Download PDF file: How to save advertising dollars on Facebook and YouTube.
2015-09-28 Update thanks to Rubén Cuevas,
Fake views of ads by "bots" cost advertisers more than $6.3 billion US globally during 2015. Data show, video fraud-detection on DailyMotion, vimeo, YouTube and others fails to filter out invalid traffic properly. Here I distill our knowledge into 3 takeaways.
Check out what Sir Martin Sorrell WPP has to say about the matter.
According to Media Rating Council (MRC) and IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) standards, a viewable impression of a digital ad occurs when 50 percent of an ad’s pixels are on screen for one second.
In December 2014 Google published data regarding display ads in browsers (desktop and mobile). The study revealed that 56 percent of the display ads it served on its own and others’ sites never appeared within view on someone’s screen.
Nobody really knows for sure how Google or any other video platform or ad server come up with these numbers. For instance, Google provides explanations of what one should look for in these numbers it serves advertisers about their ads. How it collects them is, however, not explained.
1. What is the challenge?
The US Association of National Advertisers (ANA) released a report in December 2014, which estimated that
- 23 percent of video ads, and
- 11 percent of display ads
are viewed by “bots”. These are computer programs that mimic the behaviour of an Internet user.
The ANA estimated that this would cost advertisers about $6.3 billion US globally in 2015. This is a concern for two reasons.
1. Adertisers are spending ever larger amounts of money across both display and video advertising (see graphic below), and
2. Spending for video ads is estimated to grow 21.9 percent compound annually from 2015 to 2020 (US data) (see also online video celebrities – chart below).
2. Google and Facebook want a larger slice
Google and its YouTube platform want to garner the largest share possible of this growth in video advertising. Nonetheless, the competition will surely want to prevent this.
In April 2015, Facebook boasted it had over 4 billion video views each day. This number continues to grow.
For Google, display and video ads create tons of cash for the company, but things are changing. For instance, the rate for pay-per-click ads has been dropping (view chart as shown below). Google explains this was lower rates on YouTube than its other platforms.
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Some suggest that in the US, millenials spend nearly 60 percent of their time watching movies on either a smartphone, tablet or desktop/laptop.
To keep advertisers pouring more money into video ads, however, Google and Facebook have to up their game. Accordingly, both must provide strong evidence that their fraud detection systems work. Until fraud detection works, three things must be addressed as outlined below.
3. Focus on not getting charged for invalid video views
Each video platform wants to charge advertisers for video ads according to whatever the market will bear. In turn, advertisers want to keep costs for ads down, but this is becoming a challenge.
Apparently, some companies offer tens of thousands of YouTube views for as little as $5 US. Such data could in part help explain why 23 percent of video ads are viewed by fake consumers.
Of course, no advertiser wants to pay for these “views”.
How does one avoid paying for fraudulent views?
That is difficult to say, because…
Filtering invalid traffic before advertisers are ever charged is not getting easier.
Recent research sheds light on this important issue. Researchers uploaded two videos to each of five video platforms (YouTube, DailyMotion, Myvideo.de, TV UOL and Vimeo).
They bought ads on these platforms, which targeted the videos they had previously uploaded. Then, they directed their “bots” to these videos.
What are bots?
Each platform’s two videos were visited by the bots about 150 times. The researchers explain in their paper that the bots used were far from sophisticated tools as cyber criminals might use. Nevertheless, the results are worrisome for advertisers.
If detection mechanisms work properly, marketers do not have to pay for ads on YouTube viewed by robots.
Data show that YouTube seems to have the best fraud-detection mechanism of the five platforms tested. It was followed by DailyMotion.
YouTube’s fraud detection tool identified 25 of the 150 bot visits to a video as real users viewing the video.
This means in 16.67 percent of cases, YouTube wrongfully identified a bot or robot to be a human watching a video.
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What is most unsettling, however, is that Google charged the researchers for 90 of the registered fake views. This is a 60.67 percent error rate!
So what is the bigger problem:
1. That YouTube wrongfully identified 25 robot “views” to be humans out of 150 times the video ads were “seen” = 16.67 percent error rate, or
2. Google AdWords, instead of charging for the 16.67 percent of views wrongly identified as humans by YouTube, deciding to charge for 90 views done by robots = a 60.67 percent error or false positive rate?
How could YouTube’s false positive-rate be so inflated? The process of counting views (i.e. public view counter and number of counted and monetized views) is opaque on YouTube.
Thanks to Rubén Cuevas for pointing out: “YouTube has two different mechanisms in place to discount views for the:
– public view counter, and also the
– monetised view counter”
Important is here to understand as Rubén pointed out to me, the public view counter seems to be more strict in the detection of fake views.
This is to say YouTube increases the count, and therefore, charges the advertiser for even more fake views than the public view counter would suggest.
Read the research findings in detail:
Marciel, Miriam; Cuevas, Ruben; Banchs, Albert; Gonzales, Roberto; Traverso, Stefano; Ahmed, Mohamed and Azcorra, Arturo (July 2015). Understanding the detection of fake view fraud in Video Content Portals. Retrieved September 23, 2015 from http://arxiv.org/abs/1507.08874
Check out the FT article for non geeks, including comments by the researchers left here:
Cookson, Robert (September 23, 2015). Google charges marketers for ads on YouTube even when viewed by robots. Financial Times, p. 1. Retrieved, September 23, 2015 from http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/53ac3fd0-604e-11e5-a28b-50226830d644.html
What is your opinion?
Now that you have read “Epic fail: Video view fraud detection“, I would like to ask you a question or two.
– As an advertiser, how do you deal with this issue? Please share!
– What type of video advertising works best for your business?
– What do you know about Facebook’s handling of this challenge?
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