More than half of real-time bidding involves falsely represented inventory: Clearstream

Real-time bidding has scored a bad rap for some time, and it appears that might be justified, according to a new study.

In a new report released today from Clearstream, a platform that helps brands target their video ads, researchers said 55 per cent of video ad slots bought through real-time bidding (RTB) might actually involve illegitimate inventory.

From September to November, Clearstream ran a study on 25 campaigns for 18 different brands that were spending some of their advertising budget on video ads. The company found during that period, there were three billion RTB auctions, with 22.5 million bids getting accepted and won. However, before the ads were executed, 55 per cent of the bids were caught and considered “misrepresented inventory.”

Clearstream study
(Image: Clearstream).

In the world of RTB, misrepresented inventory can mean a lot of things. Some publishers may purposely be dishonest, layering ads on top of each other and fudging their traffic numbers so it appears as though more people are seeing the ads, and then there are always organized crime rings trying to make money from RTB through adware and malware.

For the Clearstream study, researchers looked at inventory after an auction, checking to see if the ad unit sold matched up with what was promised, according to this story from MediaPost. Their benchmark for “misaligned” inventory could include anything from whether the ad was based in the right country (for example, if it was in the U.S., but was supposed to be shown in the U.K.), to whether it was shown on a false domain. Using a false domain was the most common misalignment in this study.

During the course of the study, the percentages of misaligned inventory seemed to go up, with 44 per cent of ad impressions misaligned in September, 58 per cent in October, and 63 per cent in November.

And of course, it’s completely possible that not every case of fraudulent inventory was caught, meaning the actual numbers could be higher. So while programmatic advertising and RTB are becoming more accepted here in Canada, this study does reinforce that more work needs to be done to prevent advertisers from buying anything fraudulent from exchanges and publishers – and for marketers to be able to build trust in this method of advertising.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Candice So
Candice So
Candice is a graduate of Carleton University and has worked in several newsrooms as a freelance reporter and intern, including the Edmonton Journal, the Ottawa Citizen, the Globe and Mail, and the Windsor Star. Candice is a dog lover and a coffee drinker.

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