Robots may well be poised to take over many of the roles performed by agencies but it seems they are also gobbling up client marketing budgets following accusations that Google is charging marketers for ads that no human has actually seen.
So-called “bots” have been used on the Internet for years by search engines and analytics firms trawling the web to gather information and index and archive web pages.
But most online companies have systems in place to dismiss them as actual people; most that is, apart from the biggest online company in the world, according to the claims.
Researchers from four institutions – UC3M, Imdea, NEC Labs Europe and Polito – tested systems employed by five video platforms, including YouTube.
In the case of the Google-owned site, they uploaded videos and bought ads targeted at them using Google’s AdWords service. They then set up a series of bots to target fake views at the videos.
On two of the videos they uploaded, Google publicly counted only 25 of the 150 fake views as real, but the counter which determines whether advertisers should be charged waved through 91.
They also found that they were charged for fake views on another two videos, but YouTube then identified the activity as suspicious and suspended the account.
The researchers claimed that the issue “exposed advertisers to the risk of building their ad campaigns on unreliable statistics” when the public view counter was “much more discriminative”, demonstrating that YouTube was capable of more accurately identifying fake views.
A Google spokesman said: “We’re contacting the researchers to discuss their findings further. We take invalid traffic very seriously and have invested significantly in the technology and team that keep this out of our systems. The vast majority of invalid traffic is filtered from our systems before advertisers are ever charged.”
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