back to article Digital ad biz is fraudulent by design, complain big brands

Global trade body the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) has produced a useful guide to the digital ad industry's toxic sludge. The WFA represents the biggest spenders on digital advertising, such as Unilever and MasterCard, and they're not happy. Advertisers lose out from ad fraud, and firms need to clean up their own act …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Digital ad biz is fraudulent by design

    1. bazza Silver badge

      An additional shabby side of the business is the publishers, and their ability to artificially expand the advertising market.

      Ever Growing Vista

      Physical advertising space (bill boards, magazines, etc) is limited. There's only so many places to print an advert.

      These days, all Google (or whoever) have to do is invent some other "feature" for their websites, and it simply becomes another place in which advertisers have to place adverts for fear of "not being seen". Of course, getting your business advertised on a map, in search results, etc. all costs money, and a new digital advertising vista requires extra money.

      And who pays for advertising? The consumer always pays for it. An advertiser's budget is drawn from the company revenues, which come from the goods sold in the shops/online/etc, bought by you an me.

      How Much Does It Cost Me?

      The UK digital advertising market is about £8billion a year. It's easy to calculate what share of that you're paying every year, regardless of what tech you own, use or see. Let me see, £8 billion, approx 40 million workers in the UK, = £200 per year.

      Overall advertising has gone up £5billion in the last 10 years, and is about £425 per year for every worker.

      Is it Really Worth it?

      Given that the sole aim of a company like Google is to increase that number even more, how long before people start noticing? You spend a few hundred quid on a phone, and it then costs you (indirectly) another £200 a year. So if Google managed to increase that to £500/year, or £1000/year, would that be OK?

      Is all this tech worth one, two month's mortgage payments? How long before digital advertising accounts for a significant proportion of a family's annual budget?

      We're all spending a lot on adverts that we generally don't want to see, annoys us a lot when we see them, and costs us whether or not we use anything funded through ads.

      Market Intervention

      With a lot of that advertising revenue flowing out of the country to the US (well, Ireland where it's resting in an account, name of Criley), is there any macro-economic benefit from advertising at all? I don't know. But if a government decides that it's an economic menace they will have to step in and change the rules of the game. Unless the mobile network operators and ISP get really good at ad-blocking first.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. asdf

      what's in a word

      Advertising and public relations sounds so much better than propaganda huh? Both are using the latest advances in social psychology to manipulate the unwashed masses. You know kind of like Mick sang about in how white our shirt's could be 50 years ago. Keep believing it doesn't work on you when your choice of words has been manipulated without you even realizing it.

      1. asdf

        Re: what's in a word

        The one I heard about recently is the phrase car accident instead of car crash (as in I was in an accident instead of I was in a crash). Automakers worked their asses off for you to say the former because guess which one sounds nicer and deflects any blame about anything unsafe about the car? Accidents happen right? Kind of disgusting how some of the founders of psychology where some of the first to go into advertising/PR. Time to cash in baby.

        1. M7S

          Re: what's in a word

          The police in the UK have changed from referring to something as a Road Traffic Accident to Road Traffic Collision. The reasoning was that if you called something an accident, it could be subsequently difficult to hold someone legally accountable regarding negligence as by definition an accident has no intent behind it.

          Their view is a collision is almost always someone's fault, be that poor driving, the actions of another road user, the mechanic who didn't fix the car or whoever spilled something in the road etc etc. Logically in the future that will encompass the person who programmed your autonomous vehicle, which should be interesting.....

          1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

            Re: what's in a word

            I note that cases of children getting hold of guns in America and killing themselves or others are usually labelled in some quarters as "tragic accident" to hide the gross negligence and criminal irresponsibility which lies behind what has occurred.

          2. asdf

            Re: what's in a word

            Going to get some downvotes but honest since when do UK law enforcement believe in correctly appropriating blame? Their history on such matters leave a little to be desired. Yes the US isn't a lot better but at least they didn't victim blame when that illegal roadhouse caught fire and killed 90 some people a bit over a decade ago unlike Hillsborough.

        2. Tom Womack

          Re: what's in a word

          That's hardly recent, and it may well be an aspect of culture clash - it's an important plot point, breaking down the relationship between backwoods American boy and outback Australian girl, in _Beyond the Black Stump_ in 1956.

  2. channel extended

    The Advertisers...

    Just found out that nobody brought the lube!

  3. FF22

    Oh, the horror

    So what they're practically complaining about is that online advertising suffers from the very same problems (albeit probably in a reduced rate and effect), than does traditional advertising or practically any real world business.

    Where for ex. print magazines print more copies than they sell, or claim higher readership than they actually have, so they can charge more for the ads. And where sellers regularly try to screw over their customers for financial gain.

    And that while they (ie. the adveristers) don't even try to shun "bad apples", but are happy to advertise on any illegal or semi-illegal site as long as it gives them the results they're looking for.

    Also, when your ads don't work, don't blame the messenger for it! It's most likely because the product you're trying to sell is simply not competitive or even just good enough, and/or because your ad is plain out misleading. That's the primary reason why your clicks don't convert to sales - not because click fraud would be so rampant.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Anyone in the online ad biz knows it is mostly bullshit, yet it blindly continues. A little jail time for the big offenders might wake some folks up.

    A related story. Used a press release service that said it submitted the release to hundreds of news sites. Turns out, what they were doing is screen scraping the header and footer of the sites and plopping my release in a site they owned to make it look like the release was on a major site. Their control panel showed everything was running fantastic and it even had the links to click for TV and major news publishers everywhere so I could see my release on, you know, the real site, except it wasn't real. All it took to find out about the scraping and fake site, was to go to the actual TV or news site and do a search for my release. hmmm, not there. Go back to the control panel version and have a little look at the HTML and WTF ensued... Oh, and they were a "reputable" PR service.

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: Yehhp

      Reputable PR service - oxymoron I assume

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    The World Federation of Advertisers

    Can fuck right off.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The World Federation of Advertisers

      Now tell us what you really think.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down

        Re: The World Federation of Advertisers

        I think that the World Federation of Advertisers

        Can continue to fuck right off.

        1. Commswonk

          Re: The World Federation of Advertisers

          To quote from the original article: Advertisers lose out from ad fraud

          Every cloud has a silver lining.

          Perhaps there really is a God after all.

          1. VinceH

            Re: The World Federation of Advertisers

            Nah, I do have sympathy for the advertisers - the bottom line is that they're just businesses with products to sell. The problem is, and always has been, the lowlifes sitting between the advertisers and us; the agencies and anyone else involved in getting the companies' adverts onto pages we view.

            We've known for some time that when it comes to online advertising we, the end users, are victims because of the effect it has on the pages we view, not to mention the malvertising issue.

            Now we know we aren't the only victims - the companies with products to sell are being taken for a ride as well.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: The World Federation of Advertisers

              "Now we know we aren't the only victims - the companies with products to sell are being taken for a ride as well."

              Have you only just realised that?

              1. VinceH

                Re: The World Federation of Advertisers

                No, I haven't. The magic word is "know" - previously, I was just guessing that.

  6. a_yank_lurker

    Pot meet Kettle

    Is the pot saying the kettle is black?

    1. FlossyThePig

      Re: Pot meet Kettle

      Are we allowed to use the word "black" now? Isn't the kettle now "of colour"

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Video ads not seen by a human...

    Sometimes just by sheer incompetence.

    I'm quite sure the video ads on the MetOffice website run continuously, for hours on end (judging by the data usage), even when off the bottom of the screen "below the fold" - and maybe even if they're on an open browser tab which is not at the fore.

    There's still loads of malicious "driver download" ads on youtube.

    Web advertising is broken.

    1. Mark 85

      Re: Video ads not seen by a human...

      A recent article here on El Reg talked about the lawsuit against AdSense... seems they were putting ads on parked domains and 404 pages where no one would ever see them but then charging for doing so. (Ok.. allegedly doing so...)

  8. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Meanwhile the rest of us are shunning the mess that is online advertising while the WFA continues rearranging the deckchairs...

  9. Bob Dole (tm)

    Just making sure I understand..

    An industry built upon soley on the idea of using *not quite lies* to induce people to buy a product is somehow also duping the companies that use them?

    Somehow I don't think it would take Sherlock to have figured that out.

  10. John Lilburne

    Could someone remind me who ...

    ... is the biggest provider of fraudulent ads?

  11. Peter Prof Fox

    Ads? What are they?

    I use an adblocker and (noscript of course) to reduce everyone's overheads. The advertisers should be paying me!

    1. Dadmin

      Re: Ads? What are they?

      It's similar to the older video game market; the console makers get huge margins on the game software, so much so they could easily subsidize the console itself making it essentially free, and they still clean up on the games. Only now they have a HUGE market, not just the core gamers, etc. But do any try this? Hell no! Their board of directors does not understand gifting hardware to boost software sales. Not one fucking bit.

      Adverts are nothing but smoke for my ass. I don't need any of it. If they want me to "pay attention" to a product; give me the product free, or pay me to watch ads. I don't pay Dish Network to deliver ads into my home at my expense anymore. They used to charge me $90/month for a package of 200 stations where I only want 5, and all with PLENTY of adverts, helping gift the producers, station owners, Dish+dog, etc, and not me. They can jolly well pay to invade my home with shitvertizing from now on. Or I don't view. These are MY eyeballs. You can't get in front of them for free anymore.

  12. ecofeco Silver badge

    Grifters with suits

    Advertising is a big scam? I'm shocked.


  13. Christopher Reeve's Horse

    I've said it before, and I'll say it again...

    We're currently experiencing a massive advertising economic bubble, and I'm not going to be particularly upset when it pops.

    Hopefully more clients will realise they're pouring money down a massively fraudulent, manipulated and ineffective black hole, and they'll stop. It's becoming toxic, much like sub-prime debt in 07/08.

    The advertising agencies are acting much like the banks did a few years ago, they're selling products enthusiastically under an increasingly false pretense. I wouldn't be surprised if some advertising agencies were actually behind some of the fraudulent activity as a way of bolstering a failing market. To quote from earlier, "they can fuck right off".

    I don't think I've ever clicked on an advert on purpose, certainly never followed one to the point of making a purchase, and I'm not aware of many people who do, so what is with all this shit that keeps blocking up my internet!

  14. Mike Moyle

    Somewhat off-topic, I suppose, but nonetheless...

    Every time one of these advertising-related stories comes up, I am always reminded of a scene from E.E. "Doc" Smith's 1950 space-opera novel "First Lensman".

    Virgil Samms, the first wearer of a telepathic device -- the Lens -- has traveled to the planet Rigel 4 to meet with a native off that planet. A car has been sent to take him to the meeting. The car is without windows, since the Rigellians have, instead of sight, a "Sense of Perception". Samms, using his lens, goes en rapport with his Rigellian driver:


    The darkness vanished; through the unexplainable perceptive sense of the Rigellian he could "see" everything -- he had a practically perfect three-dimensional view of the entire circumambient sphere. He could see both the inside and the outside of the ground car he was in and of the immense space-ship in which he had come to Rigel. He could see the bearings and the wrist-pins of the internal-combustion engine of the car, the interior structure of the welds that held the steel plates together, the busy airport outside, and even deep into the ground. He could see and study in detail the deepest-buried, most heavily shielded parts of the atomic engines of the Chicago.


    The car travels down a highway towards the meeting-place...


    "What are those mounds along the streets?" For some time Samms had been conscious of those long, low, apparently opaque structures; attracted to them because they were the only non-transparent objects within range of the Rigellian's mind. "Or is it something I should not mention?"

    "What? -- Oh, those? By no means."

    One of the near-by mounds lost its opacity. It was filled with swirling, gyrating bands and streamers of energy so vivid and so solid as to resemble fabric; with wildly hurtling objects of indescribable shapes and contours; with brilliantly flashing symbols which Samms found, greatly to his surprise, made sense-not through the Rigellian's mind, but through his own Lens:


    "Advertising!" Samms' thought was a snort.

    "Advertising. You do not perceive yours, either, as you drive?" This was the first bond to be established between two of the most highly advanced races of the First Galaxy!

  15. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    I'm reminded of the old saying that 50% of all advertising is wasted, but you never know which 50% that actually is.

    Looks like now it's also "50% of all digital advertising is fraudulent, but you never know which 50%".

    My heart bleeds.

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