New Findings Expose Huge Risks for Online Advertisers
Few marketers are aware that the digital advertising industry faces a serious dilemma stemming from weak inventory oversight and, in many cases, outright fraud.
A shocking new report from Google reveals that a majority 56.1 percent of all ads on the Internet are never viewed by humans because they appear outside the viewable area of the browser screen. Although this alarming trend is limited to a small number of publishers who serve up most of the non-viewable impressions, the average publisher's viewing rate is still just a paltry 50.2 percent.
In other words, half of all paid online ads are never seen. Imagine if half of all online purchases were never delivered—consumers and businesses alike would be justifiably outraged.
Perhaps more troubling is a recent study from the Association of National Advertisers, which found that advertisers will squander $6.3 billion on fraudulent ads in 2015. In one case, the ANA report found that a respected lifestyle publisher served up 98 percent of an advertiser's video ads to online bots, which are software robots that automate simple online tasks. Of the 4,000 total video impressions from that placement, less than 100 were served to real people. The rest of the pages were opened by mindless robot scripts.
On average, the study found that bots made up more than half of all purchased traffic, and 11 percent of all display ad traffic. These bot impressions were largely drawn from traffic that premium websites had purchased from third-party sources. One insidious form of fraud is known as ad injection, in which browser extensions insert ads into publisher websites without the publisher's knowledge or approval.
Most cases of fraud involve ads viewed on desktop computers because bots are less prevalent on mobile devices. The relative inventory of robot code is also very high for video content.