Fraud in Digital Advertising

I’ve written many times (1, 2, 3, 4) about adtech and the associated fraud. The sooner the advertising industry stops tracking us the better it will be for them, the advertisers, and us. A recent BuzzFeed article indicates that the problem is much more widespread and serious than most of us believed. It turns out the fraud is rampant in digital advertising and even “legitimate” players are aware of and profiting from it. The article is long but it’s worth a read.

Tracking is infuriating and needs to end but this article calls digital advertising itself into question. In addition to the fraud, many advertisers are finding that digital advertising is largely ineffective. Proctor and Gamble, for example, recently decided to forego an large advertising buy and found it made little difference to its business.

All this got me thinking about what happens if advertisers give up on digital advertising altogether. Will the content that we enjoy and have come to depend on disappear too? Probably not because the Internet is eating all the other content delivery systems so advertisers don’t have anywhere else to go. What has to change is that the advertising agencies have to clean up their act and provide ads that consumers are willing to watch or read and to provide real value to their clients, the advertisers. It’s pretty clear that that means—just for starters—no more tracking and no more fraud.

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