When is a banner ad not a banner ad? When there is a hidden video ad that generates fraudulent advertising revenue while draining your battery and using your valuable data supplement.
As BuzzFeed reports, it has been discovered that in-app banner ads have been hijacked on a massive scale to generate revenue for scammers working within the digital advertising industry. The people who suffer are consumers and their devices, but also the app developers who receive complaints about how quickly their apps drain phone and tablet batteries.
The scam was discovered by two ad loops, Protected Media, and DoubleVerify. The fraudsters buy inexpensive in-banner display rooms, but then save auto-playback videos behind the banner image viewers. The video is never seen by anyone, but because it plays, it is registered as seen and thus generates revenue for the fraudsters, and much more than the banner ad does. It's the big brands that pay, but unknown to those they pay for zero exposure of their products.
The video below shows how the fraudulent video ads are hidden outside the view of banners:
As to the scale of this fraud, DoubleVerify estimated it on 60 million fraudulent video ads per. Month. The ad capsule took place on Twitter's MoPub ad platform, and the Israeli company Aniview, which specializes in video advertising solutions, was highlighted as one of the sources for these ads. The company's subsidiary OutStream Media was also identified by Protect Media as part.
Aniview denies any direct interference and is blamed for "a malicious third party" who used banner ads and code created by one of Aniview's affiliates. Aniview CEO Alon Carmel told BuzzFeed that the company "does not deliberately involve any fraudulent activity" and that immediate action was taken, "we stopped this activity and started and continued an internal incident audit."
Aniview is not saying who the malicious third party is, but has since removed a number of employees from the company's website. They include Aniview co-founder Tal Melenboim and two employees who had leading roles in OutStream Media. Melenboim has since refused to be part of any illegal activity in Aniview.
When Twitter's MoPub ad platform was used, Twitter has also triggered its own investigation after verifying the Protected Media activity reported. If Twitter tracks this back to Aniview, then there will probably be consequences for the advertising industry.
It is important to point out that this type of fraud is not new, but an increase in activity back in October triggered the ad fraudsters to look further. Aniview is also not the only company identified as a participant, and several others continue to filter these hidden video ads into the digital advertising market. One of the protected media contacted responded with a complaint that everyone was doing it and it felt like they were picked up!