Digital Ad Malpractices Investigated by Augustine Fou Technical Forensics


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Digital ad fraud can involve black hat techniques which deliberately steal ad dollars from brands; there are other gray hat techniques which artificially inflate traffic and ad impression numbers for profit.

Published in: Marketing, Technology, Design

Digital Ad Malpractices Investigated by Augustine Fou Technical Forensics

  1. 1. Digital Advertising Malpractices Dr. Augustine Fou February 2014 -1- Augustine Fou
  2. 2. Black Hat Techniques -2- Augustine Fou
  3. 3. Extreme Ad Load -3- Augustine Fou
  4. 4. Ads in Hidden iFrames Ads are hidden in up to 72 layers Entire web pages are loaded into ad iframes to boost impressions Multiple redirects and auto page refreshes Source: May 2, 2013 -4- Augustine Fou
  5. 5. False “Viewability” Ads are above the fold of the page But their pixel opacity can be set to zero (invisible) Entire web pages stuffed into ad iframe; ads counted as viewable Source: May 2, 2013 -5- Augustine Fou
  6. 6. Bots Generate Impressions Source: Wired -6- Augustine Fou
  7. 7. Sell Fake Impressions “ and Each of these sites peddles enormous traffic on the exchanges. For example, on a recent day Modern Baby was offering 19 million impressions via one exchange (quite the baby boom) and Interior Complex 30 million [ad impressions PER DAY] (the roaring housing market must be back).” Source: Adweek – Suspicious Web Domains Cost Online Ad Business $400m per Year Peak unique users 141k per month -7- Peak unique users 115k per moth Augustine Fou
  8. 8. Traffic Firehose On/Off Source: Alexa Legit human traffic does not change rapidly; but bot traffic (firehose) can be rapidly turned off and directed to other sites. -8- Augustine Fou
  9. 9. Traffic Charts Normal traffic vs Fake traffic FAKE traffic is the same across several sites (corresponds to what was purchased) Normal traffic differs from site to site -9- Augustine Fou
  10. 10. Cookie Stuffing – Affiliate Revenue Share Fraud Since 2004, I've been tracking and reporting all manner of rogue affiliates -- using spyware and adware to cover competitors' sites; using trickier spyware and adware to claim commission on merchants' organic traffic; typosquatting; stuffing cookies through invisible IFRAME's and IMG's, banner ads, and even hacked forum sites; and the list goes on. - 10 - Source: Ben Edelman Augustine Fou
  11. 11. Gray Hat Techniques - 11 - Augustine Fou
  12. 12. Autoplay Video Ads Multiple video ads auto-played simultaneously on the same page. - 12 - Augustine Fou
  13. 13. Autoplay Video Takeover Autoplayed T-mobile video ad in full page takeover. - 13 - Augustine Fou
  14. 14. Proven Click Bait Pictures which are designed to get the user to click, and then click through nearly the entire 40 image gallery to find said image. - 14 - Augustine Fou
  15. 15. Galleries of Images Every click to the next image loads a new ad impression. - 15 - Augustine Fou
  16. 16. Auto Refresh Ads Inflating ad impressions served Same page, but ads are auto-refreshed every 2 mins; 7 more ad impressions - 16 - Augustine Fou
  17. 17. Duplicate Loading comScore Searched for the following on Google "<script> var _comscore = _comscore || []; _comscore.push({ c1: "2", c2: "4000003", c3: "4000003", c4: window.location.href, c5: "", c6: "", c15: "" });" Which is the comScore beacon from the page source of Google shows about 200 results with the same beacon code “4000003” - 17 - Augustine Fou
  18. 18. Ghost Sites to Inflate Traffic Quantcast reports 105 sites that use the Complex Quantcast tag (part of their network) Our data shows 382 sites using the same quantcast tag (which inflates actual traffic counts). - 18 - Augustine Fou
  19. 19. Ghost Sites to Inflate Traffic Quantcast reports 26 sites that use the Complex Quantcast tag (part of their network) Our data shows 278 sites using the same quantcast tag (which inflates actual traffic counts). - 19 - Augustine Fou
  20. 20. Related Articles Bad Guys Happily Rob Display Advertisers By: Augustine Fou, July 23, 2012 Everything Fake (Display Ad Fraud, Search Click Fraud) By: Augustine Fou, April 2013 Blacklisting vs Whitelisting By: Augustine Fou, October 2013 Fake Profiles on Facebook By: Augustine Fou, July 2013 How Display Ad Fraud Works By: Augustine Fou, May 2013 - 20 - Augustine Fou
  21. 21. Dr. Augustine Fou – Digital Consigliere “I advise clients on optimizing advertising across all channels. One aspect of this is detecting waste and fraud; and then taking steps to mitigate it.” FORMER CHIEF DIGITAL OFFICER, HCG (OMNICOM) MCKINSEY CONSULTANT CLIENT SIDE / AGENCY SIDE EXPERIENCE PROFESSOR AND COLUMNIST ENTREPRENEUR / SMALL BUSINESS OWNER PHD MATERIALS SCIENCE (MIT '95) AT AGE 23 ClickZ Articles: Slideshares: LinkedIn: - 21 - @acfou Augustine Fou