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

Why there’s more to content marketing ROI than just numbers

Most brands are producing more content than ever before. Even those still operating predominantly in campaign mode are finding social media demands an always-on content pipeline.

Jacki James

strategic planner, Zuni

Six lessons from Mobilegeddon

Google’s Mobilegeddon is the lesson many big companies and their marketers are learning the hard way.

Rob Marston

Managing director, Zeus Unwired

Against Net Promoter: A new way of interpreting the customer data deluge

One thing that frustrates marketers is the sloppy use of digital research.

Jason Juma-Ross

lead partner, PwC Digital Intelligence

The next Advertising medium is Augmented Reality, Just when individuals thought promotions couldn't get any more interactive and close to...

Siddhu

The old billboard gets the flick as digital OOH advertising takes over

Read more

Augmented Reality is the most immersive and interactive medium at today and that works for all kinds of real world requirements. It allow...

Siddhu

Sunny Queen launches egg-citing augmented reality collectible cards

Read more

It's really helpful that you were able to share this kind of information in order for some people to know on what is this kind of word re...

best essay sites

It's time for CMOs to embrace ‘agile’ as a noun - Technology chief - CMO Australia

Read more

You nailed it Mark, not nice, not popular but true.

CruiseFactoryData

CMO Council: Marketers lack right customer metrics for digital transformation

Read more

An insightful post and I wholeheartedly agree that without clearly defined business goals any content strategy will be ineffective. The d...

Alastair Kane

Why there’s more to content marketing ROI than just numbers

Read more

Sign in