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Why deceptive ad injections are setting the industry back years

By Pedro Mona, head of digital technology

May 28, 2015 | 4 min read

Deceptive ad injections are setting the digital industry back years, according to ZenithOptimedia’s Pedro Mona, and advertisers and publishers need to work together to protect consumers, and the ad industry’s reputation.

Ad injections are not a new phenomenon, entering the public eye earlier this year when it was discovered that a number of Lenovo laptops were shipped with addons that placed display ads on Google. Further interest has been triggered by Google receiving over 100,000 complaints from Chrome users in the past year. What’s the cause for concern and what measures need to be put in place to protect advertisers, publishers and consumers?

Ad injection probably grew as an opportunistic way to make additional revenue out of the growing complexities of digital marketing. Publishers and advertisers focus on the results and not the full digital journey. This leaves gaps for certain players to use deceptive methods to hijack content, playing the system to their financial gain.

How does this happen? Too many companies still operate on a lastclick attribution business model. Ad injectors, paid on a click basis, may well be looking as excellent in driving results and advertisers may well be completely unaware that their ads are even being shown via these practices.

For publishers, the primary issue is loss of revenue. When inventory is placed on their website via ad injection, they are not remunerated. Advertisers are in the firing line too, as they are unable to keep track of where their ads are displayed. There have been some high profile cases where ads ended up appearing on competitor sites or next to highly contentious content.

Most importantly perhaps, is the impact on the consumer. Consumers visiting a publisher’s website receive a poor user experience. They are targeted with the wrong ads at the wrong time, disrupting their online activity with irrelevant content. Even more worryingly perhaps is the security breach ad injections leave consumers vulnerable to. Ad injectors leave the door wide open for hijacking secure sockets layer (SSL) certificates, that all important code that tells your browser a site is legitimate and will not steal your personal information, leading to potential fraud and identity theft.

So what steps are being taken to solve the issue of ad injections? Following the number of complaints laid at Google’s door recently, the company has moved to stop malicious ad injectors. Google removed 192 extensions from the Chrome Web Store, as these did not send an alert to the user that the extension would alter the web experience. Google has also developed tools to remove ad injectors from Chrome and sends a warning message to users. Recognising the need to work in tandem with those affected, Google is working alongside affected advertisers to identify the networks involved in the malpractice.

Overall, deceptive ad injections are setting the digital industry back years in terms of everything it has worked for around transparency, viewability and user experience. Only by working together and smarter, can advertisers and publishers hope to raise awareness of the issue to protect consumers as well as the advertising industry’s reputation.

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