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 newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Latest Videos

More Videos

Google collects as much data as it can about you. It would be foolish to believe Google cares about your privacy. I did cut off Google fr...

Phil Davis

ACCC launches fresh legal challenge against Google's consumer data practices for advertising

Read more

“This new logo has been noticed and it replaces a logo no one really knew existed so I’d say it’s abided by the ‘rule’ of brand equity - ...

Lawrence

Brand Australia misses the mark

Read more

IMHO a logo that needs to be explained really doesn't achieve it's purpose.I admit coming to the debate a little late, but has anyone els...

JV_at_lAttitude_in_Cairns

Brand Australia misses the mark

Read more

Hi everyone! Hope you are doing well. I just came across your website and I have to say that your work is really appreciative. Your conte...

Rochie Grey

Will 3D printing be good for retail?

Read more

Very insightful. Executive leaders can let middle managers decide on the best course of action for the business and once these plans are ...

Abi TCA

CMOs: Let middle managers lead radical innovation

Read more

Blog Posts

The obvious reason Covidsafe failed to get majority takeup

Online identity is a hot topic as more consumers are waking up to how their data is being used. So what does the marketing industry need to do to avoid a complete loss of public trust, in instances such as the COVID-19 tracing app?

Dan Richardson

Head of data, Verizon Media

Brand or product placement?

CMOs are looking to ensure investment decisions in marketing initiatives are good value for money. Yet they are frustrated in understanding the value of product placements within this mix for a very simple reason: Product placements are broadly defined and as a result, mean very different things to different people.

Michael Neale and Dr David Corkindale

University of Adelaide Business School and University of South Australia

Why CMOs need a clear voice strategy to connect with their customers

Now more than ever, voice presents a clear opportunity to add value to an organisation in many ways. Where operational efficiencies are scrutinised, budgets are tighter and discretionary consumer spend at a low, engaging with an audience is difficult.

Guy Munro

Head of innovation and technology, Paper + Spark

Sign in