Pixel Jacking Costs Brands Millions

Media buyers and publishers continue to struggle with bot nets, fraudulent clicks and mechanical thieves stealing impressions. RadiumOne execs call it "pixel jacking" -- using a pixel to create fraud on the Web, the "land of the new pirates."

In fact, RadiumOne has verified more than 1,000 domains used for pixel jacking, and estimates it effects the more than 10,000 sites across the Web. RadiumOne suggests it cost the industry an estimated $324 million annually, about 5.4% of all budgets spent on display advertising.

Kyle Napierkowski, director of ad optimization at RadiumOne, and his team connect the dots between data and the needs for brands and agencies to pay more attention to the depth of big data and exchange-traded ad impressions. As a means to combat the problem, networks need to provide audience analyses and validate sites.

It turns out fraudsters have learned about lucrative pixels on sites used by companies to build retargeting segments to track consumers. They can identify "high value" consumers likely to convert. The bots will send garbage traffic to Web pages, "fire-up the pixels, and direct them to a fraudulent publisher's page where the networks vying for business will bid high for the conversion," said Doug Chavez, VP of marketing at RadiumOne. "These are ghost users on a botnet infected computer."

It may seem small considering that display-related advertising accounted for $2.9 billion or 33% of total revenue in the second quarter of 2012, up 6% from the $2.7 billion sequentially, according to the IAB Internet Advertising Revenue Report conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC). Any money advertisers forfeit to fraud is not insignificant.

Chavez points to one of the biggest problems as marketers not having a way to validate consumers clicking on display ads are real. While CAPTCHAs provide verification for some conversions, not display ads. "Agencies and brands have no clue this is happening," he said, pointing to data, programmatic buying and automation as some of the biggest culprits.

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3 comments about "Pixel Jacking Costs Brands Millions".
  1. John S. Quizical from Agency , November 9, 2012 at 1:38 p.m.
    All very true, but, are you kidding me? RadiumOne is the biggest scam I have ever come across. Do they have an answer for the issue of "pixel-jacking"? Total joke. They are buying this stuff everywhere because it is making them money. BTW, it's the tech(and exchanges) that should be helping buyers ferret this stuff out and eliminate it, not the pubs. RadiumOne clearly hasn't been able to solve this "pixel-jacking" issue or they would have said something in this piece. I'd steer very clear of them if you are an agency or brand.
  2. Jeffery Beliveau from PFC , November 9, 2012 at 5:38 p.m.
    "...and estimates it effects the more than 10,000 sites..." Effect = Noun Affect = Verb
  3. Doug Chavez from Kenshoo , November 12, 2012 at 6:49 p.m.
    Lets be clear here. This is a huge issue for the industry at large. We have a SWAT team here at RadiumOne on the look-out for "pixel-jacking" and shielding our customers from this problem. Pixel-jacking is a natural side effect of programatic buying - that few are addressing. Human nature is to be lazy and everyone thinks problems like this will be solved by somebody else. Everyone at RadiumOne takes a different approach and bust our butts for our clients. We are raising this issue the sake of the industry. The FACT is we are raising the issue - I have yet to see any others in our competitive set provide thought leadership to the community. John at "agency" it's great that you engage and comment but you give no answer or solution. The productive way to join the conversation is to bring some well thought out solutions to the community. You're the type of person I remember back from my agency days - show up to a meeting, eat the cookies and offer no value to the discussion. My team and I were busy driving the client's business forward and always missed the cookies. To be clear these pixel-jacking pirates can get away with what they do because many buyers (agency and vendor) don't fully understand the complex environment that exists today. Pubs, networks and exchanges need to police this - before it gets to the agency. And that is exactly what RadiumOne is doing. To say that it benefits us shows a lack of understanding of the topic. If that were the case our customer campaigns would not perform well and our 90% client retention rate would be closer to zero.