Adtech, privacy, fraud control: pick two?
This is based on a couple of questions about adtech
fraud that have come up on mailing lists and in private
You know how half
of online ad money is being stolen by con men and
swindlers? And, at the same time, people are
talking about how to make online advertising work in
a more privacy-sensitive way?
It looks as if it's impossible for adtech as we know
it to do both. We can't go directly from today's
online ad environment to one that protects privacy.
Current adtech has kicked out some of the essential
supports, so a privacy-sensitive online ad business is
going to have to rebuild some important connections.
Just to review, here's the fundamental value
proposition of adtech.
The fundamental value proposition of these
ad tech companies who are de-anonymizing the Internet
is, "Why spend big CPMs on branded sites when I can get
them on no-name sites?"
That's from Michael
Tiffany, CEO of an adtech security firm called
Here's the same explanation
from the publisher's point of view. Alexis
The ad market, on which we all depend,
started going haywire. Advertisers didn't have to
buy The Atlantic. They could buy ads on
networks that had dropped a cookie on people visiting
The Atlantic. They could snatch our audience right
out from underneath us.
With me so far? Yes, adtech proponents are going
to try to snow you with talk about Big Data and
disruption and all that jibber-jabber, but the object
of the game from the adtech point of view is to track
the users well enough that advertisers don't have
to pay for reputable content.
Can't tell the players without a scorecard
Player one is the adtech firms. Their role
in the game is relatively simple. First,
move ad budgets away from high-value sites to
cheaper ones, you know, the sites that run a
bunch of crappy, infringing, violent, or otherwise Bad
content. And track the same users from
reputable to bottom-feeder sites. Adtech firms are all selling
essentially the same
thing. (Of course, they dress it up with technological-sounding
language but the premise
is simple. Writers cost money. Everybody
needs money. Therefore, take money away from
Player two is the actual advertisers, the clients.
For now, just think of them as the parents who are
eventually going to come home and discover the party
and the credit card receipts.
Player three: the users. The
conventional wisdom is that
a choice between dancing pigs and
security, users will pick dancing pigs every
time, and the same goes for privacy. But a Pew
Research Center study has found that 86 percent
of US Internet users
have taken steps online to
remove or mask their digital footprints. And People
Are Changing Their Internet Habits Now That They Know
The NSA Is Watching.
Privacy tools are getting easier. Here's the most
promising trend. Google and Microsoft, two companies
that both make browsers and do adtech, are looking
to replace the cookie with a new identifier.
Instead of trying to micromanage cookies, privacy
software developers will be able to deal with a single
big target. Just scramble or block a single Google
identifier and a single Microsoft one. (Facebook will
probably do one, too.) Other companies, though, may
go with sneaky browser fingerprinting, which
requires fixing a bunch of bugs to deal with. But if
Google and Microsoft are both staying away from this
technique, it will be easier for those fixes to make
it through the browser development process.
Now player four. The fraud rings. Remember the
bottom-feeder publishers on which adtech depends?
Well, as you might expect, many of them are
We fill up our site with infringing
copies of other people's content, but we play it
totally honest with our ad networks, said no
Google has everyone else in the game outclassed
technically, but some of the ad fraud gangs have
been able to score a few points against even Google.
And if you can hang with Google, you can clobber the adtech ankle-biters.
More examples in the bonus links below. The deeper
you dig, the more fraud you find.
As Jack Marshall points
Manufacturers of false traffic intimately
understand the performance indicators on which
agencies are paid and know exactly how to game the
system without making it obvious as a result. As
Kuntz pointed out, that can lead to agencies tweaking
campaigns and reallocating budgets based on completely
false information, and they have little idea they’re
doing so. Agencies are just following the numbers.
If you're working
for an agency, you're pwned. Fraud rings
are inside your OODA Loop. When you see the
major industry publication, Ad Age, run the subhead Metrics,
Fraud and Piracy Remain Concerns in the
Marketplace, that basically means HOLY SHIT
THEY'RE ROBBING US BLIND.
Wait a minute, though. Adtech firms
need to get more data in order to get a
handle on fraud. But they need to get less
data in order to give users some privacy and make
online ads work better. As a matter of fact,
the adtech business needs to do three things at the
Take money away from reputable sites and
Give users some privacy, because spam carries no
Limit the amount of fraud in the system before the
clients lose their patience.
But this might be one of those "pick two"
situations. Right now the industry has picked
option 1 already, and is trying for 3. That means
throw away 2. So the current trend is toward Peak Advertising.
The medium will eventually get burned out, like
email spam. That would be a shame.
If you agree with me that you can't
have effective advertising without
user privacy, and with Eaon Pritchard that the
great thing about brand advertising is exactly that
it is unable to deliver precision targeting and lacks
quantifiable ROI., then the choice is whether
you want to throw away 1 or 3. If you give up on 3,
then the whole system falls apart when the fraud gets
too obvious for the clients. After all, if a user has
good enough privacy tech, there's no way to tell him
or her from any other user, or from a bot.
Which leaves the option that looks to me like the
sound one. Keep 2 and 3, and give up on ripping off
the writers. Of course, this means abandoning the
fundamental value proposition of adtech, so that means
giving up on the whole creepy industry and building
a new one.
BOB HOFFMAN: eBay: Paid Search Is Worthless
Tim Peterson: AOL Will Launch Ad-Tech 'Upfront' In Hopes Of Challenging Google
John: New York Times “Don’t Track Us” Editorial includes 19 Digital Trackers
Adam Tanner, Contributor: Here's The Most Amusing Way To Learn The Depressing News About Your Vanishing Privacy
Zach Rodgers: Could A Nasdaq-Style Glitch Bring Ad Trading To Its Knees?
Matthew Gertner: Advertisers Should Love AdBlock Plus
Doing Good in the Addiction Economy | Kaj Sotala
Judith Aquino: Mozilla Opens Up On Cookie-Blocking, Ad Targeting
Kelly Liyakasa: Battle Lines Drawn: We’re Not All About Blocking Ads, Says No. 1 Ad Blocker
Ben Williams: An open letter to Twitter
John Koetsier: Adblock Plus whitelists less than 10% of sites that apply (like Reddit)
Matt Kapko: Fake Display Ad Impressions Comprise 30% of All Online Traffic [Study]
Jack Marshall: Here Come The Bots: Assessing the Latest Ad Fraud Fear
Ian Bogost: What Is 'Evil' to Google?
Brian Fung: The Internet’s best hope for a Do Not Track standard is falling apart. Here’s why.
Adam Tanner, Contributor: Google And Facebook Get A Thumbs Down From This New Site That Reviews Privacy Policies
BOB HOFFMAN: Insights That Lead Nowhere
Venkat Balasubramani: Google Wins Cookie Privacy Lawsuit
Jack Marshall: Inside Ad Tech Fraud: Confessions of a Fake Web Traffic Buyer
Evgeny Morozov: Why We Are Allowed To Hate Silicon Valley
BOB HOFFMAN: The Scam What Am
The Tech Block: 1.2% of apps on Google Play are repackaged to deliver ads, collect info
BOB HOFFMAN: Astounding News From Moronsville
David Kaplan: Bots Are Hot, But Publishers And Advertisers Are Cold To Combating The Situation
Adam Tanner, Contributor: The Revolutionary Way Marketers Read Your Financial Footprints
BOB HOFFMAN: Delighting In Digital Dumbness
Eric Picard: How targeted advertising can be saved
Mike Shields: Questionable Traffic Seems to Follow This Video Company Everywhere
Kence Anderson: Stop the Family Feud: How Agencies, Ad-Tech Vendors and Brands Can Be Friends
John Naughton: Here's how data thieves have captured our lives on the internet
Syndicated 2014-01-05 14:22:52 from Don Marti