Google announced in a blog post that it will issue refunds to companies whose advertisements were viewed by bots instead of humans; some of its advertising partners will do the same.
The problem with buying adverts online is the risk of spending their money and getting nothing back for it — it’s entirely possible that their adverts will run on sites whose traffic is fraudulent, and their views are never seen by real people, only bots who won’t care what adverts are showing. According to a report released in May by the Association of National Advertisers and WhiteOps, a fraud detection firm, approximately $6.5 billion will be wasted by fraud this year alone.
Initially, Google was only willing to issue refunds of the “platform fee” for people who purchased ads through its DoubleClick Big Manager Tool. This, however, only amounted to approximately seven to ten percent of all revenue, as most of the money involved went to online ad exchanges rather than Google itself, where auctions take place in real time to sell adverts on specific sites.
Google has now said that a number of these exchanges will work with them to issue full refunds in instances of illegitimate traffic, including AppNexus, Open X, Teads, Index Exchange and Telaria. Together, they cover “over 90 percent of the available inventory in DoubleClick Bid Manager.” Ian Davidson of Open X said they were happy to work with Google to get rid of the problem:
At OpenX, we believe it is the responsibility of every participant in the market to commit to providing a high quality, transparent and fraud free advertising marketplace. The industry must work together to advance a clean, well-lit ecosystem to be successful in eliminating the scourge of fraud from the market. We are pleased to partner with DoubleClick on this important effort to cut off funding for criminal actors and advance trust for our entire industry.
Not only would full refunds be issued, but Google is implementing systems to further detect fraudulent traffic before advertisers can be affected in the first place, including “over 180 automated filters and detection algorithms.” For those that slip through, refunds will then be issued automatically.
Google will also issue data from invalid traffic to the advertisers themselves, with breakdowns issued for categories such as “data center traffic, automated browsers, and falsely represented inventory.” This should provide greater transparency to those affected, and help prevent further invalid activity.