Google cracks down on false web inventory with new DBM tool

Google is cracking down on some of the industry's dishonest players with its Ad Traffic Quality Team, currently showcasing a filtering tool that detects when publishers are trying to trick advertisers over where their ads are actually being served on ad exchanges.

The Ad Traffic Quality Team unveiled the new filtering tool, available on DoubleClick Bid Manager (DBM), which can now detect when less reputable publishers on ad exchanges attempt to dupe advertisers into paying a premium for media whenever their ads are actually being served on lesser valued inventory.

The presentations are taking place during a two-day summit at Google's European HQ in Dublin, Ireland, this week where members of the team are pithcing both media owners and buyers its attempts to fight the deceit.

Speaking with The Drum, Google's chief advocate for ad traffic quality, Andres Ferrate explained how rogue actors in the system were able to pull-off the subterfuge by disguising the URL of their domain during the bidding process.

The false representation of domains in ad inventory occurs when publishers intentionally make it look like their traffic is coming from another website (usually a well-known, premium website) in order to charge higher rates for ads.

The Ad Traffic Quality Team had previously monitored such actors on a manual basis, before removing from the exchange, but the new team (which has a headcount of over 100 globally) is now assisted by the tool that performs such tasks on an automated basis.

He explained how this impacts all sides of the industry: "This practice deceives advertisers who end up paying to appear on sites with which they may not want to be associated, and harms legitimate publishers, who aren't actually receiving the funds from ads sold in their name."

Google is unable to publicly discuss exactly how the automated tool performs the task - although Derrate did comment that it uses a "heuristic" method - and added that the newly formed team was an extension of Google's purchase of anti-fraud outfit Spider.io last year.

The filtering tool removes said bad actors from acutions on a pre-bid basis, and the efforts of Ferrate's team are designed to assure advertisers of the brand safety of purchasing inventory via DBM.

Equally, the team was also established to assure premium publishers that using DoubleClick to sell inventory will extract the maximum value of their inventory, as the usual market dynamics of supply and demand will take effect when bad actors are absent, according to Ferrate.

He told The Drum: "This fits into our strategy of helping to improve the transparency of the process [exchange based auctions]... We're banding together with other major players in the industry to help improve it."

A blog post penned by Ferrate disussing the initiative reads: "We’ve discovered that in some instances this type of activity has accounted for up to 40 per cent of inventory for a particular exchange."

It continues: "We also recognise that there are valid use cases for selling inventory via alternate domains, which is why we have taken great care to ensure that our filter targets only cases where the false representation masks the real value of the inventory."

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Ronan Shields

I'm the digital editor at The Drum, and cover adtech and martech. Prefer news and analysis, over opinion pieces. Current fascination(s) are blockchain and media futures trading; also curious about transhumanism on a personal basis. NYC-based, but really London Irish.

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