It turns out Sambreel, the notorious adware provider that everyone thought had been quashed is still going strong. The London-based Web traffic analysis firm, spider.io, has found Sambreel, operating under the guise of companies named Yontoo and Alactro, is injecting video and display ad slots into YouTube pages. In an analysis of over 1 billion video ad impressions sold through non-Google ad exchanges, spider.io found that over 15 percent of the inventory were ad slots injected into YouTube by Sambreel.
As spider.io recounts in its latest blog post on this issue, back in 2011, Sambreel released adware browser plugins, PageRage and BuzzDock, that hijacked Facebook and Google ad inventory. Facebook then blocked users with Sambreel’s browser plugins installed, and many ad platforms and exchanges blacklisted Sambreel as a display ad inventory supplier in 2012. Sambreel fell off the radar.
Now, here we are in 2013 looking at a similar perpetration. This time, Sambreel has issued two new plugins with consumer-friendly names, Easy YouTube Video Downloader and Best Video Downloader, that are aimed at hijacking YouTube ad inventory — display and video. When installed on a user’s computer, the plugins are able to bypass Google’s ad-quality requirements and inject ad slots throughout YouTube.com when those users visit the site. Just during their review, spider.io found over 3.5 million installations of these plugins.
Sambreel has skirted its ban by the ad exchanges and sell-side platforms by setting up new properties that, on the surface, look like independent supply-side exchanges.
This marks the first time that video advertisers are affected by Sambreel’s adware. Because CPMs for video ads are typically higher than display ad CPMs, spider.io CEO Douglas de Jaeger says some publishers are performing a particularly nifty kind of arbitrage by purchasing display ad inventory from display ad exchanges and then turning around and selling those same ad slots as if they were video inventory to video ad exchanges, at the higher rates. Sambreel’s ad slots are now among the inventory being sold to video advertisers through non-Google ad exchanges.
Walmart, Time Warner Cable and the Wall Street Journal are among the advertisers spider.io found to be unknowingly buying the injected video ad slots. Below is a screenshot of a Snicker’s video ad in one of the Sambreel slots.
The spider.io team captured over a dozen instances injected display ad slots being purchased by high profile advertisers such as Dominos, Sprint, Amazon, American Airlines, Marriott and Toyota. Here is an example of an injected display ad spot.
Sambreel’s latest scheme hurts YouTube and its publishers more than advertisers — they are the parties losing ad revenue, while the ads are still seen by users. Still, the user experience is affected by ads being injected throughout the YouTube interface, and the ads are set to reload every 120 seconds. That’s probably not the branding experience advertisers have in mind.