There are plenty of answers to this question, but in the context of online advertising, the answer lies with the delightfully named bots, non-human traffic and ghost websites.
As advertising networks (like Google) introduced revenue sharing for host websites that carry programmatically bought ads, inevitably fraud began to creep in.
Except it has not so much crept in as bounded in at full pelt: the current estimate is that c.$7.2bn per year is being wasted by advertisers worldwide.
Vast networks of organised, sophisticated criminals are using highly intelligent, machine-learning robots that ape human behaviour online. These machines engage digitally with ad networks, fooling them into believing that not only has the booked advert appeared on a genuine website, but that it has been viewed and clicked as well. In some cases, it’s nothing more advanced than a web page that has no content, dozens of adverts and is sat on a server in a room on its own somewhere, constantly refreshing. At the other end of the spectrum is tech so sophisticated and complex that it is even possible to simulate a goal on the advertiser’s website.
At best, an advertiser is paying for fake traffic and advertising spend is lost. At worst, branded adverts are appearing on pornographic or terrorist-related sites that are using it as an income source.
Keeping up to date with the scammers and their schemes is an essential part of the media agency’s remit. At Space & Time we take your budgets and your brand safety extremely seriously. We invest in an array of tech to ensure that when we place your brand in other people’s hands, it’s as safe as possible. Rather than simply look at where ads have appeared after the fact, and then claim back the ad spend for those impressions and blacklist those sites for future campaigns, we’re able to overlay security with our ad server and intervene pre-bid, before the damage is done. We can make sure that your ad is not shown anywhere inappropriate in the first place.
We are active in this tech marketplace, knowledgeable in its application and invested in its success: your Account Director will be able to discuss how best to leverage the necessary security tools for your next campaign.