Article | HBR Now | November 17, 2009

The Dark Underbelly of Online Advertising

by Benjamin Edelman

Abstract

The Internet is sold to advertisers as a highly measurable medium that is the most efficient way to target exactly the right customers. But online advertising is also easily subverted—letting fraudsters claim advertising fees for work they did not actually do. The trickiest frauds deceive advertisers so effectively that measurements of ad effectiveness report the fraudsters as exceptionally productive and high quality, rather than revealing that their traffic was actually worthless. This is a quiet scandal. In a time of tightening ad budgets, losses to advertising fraud come straight from the bottom line—but savings can be equally dramatic. Here's a look behind the veil—an explanation of ad practices that have cheated even the Web's largest advertisers. Advertising scams take plenty of victims, both witting and not, but I offer strategies to help determined marketers protect themselves.

Keywords: Safety; Misleading and Fraudulent Advertising; Online Advertising; Advertising Industry;

Citation:

Edelman, Benjamin. "The Dark Underbelly of Online Advertising." HBR Now (November 17, 2009).