Google among ad networks doing business with shady injector services

Rogue web plug-ins that inject their own content over the top of legitimate ads are still in widespread use by unscrupulous advertisers and Google, Yahoo and other major networks are keeping them in business, according to a recent study.

An ad injector is usually installed on an end-user's computer as part of a bundle in a free software download, according to Harvard Business School associate professor Ben Edelman and the founder of fraud detection service iPensatori, Wesley Brandi. Once active, the injector can modify the way the user's browser displays web pages, allowing advertisers to slap their own content onto any website they want even if it blocks out existing ads or violates a site's ad policies.

[MORE GOOGLE:Google fixes lengthy, widespread Gmail malfunction]

The companies behind the injectors have substantial advantages over legitimate advertisers, the authors noted injected ads tend to rate well on click-through and conversion analytics, and the fact that the injectors don't have to spend any money creating content of their own makes them even more profitable.

Moreover, the complexity, automation and large number of intermediaries present in the online ad market mean that it can be difficult to detect injector traffic, which means that both those intermediaries and the advertisers themselves may inadvertently contribute to the problem.

"For example, if traffic flows from an injector to intermediary A to B to C to D to an advertiser, the advertiser may never be told that it is actually buying injector traffic rather than (or in addition to) placements in genuine web sites," the study said.

Mainstream exchanges, advertisers and networks generally claim that they do not do business with injectors but Edelman and Brandi found that this claim is frequently untrue. The authors' observations of Google, Yahoo, AppNexus and Advertising.com, among many others, demonstrated that they do indeed handle injector traffic.

"Our data reveals a stark disconnect between advertising industry claims and actual practices," they wrote.

Speaking to Network World, Edelman urged ad exchanges to take a firmer stand against injectors, characterizing the practice as "stealing from publishers."

"There are more things they could be doing," he says. "One, having an official policy. Two, bringing that policy to everyone's attention any ad network selling any inventory through a Google ad exchange or an AppNexus ad exchange, they're privy to all kinds of terms and conditions."

While the sums of money involved in ad injection likely don't mean much to Google court filings show that one major ad injector called Sambreel was taking in about $8 million a month as of November 2011 they're hardly small potatoes to most other companies.

"This is still just an annoying flea to Google, it's not an important part of their business. But to an advertiser, it can be very important," Edelman says.

Google had not responded to requests for comment at the time this article was published.

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.

Join the CMO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Supporting Association

Blog Posts

Is AI on course to take over human creativity?

Computers and artificial intelligence have come along at an exponential rate over the past few decades, from being regarded as oversized adding machines to the point where they have played integral roles in some legitimately creative endeavours.

Jason Dooris

CEO and founder, Atomic 212

Are you leading technology changes or is technology leading you?

In a recent conversation with a chief technology officer, he asserted all digital technology changes in his organisation were being led by IT and not by marketing. It made me wonder: How long a marketing function like this could survive?

Jean-Luc Ambrosi

Author, marketer

Disruption Down Under – What’s Amazon’s real competitive advantage?

Savvy shoppers wait in anticipation, while Australian retailers are gearing up for the onslaught. Amazon’s arrival is imminent.

Online brands are increasingly becoming important. It’s essential that all your digital assets have brand values that are in sync with th...

R6S Marketing Agency

Predictions: 16 digital marketing trends for 2016

Read more

Oracle is toothless, it has zero. They don't understand what AI is.

Ilya Geller

Exclusive CMO interview: Where Oracle is heading with AI in marketing

Read more

The concept of liquid expectations is on the rise, and happy customer experience directly relates to the ease of finding a solution. Most...

Karanbir Singh

New digital trends report predicts a year of liquid customer expectations and design thinking

Read more

Great article, Thanks for sharing with us. I would like to recommended list of top customer loyalty software for small to large scale of ...

Matts Frigian

How brands are ramping up customer loyalty program spending in 2017

Read more

“We’re in an arms race for finite attention.”What a statement that is. I am so glad that someone of Steve's caliber comes out about the m...

Peter Strohkorb

Marketo CEO: Ditch the volume game, focus on value

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in