Robots pilfering adspend

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Ad botAdvertisers get zero bang for the buck when they pay for a click that is not seen by human eyes. And bots are doing a lot of clicking, according to an Association of National Advertisers study.


Security company White Ops assisted ANA in assembling the report.

The top line number is alarming: a global price take of $6.3 billion dollars in advertising cash that was stolen by bots.

The survey measured 181 advertising campaigns launched by 36 different companies, featuring 5.5 billion impressions on some 3 million domains, over the course of 60 days.

ANA says there is reason for consumers to be concerned – 67% of the robotic ad clicks came from residential computers that had been hacked to carry out the dirty work.

According to the report, “After infiltrating home computers with malware, cybercriminals make real money from their victims by installing ad bots. By using the computers of real people—people who are logged in to Gmail, sharing on Facebook, and buying on Amazon—the bots do not just blend in, they get targeted.”

ANA noted that bots have been undetectable until recently, when new technologies have made it possible to reveal their presence.

Domain types attracting the most bot activity were in the finance, family and food categories.

The ANA/White Ops report offered the following advice for advertisers:

“Bot traffic percentages sometimes drop when bot suppliers become aware of scrutiny. Advertisers can potentially partially reduce the size of the bot problem simply by becoming aware of and active in eliminating fraud in their buys.

“Conversely, bots and bot fraud traffic patterns evolve and evade in response to scrutiny. Bot traffickers use every available tactic to hide bots among real users, making bot or human determination impossible without the use of bot detection technology.

“Other market sectors, such as financial services and retail, have learned through failure and significant losses that periodic audits and certifications are no substitute for continuous and advanced security measures.

“To both deter bot traffickers and defend against disguised bots, advertisers must deploy a dual-monitoring strategy: Monitor conspicuously to deter bot traffickers, and also monitor covertly to detect disguised bot traffic.”

According to the report, bots quickly adapt to tactics adopted to fight them.

ANA is calling for a concerted effort by the advertising community to fight the problem.

RBR-TVBR observation: Needless to say, broadcasters can use this sort of thing to their advantage. Robots may click on an internet ad, but they don’t turn on a TV or a radio.

The closest thing to this in the broadcast realm is when a broadcast receiver is left on for a period of time with nobody in the room except for a cat or a dog. Not a $6.3B problem.

When it comes to a station or broadcast group website, according to the study, the more original content the better. Bot activity is more severe on sites that have a lot of cut-and-paste content. Repetitious content – posting the same or very similar items more than once – is also a no-no. Following this advice will provide another benefit – a much more compelling website.