Suspicious traffic activity from non-human sources appears to be escalating along with rising display and online video advertising budgets. Solve Media estimates the global digital advertising industry is on pace to waste up to $9.5 billion in 2013 advertising to bots.
Suspicious web activity increased for both web and mobile advertising in the second quarter of 2013 according to the company’s latest Bot Traffic Market Advisory. The report finds that 43 to 46 percent of web advertising and 29 to 35 percent of mobile advertising traffic exhibited suspicious activity.
Bot traffic ranged between 24 to 29 percent for web advertising and 11 to 14 percent for mobile advertising. “Analysis has shown that bot traffic affecting the online advertising ecosystem has grown from 10% to at least 24% in less than a year,” said Adam O’Odonnell, a Solve Media council member.
China, Venezuela, and Ukraine had the highest levels of suspicious activity in display advertising. Suspicious mobile activity came most prominently from Singapore, Macau and Qatar.
In the US, suspicious activity reached 43 percent on the web and 22 percent on mobile. Suspicious activity was even higher in the UK, consuming 44 percent of web traffic and 32 percent of mobile traffic.
Ari Jacoby, CEO of Solve Media, says his team is keeping a close eye on the video ad marketplace where they’ve detected a new threat, but haven’t specified what that threat is. Just last month, the adware firm Sambreel was found to be injecting video and display ads on YouTube. The London-based traffic analysis outfit Spider.io found that over 15 percent of video ad impressions sold through non-Google ad exchanges were ad slots injected into YouTube by Sambreel.
I had contacted Douglas de Jager at spider.io to get his thoughts on these numbers in light of their enormity and the fact that they are published by a self-interested party. He was unavailable at the time of publication. In retrospect, I should have held the piece. However, de Jager did follow-up and has posted his thoughts on the study as a “frustrating example of disingenuous scaremongering” here. His thoughts in summary:
1. SolveMedia is a captcha company that shows a proprietary ad format in which there is a text box and the user needs to type in an answer to some question related to the ad; Engagement with the captcha ad format is not indicative of engagement with a traditional ad.
2. The company’s other product provides someone who wants to watch an online video the option of skipping the associated pre-roll ad by typing the advertiser’s brand message into a text box; If a user does not enter anything in the text box of a Pre-Roll Video TYPE-IN ad, then this does not mean that the user is automated.
3. To make matters even more perturbing, the company then extrapolated in some inexplicable way from a sample of 1.4 billion served captchas over two quarters this year and made a claim about the whole of the online display advertising industry.
In the same post, de Jager makes several suggestions for cleaning up the industry. Read more here: Spider.io Floats New Ideas For The IAB To Address “Systemic Failures” Of Display Advertising