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!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

To DMP or not to DMP?

There are plenty of brands that can benefit from plugging into a data management platform. But should you engage an agency to run one or bring it in-house?

Ben Willee and Richard Taylor

Spinach Advertising

Innovations in retail will bring creative and technology closer than ever

While approaching a customer in a shop and asking what you can help them with is Retail 101, how many of us actually enjoy being approached? Generally, you have to give the forced, fake smile and say, “Just browsing, thanks,” while screaming on the inside, “just leave me alone!” Maybe it’s just me?

Jason Dooris

CEO and founder, Atomic 212

There’s a brand in my digital soup

Not a day passes by in the life of business executives where digital innovation or the prospect of disruption is not front of mind. This in turn, drives an unrelenting flow of questioning, discussion and strategy papers.

Jean-Luc Ambrosi

Author, marketer

Marin Software’s digital marketing solution as a short way of streamlining and finding a scalable solution...

Al Drazhev

How BizCover is boosting search advertising success

Read more

It is really inspiring to see that medial psychology & machines are going hand in hand to innovate new things and even are improving ...

CBT Professionals

How psychology is shaping better machine learning

Read more

Anything is achievable when you talk the talk .. good luck

Mo Al Hooti

Data Creative crowns Matt Bates as new CMO

Read more

Great hire and good luck Andrew. I am sure you'll do a fabulous jobRob

Rob

Amaysim marketing and commercial chief joins property tech investment startup

Read more

I need to be reborn before i can grow up & become a contestent.

Kaye Peterkin

Channel Nine's content now streamed digitally on 9Now

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in