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

Brand management starts with management

As the world continues to grow and evolve, it’s more important than ever to build a strong brand that articulates your message clearly and consistently, stands out against the noise, and develops relevance with the people that matter. This makes managing your brand a key component to gaining cut-through and ultimately business success.

Dan Ratner

managing director, Uberbrand

Disrupting marketing as we know it

Call it digital disruption or the fourth industrial revolution, our rapidly evolving environment is affecting consumer perceptions, purchase behaviours and the way they consume information and products.

Jean-Luc Ambrosi

Author, marketer

Should your disclaimer become your headline?

To avoid misleading customers, or simply through fear of legal backlash, advertising has evolved to hide the potential shortcomings of an offer in its disclaimer.

Sam Tatam

Head of behavioural science, OgilvyChange Australia

Very interesting article which touches on the importance of a feedback loop fuelled by customer and market insights. Ideally this scenari...

Andrew Reid

Building customer insights in the data and digital age

Read more

Very very good piece- very novel and innovative and very possibly- effective - way to look at one's communication headlines!

Patrick Dsouza

Should your disclaimer become your headline? - Brand science - CMO Australia

Read more

Excellent post Rob, Mobile app users are growing day by day. Everyday lots of apps are launched in the market but not every app retains t...

Marcus Miller

Why app engagement must be personalised - Mobile strategy - CMO Australia

Read more

very informative blog. I really like the information given in this blog.http://gng.com.au/

Gajanand Choudhary

The evolving role of the CMO - The CMO view - CMO Australia

Read more

It is true That’s the new read following up Deloitte Digital's Digital disruption - Short Fuse, blowup analysis series, that appearance t...

miller645645@mail.ru

Digital disruption about to impact health, education sectors

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in