Why online ad blockers may be doing marketers a favour

adblock_20101221While the marketing world frets about ‘ad blockers,’ highly popular apps that can edit out ads from mobiles and computers, there’s more evidence that rather fewer people than expected are looking at the things in the first place.

Some European researchers have found that Google has been charging advertisers for YouTube ad views that its own security system identified as fake, emanating from ‘bots,’ computer programmes that mimic the behaviour of internet users.

Google says it’s looking into it, as you do: “The vast majority of invalid traffic is filtered from our systems before advertisers are ever charged.” But a vast majority can hide a multitude of sins.

Also recently we’ve had WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell fulminating about the way online ad views are clocked, pointing out that a ‘view’ is often less time than the ad takes to load. So you don’t actually have to look at the ad to ‘view’ it. Some companies sell purported online views for a few dollars – so do all these YouTube ‘hits’ actually exist?

With digital forecast by some to account for over half the world’s media market in the next couple of years and online video ad spend alone forecast to hit $15bn (of which YouTube currently takes $4bn) the extent of the problem is obvious.

But nobody seems to want to do anything much about it. Agencies, like WPP, make huge revenues from programmatic ad sales and these wouldn’t be half so profitable if a human was in place to check for fraud. Onlime media owners obviously benefit hugely – as do the fraudsters.

Maybe the online ad blockers are actually doing marketers a favour. They can go back to spending their money somewhere where it will be seen.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.