So far, the biggest complaint when it comes to digital ad fraud has come from ad buyers, who fear that nefarious operators in the publishing value chain are gaming the system to show ads in undesirable locations for no effect.

But the other side is now getting conned, too, as “sub-syndication networks” duplicate and misrepresent buyer inventory, selling it on for immoral profit, says magazine and web publisher Hearst.

“We’ve seen some very clever executions where someone buys the banner ad, then manages to inject a video player through some code hijacking and then run a pre-roll video and content clips,” Hearst digital revenue and analytics VP Susan Parker tells Beet.TV in this video interview.

She says the crooks are hard to spot as they are successfully obfuscating their true identity – but a typical crime involves a network buying up a banner ad which was never intended to show video, and selling it as higher-priced video inventory nevertheless.

“They’re selling multiple video impressions off one banner ad they might have paid $0.80 for and they’re reselling these as high-value pre-roll to legitimate advertisers who don’t know the difference,” Parker adds.

The problem was also written about recently in AdExchanger by mobile ad targeting platform Ubimo, which complained that DSPs are duplicating and recategorising publisher inventory against publishers’ wishes.

Hearst’s Parker sees three problems:

  • “Those ads crash our sites.”
  • “It diminishes the value of our inventory because we have no control.”
  • “We don’t get any money for it.”

She is calling on the industry to “do more to stop it” by having “fewer connections between buyer and seller”. “The thing that is missing is identification – websites have certificates to verify the identity is accurate; (ad) impressions don’t have anything like that,” she says.

This video part of a series about the state of programmatic advertising sponsored by OpenX.  Please find other videos from the series here.