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What the Alleged Google and YouTube Ad Scandals Say About the Industry

What the Alleged Google and YouTube Ad Scandals Say About the Industry


Below is a guest article by Sean Cunningham, CEO and President of the Video Advertising Bureau. Opinions are those of the authors themselves.

Let’s put aside today’s ad market questions about Adalytics’ exposure to the Google/YouTube ad fraud scandal for just a few minutes. Let’s get past the question, “Did they really burn 1,100 big advertisers in three years with wasted non-ads in really bad places and counted it all as premium inventory?” And the bigger question is, why would ad sellers do that?

I believe the answer to that question lies in accusations against the advertising industry for not monitoring Google and YouTube too aggressively. If Google took advantage of the ad market and attacked advertisers so blatantly, they did so for the most obvious reason. Because they can.

Google may be because its transparency standards have been compromised and succumbed to walled gardens, or it may be because of the all-consuming buy-side ambition to find cheaper scales as what it has to do forever to improve its performance and keep its account. They can see what they show you thanks to the indisputable truth of overseeing walled gardens like Google.

Challenging (non-)transparency to a walled garden, Google is now able to display merit badges like auditor-certified TVs. You can also display badges that begin with the words Verified, Certified, Secure, and Trustworthy. All of the badgers compromised by accepting that Google’s walls could never be crossed (I’m sure they asked well), and weren’t able to get a level of data transparency that matches the standards of third-party TV data. Instead, we base our decisions on first-party data that Google can see. The badge then helped make easy choices. Buyers had the time and inclination to find out what was behind the familiar badges that might help them authorize Google/YouTube purchases as they please, or help them challenge the super-legal (and super-efficient!).

Assuming that the Adalytics report on Google’s ad fraud is accurate, the actual costly game was directly based on the buy and sell market calculations themselves.

In the wake of the extent and duration of the fraud exposure, bright young minds armed with data from Adalytics are now quantifying the artificial pricing pressure Google was able to exert on other sellers through its fictitious size and empty impressions. All of these were being counted as pricing wins by the buy side. Given that the advertiser lost an estimated $13 billion to him due to ads that violated Google’s own standards, no buy side suffered more than advertisers and their brands, so the damage was cumulative and exponential.

So the last thing we see is walled garden fraud on a massive scale? How did we know?

As long as the industry maintains every transparency compromise and double standard between multi-screen TVs and walled gardens like Google, we have to ask ourselves the same questions all the time. What will the next big advertiser fire/market game ad fraud scandal look like?




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