IAB to Rally Industry Against Bogus Publishers and Bots

Forming task force led by John Battelle and Penry Price

The Interactive Advertising Bureau will take on the evil robots, shysters and shady characters who are stealing millions from advertisers—before the medium’s reputation takes any more of a beating.

As chronicled in Adweek’s series of articles on suspect Web publishers, including today’s story, many believe that the Web is awash in bogus traffic perpetrated by scammers. The problems range from ghost publishers, which feature thin content but garner lots of nonhuman traffic, to sophisticated tactics like forcing full Web URLs into hidden pixels, toolbars and browsers in order to inflate traffic numbers.

To get a handle on matters, the IAB has established a task force, TOGI (Traffic of Good Intent), charged with raising awareness of these issues and coming up with effective solutions.

Leading the TOGI task force are John Battelle, CEO of Federated Media, who has blogged extensively on the rise of fraud in the online ad industry; and Penry Price, president of the data driven ad targeting firm Media6Degrees (m6d), which has also been vocal about weeding out shady publishers.

Here’s TOGI’s mission statement:

“To identify, understand and raise awareness of the issue of non-intentional traffic, and to offer insight and recommended solutions to the digital advertising industry. Non-intentional traffic (NIT) is website visits that happen without the knowledge of a user. It can be initiated by human actions or fully controlled by a bot that has infected a personal computer.

"There are two primary types of NIT. In one, users are automatically redirected to particular websites after closing another website. In the other, content (ads and/or full websites) invisibly load in the background (often in a 1×1 pixel) while a user is intentionally viewing content from other sites. This traffic pollutes the display advertising ecosystem and thwarts most efforts to accurately measure the medium for effectiveness.

"The perpetrators of NIT generally have two main objectives. First, to generate huge volumes of pageviews, producing ad inventory they can sell on the exchanges. Second, the botnets produce their own "conversion" events by simulating clicks on those invisible ads and/or hijacking the infected browser to record a "visit" to the sites of marketers whose ads have been invisibly run, sometimes going so far as to produce a "lead" (e.g., a visit to a store locator page). The effect is to increase the perceived value of those infected browsers to both marketers and targeters.

"To more effectively address the negative impacts described above, the entire digital advertising industry needs to better understand the nature and sources of NIT. Doing so will simultaneously increase the friction and therefore cost for bad actors engaged in the use of NIT and increase the accuracy of measurement for the Traffic of Good Intent."