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Rocket Fuel responds to Mercedes campaign comments by FT: “Bots are a real problem, but less so than sensational headlines”

Rocket Fuel has denied that more bots than humans saw its Mercedes Benz ad campaign, as the Financial Time reported, with the car manufacturer stating that only six per cent of the served ads were identified as questionable.

In response to a comment on the story, Rocket Fuel told The Drum: "Bots are a real problem, but less so than sensational headlines on top of non-news.

"The headline suggests an apocalypse of digital advertising. Between Rocket Fuel's bot-screening technology and our accredited partners' (in this case, Integral Ad Science) real-time screening, Rocket Fuel found quality ad inventory to serve in place of the six per cent of Mercedes ads identified as questionable, and delivered those impressions to humans before any bills were even sent."

Rocket Fuel stated that it takes an 'aggressive posture to screen bots', adding that approximately 40 per cent of all ad space is rejected daily due to its failure to pass its own bot and brand-safety screens.

The company added: "Put another way, if every ad the Financial Times suggests we delivered were the size of a 1"x1" postage stamp, and those ads were laid down side by side, they would cover 49 per cent of one standard doubles' tennis court. By contrast, we rejected 1,231,173 tennis courts' worth of questionable ad space."

Andrew Goode, COO of ad tech provider Project Sunblock, blamed complex computer programmes for the bot traffic.

“This is an unfortunate case for Mercedes, but it is far from alone in its fight against the advertising botnets. Complex computer programmes are preying on big advertising budgets as marketers flock online in order to increase brand visibility. So much so, that industry bodies now predict that at least a third of all online traffic is generated by robots," he said.

“The issue is that there is a real lack of visibility and transparency around where digital ads end up once they’re fed into industry ad exchanges. These ad exchanges deal with the buy and sell of ad impressions, but they themselves have no commitment or ability to identify and weed out fraudulent publishers, and so the robots go on undetected."

Rocket Fuel insisted this is not the case: "We want to help advertisers make sure they're getting real results from Rocket Fuel and their other partners, and to this end we have been providing free tools for years to help them run clean A/B tests to measure the incremental value Rocket Fuel adds to their advertising."

Two weeks ago, Rocket Fuel announced that it will release a free bot-detection tool that will further help advertisers keep bots out of their results.