Commentary

A Bot 'Viewed' Ad Is Like A VW Diesel

Having been a Volkswagen owner, I’m sure former CEO Martin Winterkorn was just as shocked as anyone to discover a VW electronics device actually worked long enough to be discovered while still operable. That definitely is a fluke.

But the automobile scandal does seem at least a tad like an experiment reported by the Financial Times  and amplified by MediaPost’s Wendy Davis that showed YouTube charged for ads that it apparently knew full well were “viewed” only by bots. It’s not as simple as that.

And as this study, conducted by four research organizations, points out, YouTube generally had better ability to sniff out fakes than other video sites, and it says (and apparently means) to police for phony baloney.

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To put it succinctly, Tech Times summarizes it like this: “Interestingly, the Google-owned video platform carries out two separate counts of video views. The public view count determines how many times the video has been seen and is displayed publicly. The monetized view count determines the viewership for the purposes of calculating advertising charges.”

Which is not so far off from what Volkswagen did with its diesel cars. Its emissions tests looked good because electronically, the car maker was cooking the books.

“In summary, we observe that YouTube implements the most discriminative fake view detection mechanisms and is able to easily detect obviously aggressive behaviors,” the report says. “Surprisingly, other portals have serious problems to discriminate fake views even under the considered aggressive setups,” the report reads.

But this report says, while YouTube seems to have the data, it doesn’t do as much with it as it could.

Slapped around pretty good are: Romania-based myvideo.de, Brazil’s TV UOL and IAC-owned Vimeo, all of which, this report says “deploy detection mechanisms that capture [less than]  5% of probes fake views, even for the most aggressive configuration.”

So while YouTube gets the headlines, it’s probably true the wagging finger should point in more directions. Still, the authors, near the end of their report, conclude: “While YouTube is shown to strive to protect its users and clients, for example by reacting quickly when suspicious behavior is identified, we speculate that its setup seems to place an unnecessary burden of risk on clients.”

In other words, caveat emptor forever and ever.

VW’s deception affects 11 million people who bought the car not knowing about the emission tricking software that made owners and regulators believe they were getting something that they weren’t.

The same would seem to be true for all phony ads, including these ones documented recently. Consumers aren’t affected because they aren’t aware of it; to some degree advertisers weren’t aware of it because they weren’t affected, either.

There are deceptive ads--the kind that make wild claims or show fake demonstrations--and there are deceptive ad practices, which, remarkably, are usually chalked up to the price of doing business. But as Advertising Week begins today, the business of bots and the issue of viewability is as clear as they've ever been.  

pj@mediapost.com

2 comments about "A Bot 'Viewed' Ad Is Like A VW Diesel".
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  1. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, September 28, 2015 at 10:08 a.m.

    Funny how eaily we forget (in th infinitely sophisticated complexity of the web) that the first step in communication is "someone must see the advertising"...only then can we worry about what we said, how we said it, and whether it has impact...

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, October 14, 2015 at 8:54 p.m.

    According to another article: The Social-Network Illusion That Tricks Your Mind in the MIT Technology Review, is it possible that the bots were ignited by the advertisers/video people themselves (hired hands) to illicit a greater audience in order to illicit a greater audience ? Not all no doubt but some, enough to cross over to all of them and therefore have infected the entire system ?

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