Finding Accountability in Advertising

By now it is becoming abundantly clear, digital display advertising is fraught with fraud and deception. The early promise that digital marketing would bring unprecedented accountability to advertising has evaporated into thin air. Where can you turn for advertising accountability?

Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg’s has announced that his New Year’s resolution is to start doing his job and fix Facebook! Zuckerberg is referring to the mounting evidence that Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms are plagued by fake news, phony user accounts, hate speech and advertising fraud, creating an unfavorable marketing environment for local business owners.

Zuckerberg and Facebook have been slow to respond to the growing problem of fraud and lack of accountability, repeatedly reporting that there isn’t a problem only later to admit that there is a problem and it is much bigger than advertisers  originally thought.

Digital advertising fraud is a big problem for advertisers. According to the Association of National Advertisers, their research indicates that approximately 60 percent of all digital display ad budgets are lost to fraud.

Digital advertising fraud comes in three forms, nonhuman traffic (bots), zero change of being seen (zero percent viewability) and intentional misrepresentation. All are designed to charge advertisers more money for reach they never receive.

Bot traffic is used to run up advertising costs by generating fake impressions (pageviews) and fake clicks. Fraudsters go so far as to generate fake form submissions that translate into fake conversions which cost the advertiser even more money.

Another way the advertiser gets ripped off is when websites “hide” ads so that they fit the criterion of having “zero chance of being seen” by a human visitor in a couple of ways.

The first is way to deploy display ads that won’t get seen is a technique called “ad stacking” or “impression stacking.” This is when a publisher hides a display ad behind another display ad, the publisher generates multiple impressions for a single pageview, but only the top ad is visible.

Some publishers create invisible iframes to intentionally hide ads. When ads are loaded in invisible (1 pixel by 1 pixel) iframes, one or more impressions with no chance of ever being seen are generated.

The list of fraudulent techniques to run up statistics and charge advertisers more money that they should pay is long and technical. You’ll hear names like Arbitrage, Domain Spoofing, Site Bundling, Ad Injection and Cookie Stuffing.

But digital advertising fraud also has a human component.

Click Farms pay real people to click on ads and fill out forms to create worthless impressions, clicks and conversions.

In 2016, Facebook, Google and other large digital companies were criticized for a lack of transparency in how they measure the performance of video ads. Facebook admitted to advertisers that the average time users spent viewing online ads was artificially inflated.

And don’t think the big players are immune from such problems. Trend Micro has identified that hackers have infused malware in Google’s DoubleClick advertising service to serve ads to consumers that contain cryptocurrency mining software that can rob you of your computer’s processing power.

Radio advertising is safe haven for the local business owner and their advertising message. You work with local people from your community to create a custom commercial about your business. The Radio station can give you a schedule of when your commercials will be on the air so you yourself can confirm that your commercials were broadcast.

AM & FM Radio have more than 249 million listeners every week. That’s more listeners in the United States than Facebook or Twitter have users.

The average AM & FM Radio listener spends two hours and forty five minutes listening every day.

If you want more accountability in your advertising, call up your favorite Radio station and ask them to come talk to you about the most effective way to reach more people, more frequently for less money than any other major advertising option.

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