The Bitter Truth from an Ad Tech Developer

When programmatic advertising hit the mainstream, we called it a “brave new world” for players on all sides. As it turns out, the dystopian reference was valid.

“Programmatic has been extolled for its efficiency, but for the latest in our anonymous Confessions series, we talked to a skeptical digital industry vet who has helped build and manage tech stacks,” writes Ross Benes in Digiday.  “The source said publisher-reported impressions are misleading, industry groups are self-interested and the supply chain continues to be maligned by bad incentives.”

In fact, the unidentified source flatly states his opinion in words you can’t misinterpret:  “So much of it is a con. I have been in this forever, for almost 20 years, and I do know what is going on. And I know that no one calls [BS] on [BS].”

Benes asked the source what was the most irritating aspect of the industry. “People buy traffic through ad networks and they run full-page prompts,” the source notes. “On these full-page prompts, underneath the window you’re on, they pop another window and it may or may not be visible. That window has an autoplay video player in it with the sound turned off. And that is one of the simplest way to rack up traffic.”

The source continues, “If you take the amount of traffic that is out there, and you look at the amount of traffic that is not parsed to Google, there is just not enough inventory in the world to back up all these impressions that publishers say they’re getting.”

He/she also notes the rampant payola, disguised as “rebates,” that are providing incentives for ad brokers to continue the charade.

We’ve known about the massive fraud in digital advertising; we’ve reported about it enough in past posts. But for many, it was all too easy to write the fraud off to the nefarious criminals, not the “legitimate” ad industry. This is a bit chilling.