The oldest trick in the media book

Following on from our recent posts discussing the sinister world of digital ad fraud, here is an excellent article from Nate Carter, managing director at eEffective.

Many years ago, when I had just started my media career at a radio station in Connecticut, buzz swept the office that we “had three books.” I was confused. Were these first-run copies of “The Juror” signed by John Grisham? Nope. Turned out a senior staffer had secured actual Arbitron diaries, the survey books used to create radio ratings.

Our radio station, in other words, had found a way to report its own ratings – and generate thousands of listeners who did not really exist.

Oops. Welcome to the world of ad fraud. Today this ethical morass has expanded in the digital world.

Ad fraud has been going on for decades. However, the sophistication of today’s ad fraud is something that puts sticky-fingered program managers of yore to shame. While ratings and readership games have always been played, advertisers could take solace in several things. First, while viewership, readership and listenership numbers can all be manipulated, if a full-page ad was purchased or a TV commercial was flighted, marketers knew it would run. Also, audience size aside, a buyer knew that there was a certain level of elasticity in pricing that was in large part derived from the demand upon inventory. In other words, a real market was dictating the price.

In today’s complicated market, many of these facts of the past no longer hold true. Is a programmatic ad buy being served to a person or a Web-crawling bot? A full-page ad on Page 3 of the newspaper may or may not have been viewed, but at least you received a tear sheet and it ran “above the fold.” Certainly a pirate site serving your ad inside an iFrame that reports it as having run on a top comScore site was outside the realm of marketer’s concerns. Yet today, these are issues every savvy marketer is facing.

Read the full article here on the Digiday website.