdSecure Platform is used by BIM to help its media clients track and eliminate invalid traffic.
MdotLabs is privately funded, based in Madison, WI, with offices in San Francisco.
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