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Independent auditing of online advertising campaigns

Independent auditing of online advertising campaigns

My name is Patricia Callejo. I am Research Assistant at IMDEA Networks and I am doing the Phd in Telematic Engineering at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid My name is Pelayo Vallina. I am Computer Engineer Right now, I am researcher at IMDEA Networks and PhD student at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid We have seen discrepancies that an advertising network shows its advertisers regarding the results we have found in our studies So what we can see is that if an advertiser thinks that his ad has been shown on X web pages, it has actually been shown on other websites that they do not know. We believe that it is something important that advertisers must take into account when launching online advertising campaigns. What we have presented in this study is basically a methodology for auditing online advertising campaigns. We have created a methodology that consists in generating a Java Script code that we insert into the ads. what we have done is playing an advertiser role we have created our own ad and we have inserted this code Once it is announced a web page is deployed, it communicates with our databases and gives us information about where the advertisement has been shown In this particular study we have used Google Adwords which is a well-known advertising network With our methodology, we have launched online advertising campaigns Based on that, Google Adwords has given us some reports of the pages where the ads have been shown, the times it has been shown and we have measured that on our own. What we have done is to compare the two reports to see if Google Adwords is really being transparent in the results it is giving to the advertiser or not. What we have seen is that there is some information that is not been providing, not because they hide it on purpose but that we do have and that we believe is important for advertisers. Among those results that do not match our data and those that provide us we have not seen any bias in this case. The ecosystem of online advertising is like a black box, you do not really know what is going on inside. If I have a toy and I want to announce it I would like to know if that toy is really being advertised on pages for children or is being advertised on adult content pages What is intended is to check if when you put an ad it is showing the way you want as owner of that brand The conclusion is that not as much as it should There are pages in which according to Google Adwords the ad has not been shown maybe because it has not found that result or it considers that a single impression of that ad is not enough to tell it to the advertiser But we consider that it is because giving the example of a toy If a toy is advertised on a weapons sales page you are damaging the brand So, we believe that all information must be shown to the advertiser precisely because transparency in this ecosystem is necessary As Internet users we are continuously looking at advertisements but it is the price you pay for Internet You have a lot of free content and the price you pay for Internet moves thanks to the ads Returning to the example of toys if a toy is being advertised on a weapon’s web page hits you but apart from that I think it has no great implications as for those who are really putting money into it Therefore, I believe that if an advertiser had all the information would be beneficial for them and, at the same time, these companies that are intermediaries who are dedicated to put the ads if they had all the information, I think it would be beneficial for their brand because if you are giving transparency to your advertisers, they will trust you more So, these things that you see are not really transparent they do not benefit them It benefits them being transparent, find something fair for everyone For example, there is one aspect of the online advertising campaign that is called frequency cap that is how many times you show to the same user an ad If an ad it is shown 100 times to the same user this can have an opposite effect for the brand because the user can get tired of this brand and in the end, it can end up not buying So, if all this the advertiser doesn´t know it the lack of transparency can directly affect both their sales at the end of the month as well as spending more money on online advertising campaigns that are producing the opposite. It is important for both advertisers and intermediaries who put those ads What motivated me to participate in this study was to see that there is a lot of news that indicates that there are advertising networks that are not transparent In fact, fines have been imposed because there are things that are not being done well Then, you think why don´t you really study it yourself to see what is happening This is what has motivated us to do this study Since we are engineers, it cost us a bit at the beginning because this ecosystem is very complex nowadays that everything is done online, automatically So, we had to study how the advertising ecosystem works Apart from this, we are not advertisers, we have had to create an advertisement and these are things that we did not count on within this study We asked people from the online advertising world to explain a little about how it worked and we have met a lot of people who have helped us with it What we present in this study is a principle of our research in which what we want to do is corroborate that the methodology works However, what we are doing is extending this methodology to be able to make other types of measures and be able to use this same methodology and apply it to different elements that make up online advertising It is such a complex system, the system of online advertising that we have today that I believe that the companies that are dedicated to it don´t know that they are hiding information from advertisers Therefore, we believe it is important given the results we have obtained that they must use some independent methodology to see that they are showing real information to advertisers There are already companies dedicated to audit and measure online advertising what happens is that obviously these are private companies and have an economic incentive In our case, we belong to a public institution that doesn´t have that economic incentive What we want is to make sure that things are being done as they say they are being done That they mustn´t trust the intermediaries directly They should look for other metrics to verify that these intermediaries are doing the work well

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