Class-action lawsuit accuses Google of improperly withholding refunds for ad fraud

Class-action lawsuit accuses Google of improperly withholding refunds for ad fraud

In 2017, Google agreed to provide refunds to selected advertisers using DoubleClick Bid Manager (now called Display & Video 360) where ads were served on sites that had fraudulent or invalid traffic. Reportedly, hundreds of marketers were eligible, but a class-action lawsuit by AdTrader asserts that Google improperly withheld those refund payments, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ)

Prior agreement to refund ‘platform fee.’ When the fraud was initially discovered, Google said it would repay its “platform fee,” which typically represents between 7% to 10% of the total value of the ad spend. Some marketers expressed dissatisfaction with the refund scheme. However, according to the WSJ, “Google said it wasn’t in a position to return money that had already flowed from its buying tool to third-party online ad marketplaces where publishers were selling ad space.”

AdTrader initiated the class action suit against Google in California federal court, arguing that Google had “illegally appropriated” promised advertiser refunds. The lawsuit alleges that Google never actually issued any refunds, after reclaiming money from publishers accused of having inflated or fraudulent traffic.

Alleged failure to pay $75 million. Unsealed court documents reviewed by the WSJ apparently reflected that Google had not paid as much as $75 million in potential refunds tied to “ad marketplaces that Google itself owns and fully controls: AdX and AdSense.”

Various third analyst and monitoring firms have estimated ad fraud amounts to more than $16 billion globally. Other reports have different figures. A range of U.S. estimates, including from the Association of National Advertisers, assert that brands will lose between $6 and $7 billion this year on fraudulent (non-human) traffic.

Why you should care. The AdTrader lawsuit is still in process and seeks class certification for agencies and advertisers that used DoubleClick Ad Exchange (AdX) and AdSense during the relevant time frame. It also seeks triple damages and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief against Google. AdTrader accuses Google of being a monopolist and positions itself as a champion of advertiser interests. You can read more detail on the legal and factual claims in AdTrader’s blog post and court complaint (.pdf).

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.

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What counts as a video view? A refresher on how social platforms calculate video ad views

What counts as a video view? A refresher on how social platforms calculate video ad views

This article has been updated to reflect changes and include video ad view count information from more platforms.

Advertisers allocated a quarter of all digital ad spend — $27.8 billion — to video ads last year, according to eMarketer. video has become big business for social platforms. Twitter attributes more than half of its ad revenue to video, its fastest growing ad format. Video ads also make up half of Snapchat’s revenue, and 30 percent of Facebook’s ad revenue, eMarketer estimates.

Yet, video ad bidding and view measurement and reporting can vary widely by platform. As the market for video ads has grown, many social platforms have expanded bidding options and reporting metrics for video ads. This can all make analyzing and comparing results across platforms a challenge.

We surveyed the major social video platforms to see what counts as a view. For Facebook and Instagram, viewing just 3 seconds of a video of any length is considered a view. For YouTube Trueview ads, it’s around 30 seconds. Others have adopted the MRC standard (see below) or a kind of variation on it. Bottom line, advertisers need to be aware how each of the platforms count and charge for video ad views because they aren’t apples to apples.

A video ad view methodology by platform

The Media Rating Council (MRC) and IAB define a video ad as viewable “when at least 50 percent of the ad’s pixels are visible on a screen for at least two consecutive seconds.” Some platforms have adopted this standard, but many have not.

Here’s the rundown on how the major players count video views:

Google/YouTube: The skippable TrueView ads on YouTube and the Google Display Network count a video view when someone engaged with an ad or watches 30 seconds of a video ad, or the duration of the ad if it is shorter than 30 seconds.

Facebook and Instagram: Facebook and it’s family of apps count a video view for both in-stream and Stories ads at 3 seconds. However, advertisers can buy video ads on either a CPM basis or ThuruPlay basis. When buying on a CPM basis, an impression is counted when one pixel of the video ad comes into view. With ThruPlay, advertisers are charged when a video ad plays to 97 percent completion or up to 15 seconds, whichever comes sooner.

LinkedIn: For LinkedIn’s sponsored content, video views are counted when 50 percent of the ad is in-view for 1 second on desktop and 300 milliseconds (one-third of a second) on mobile.

Pinterest: Pinterest adopted the MRC standard of 50 percent of the ad in-view for 2 continuous seconds or more.

Reddit: Reddit defines a video view as 2 continuous seconds at 50 percent viewability, per the MRC standard. A full video view is counted after a video ad shows for 3 continuous seconds at 100 percent viewability. Advertisrs can bid on a cost-per-view (CPV) or CPM basis.

Snapchat: Snap Ads’ view criteria is 2 seconds for a video view. The platform’s video ads run full-screen with the sound on.

Twitter: Twitter adopted the MRC standard and counts a video ad view when 50 percent of the ad is in view for 2 seconds or more, or when a user engages with a video ad by clicking to expand or un-muting it.

Other metrics to consider

Many platforms show additional engagement metrics and view counts. For example, Google offers quartile watch time metrics, along with an extensive list of video ad metrics that includes click performance, engagement performance, and reach and frequency.

Facebook reports 2 second, 3 second, 10 second and ThruPlays, regardless of which bidding option you choose. It also reports watch time metrics, showing showing how often 25 percent, 50 percent, 75 percent or 100 percent of a video ad was watched.

Redditr reports views at 25, 50, 75 95 and 100 percent of video length at any viewability as well as the number of times a video ad was watched for 3, 5, and 10 seconds in aggregate at any viewability.

In October 2018, YouTube began counting an ‘Engagement’ to a TrueView for action ad whenever a user clicks or watches 10 seconds or more when using maximize conversions or target CPA bidding — down from from 30 seconds. Those ads are still charged on a CPM basis, however, when using maximize conversion or target CPA bidding strategies.

About The Author

Amy Gesenhues is Third Door Media’s General Assignment Reporter, covering the latest news and updates for Marketing Land and Search Engine Land. From 2009 to 2012, she was an award-winning syndicated columnist for a number of daily newspapers from New York to Texas. With more than ten years of marketing management experience, she has contributed to a variety of traditional and online publications, including,, and Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. Read more of Amy’s articles.

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Reddit US ad revenues could top $100M this year amid added focus on ad products

Reddit US ad revenues could top $100M this year amid added focus on ad products

Over the past year, social community site Reddit has aggressively rolled out improvements to its ad offerings — introducing native promoted posts in its mobile apps, native autoplay video ads, calls to action in adsperformance-based ad units and app install ads. Now, new figures from eMarketer indicate the efforts are paying off, with the site expected to bring in $119 million in ad revenues in 2019, up from $77 million in 2018. That number is expected to double by 2021, when the research firm predicts Reddit will take in $262 million in ad revenue.

“Reddit’s users are tech-savvy and highly engaged, making them attractive to advertisers,” said eMarketer forecasting director Monica Peart. “A large portion are unique users, meaning they don’t use other social platforms. That means advertisers have the potential to reach new audiences in a highly targeted way.”

User numbers rising steadily. In addition to benefiting from the retooling of its ad ecosystem, Reddit is gaining from its major redesign roll-out last year. It has boosted views by building capabilities to host images and videos on the site itself — previously, users had to link out to include media in their posts.

Reddit may also be winning users due to increasing disaffection with Facebook and the privacy implications of its ad system. By contrast, Reddit’s users are anonymous, with accounts linked to usernames instead of real names, and the platform allows viewing by non-logged in users.

While eMarketer expects the number of U.S. logged-in user growth to slow after this year, the overall U.S. audience is expected to continue growing. By 2023 Reddit’s logged-in audience is expected to account for nearly 12 percent of all U.S. internet users.

Though Reddit ads are targeted by locations, interests, communities, devices and time of day, rather than by the more granular categories offered by Facebook, some advertisers are achieving results significant enough to bring them back.

Still, Reddit isn’t about to become one of the major internet ad players. eMarketers’s estimates give it just a 0.1 percent share of the U.S. digital ad market, and that dramatic doubling in revenues by 2021 still brings it only to 0.2 percent of the total.

eMarketer cites the site’s slow development of mobile apps — it only launched official iOS and Android apps in 2016 — as one reason it lags most other sites in mobile ad revenue. This year, mobile will account for 57.0 percent of Reddit’s ad revenues ($67.8 million), the research firm said.

Reddit’s other challenge is its free-for-all, often NSFW content, which some advertisers shy from.

“As a mix of forum and trending news site with a bit of social network, Reddit has operated on an ‘open internet’ ethos,” Peart said. “While that has yielded organic growth among a hard-to-reach audience, it has also meant a reality where controversial content is the norm. And in a news climate where missteps can tarnish results, that makes some digital advertisers nervous.”

Why you should care. Reddit may offer you the opportunity to reach a unique and hard-to-reach audience in an environment with less competition than other platforms. One other development to note is that Reddit in January brought aboard a new VP of ad products and engineering,  Shariq Rizvi, and, the company’s blog in late January stated its 2019 plans as including, “broadening our advertising tools and building even more comprehensive marketplace capabilities with performance advertising….” Worth keeping an eye on, for sure.

About The Author

Pamela Parker is Content Manager at Marketing Land, MarTech Today and Search Engine Land. She’s a well-respected authority on digital marketing, having reported and written on the subject since 1998. She’s a former managing editor of ClickZ, and worked on the business side helping independent publishers monetize their sites at Federated Media Publishing.

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Quora intros bulk ad creation, editing

Quora intros bulk ad creation, editing

Ready to scale up your Quora ads? Good timing. The company just added the ability to create and edit ads in bulk in Quora Ads Manager.

How it works. Upload and download. The bulk ads editor has templates to download. You’ll create and edit ads in a CSV file or in Excel.

The bulk ads creator is available for text ads only at this time. You can edit text in existing image ads now, though.

Why you should care. Quora has checked off a lot of boxes — conversion tracking, retargeting, new ad formats, etc., but nobody wants to spend time on tedious, repetitive tasks. The need to manually add and edit a bunch of ads in a UI adds friction and can keep advertisers from fully investing. Bulk editing capabilities are key for any ad platform to increase advertiser adoption and budget flow. This could help attract more advertisers and entice existing advertisers to further build out their campaigns.

If you’re a current Quora advertiser, now’s a good time to download and spot check your current ads by downloading them with the editor.

About The Author

Ginny Marvin is Third Door Media’s Editor-in-Chief, managing day-to-day editorial operations across all of our publications. Ginny writes about paid online marketing topics including paid search, paid social, display and retargeting for Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and MarTech Today. With more than 15 years of marketing experience, she has held both in-house and agency management positions. She can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.

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Retail manufacturers, Walmart wants your ad business

Retail manufacturers, Walmart wants your ad business

Walmart says its ready to start monetizing its shopper data and become a go-to ad network for retail manufacturers — both online and in-store.

With Amazon’s rapid ad growth looming large, Walmart is bringing its ad sales in-house, bridging the divide between store and digital ad teams as part of a broader effort to build up its advertising business.

Why you should care

Company executives said they want CMOs to consider “Walmart as a network I can go advertise on.” Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer for Walmart U.S., thinks Walmart’s unique combination of online and store purchase data from hundreds of millions of customers will make Walmart ad buys more efficient that the competition (e.g. Amazon).

Walmart is ending its relationship with Triad, which managed ad sales on the retailer’s sites and other digital properties, The Wall Street Journal first reported Tuesday. WPP’s programmatic media unit Xaxis acquired Triad in 2017.

As Amazon can attest, building up an in-house team and technology stack takes time and investment. Walmart’s efforts could take years to realize.

More on the news

  • The company plans to harness its shopper data to sell advertising and marketing opportunities to brands and manufacturers directly. For example, the Journal said, rather than having Triad manage digital ad campaigns and a Walmart team managing in-store sampling, a snack supplier will be able to work with Walmart directly on both efforts.
  • Amazon’s market share is still dwarfed by Google and Facebook, but it offers up a proven model for attracting ad dollars from digital and trade marketing budgets by leveraging shopper data — and tying ad investments directly to sales.
  • Walmart’s other properties include online marketplace and video streaming service Vudu.

About The Author

Ginny Marvin is Third Door Media’s Editor-in-Chief, managing day-to-day editorial operations across all of our publications. Ginny writes about paid online marketing topics including paid search, paid social, display and retargeting for Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and MarTech Today. With more than 15 years of marketing experience, she has held both in-house and agency management positions. She can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.

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