Buyer beware: Ad analytics platform Pixalate says fraudulent ad networks are increasingly joining open, real-time-bidding (RTB) marketplaces and then selling brands fake space on premium sites like YouTube, The Weather Channel and Yahoo. While the victims think their messages will appear on the Web's top destinations, in actuality, they end up on poor-performing pages.
In addition to the three sites mentioned, these publishers are also among the top 10 targeted by fraudsters: MSN, Wall Street Journal, News.net, Instagram, Google, The New York Times and Twitter.
The issue, known as domain masking and domain identity theft, affects about 46 percent of ads sold on open exchanges, per the Santa Monica, Calif.-based company. Most commonly affected are business, economy, news and media sites.
As of now, Pixalate has not identified the individuals behind the counterfeit sales, but it does know they use domain masking sites like tractionize.com, adbito.ml and imp-serving.com to make it appear as if marketers' ads are indeed on well-trafficked websites. It also knows the criminal networks usually are based in Russia or Asian countries.
And marketers who get duped aren't the only ones affected. Sometimes, premium publishers get stuck with unsold, legitimate inventory.
"The conception is that mostly buyers on the buyer side of media trading desks and agencies on the receiving end of the equation are getting hit. With domain masking and theft, even premium publishers are getting hit as well," Pixalate CEO Jalal Nasir explained.
According to Nasir, more transparency and data from the exchanges will help solve the problem. For example, if publishers made their floor price for ad sales public, brands would be suspicious of any inventory sold below that point.
For a detailed explanation of how the process works, take a look at Pixalate's infographic below.