Who’s Riding on the Botmobile?

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WhiteOps, specialists in Bot detection, and the Association of National Advertisers have released a new study they could have called Terminator 5: The Rise of the Machines. Investigators say they expected to find bogus websites with nothing but a Bot audience, but in truth they didn’t uncover many—just thousands among the 3 million websites the study covered! What they did discover is that most Bots go to real websites visited by real people—and there they inflate monetized audiences by 5 to 50%. They predict the price tag for advertisers in 2015 for Bot incursions will total around $6.3 billion.

Focusing on 35 major brand advertisers, the study found that while organized crime is often behind the Bot biz, the execution of the fraud happens on home computers that have been hacked. Fully 67% of the Bot traffic came from home IP addresses. Some Bots could even take over mouse movements, slipping the cursor over ads.

The report details one instance when a biggie lifestyle publisher served 98% of an advertiser’s video ads to Bots: That meant out of 4,000 total video impressions, only 100 were actually served to humans.

Overall the study found that about 52% of purchased traffic is from Bots. And Bot traffic spiked between midnight and 6 a.m. and on weekends. Michael Tiffany, co-founder and CEO of WhiteOps, calls the Bot traffic “ongoing economic warfare.”

But as startling as the findings were, there are digital media companies, such as Kitara Media, that provide safety and security for digital video advertisers. According to Kitara Media CEO, Bob Regular, Kitara Media is able to protect brands by preventing inappropriate impressions with users, and is constantly working against bots and auto-clicking server farms—so advertisers receive real results from real people for their video advertising dollars.

Clearly it’s a potentially tricky to get reliable results for your online advertising dollar, but finding the right partner can go a long way to overcoming the bad Bot business. You just need to find someone you click with.

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