You’ll never find a real Rolex on Canal Street in New York City for $30. But for some reason we delude ourselves into believing that the FT.com ad impressions that show up on some sketchy exchange for $2 CPM are real.
It turns out that FT did some checking and found that the equivalent of one month’s of legitimate display and video inventory was being offered every day on 10 and 15 different ad exchanges, respectively, from 300 different accounts.
FT only sells inventory via Google AdX and TrustX. So who was asleep at the switch at the over 11,000 agencies and brands that buy FT inventory? It seems nobody is asking the simple question we ask before buying a Rolex: Is this a legitimate dealer?
You’d ask the question when buying a $10,000 watch, but not hundreds of thousands of dollars of advertising inventory? That’s just lazy.
Advertisers: Ask your agencies where they’re buying the inventory and ask if the seller is authorized to sell the publisher’s inventory. In some cases you can check the ads.txt file. You can even ring up the publisher and–gasp!–talk to a real human being. (Try it, you’ll like it.) And understand the rate cards, for heaven’s sake.
Agencies: You know which exchanges are sketchy. Stop buying there. Then cut the number down to one or two. And understand the rate cards, for heaven’s sake.
Takeaway: If you think you’re getting a Rolex on Canal Street for $30 or premium publisher inventory for a couple of bucks/M on an exchange, I’ve got a deal on a bridge in Brooklyn for you. Be skeptical. Assume fraud. And win.