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$1.5 Billion Wasted Advertising To Bots

Solve Media on Friday revealed its findings that 10% of all online traffic is generated by "bots," those software applications that run automated processes across the web. With an estimated global market of $15.3 billion in ads for 2012, that puts the waste at $1.5 billion.

Solve Media claims to have seen a 400% rise in 2012 of aberrant traffic across registration, voting, commenting and contact services on the web. Solve Media offers the familiar CAPTCHA technology: If you’ve ever had to re-type in a wavy nonsense word to verify to a publisher that you are a human being, then, you have seen CAPTCHA.

What harm do bots do? Bots are programs that automate tasks like ad clicks. They cause advertisers to pay for impressions that are not being seen by human beings. Bots undermine the security of the web and cause harm by stealing publisher content, creating spam assets and posting inappropriate content. Votebots can rig a contest, spambots harvest email addresses, and web spiders scrape content and republish it (among other bot types)..
Solve Media reviewed a monthly average of 100 million identity authentications from all of 2011 to August 2012 across 5,000 publishers.

Key findings include:

  • The majority of bot traffic comes from the US based on total numbers.
  • Singapore (56%) and Taiwan (54%) had the highest percentage of bot traffic; in the US, bots are 16% of total traffic.
  • comScore observed that between 4% and 11% of ad impressions for given U.S. campaigns were delivered against bot traffic; web site security firm Incapsula estimates bot traffic to be 31%.

"The existence of non-human traffic is an issue that affects the entire digital ad ecosystem," said Kirby Winfield, SVP of Corporate Development, comScore. "comScore research has shown that a significant percentage of ad campaigns are delivered against non-human traffic, which represents waste for advertisers that can diminish their confidence in the medium. Any efforts to quantify the magnitude of this problem and validate ad delivery represent a step in the right direction for digital."

To protect against bots, Solve Media advises that advertisers:

  • Seek cost-per-engagement (CPE) media opportunities that demand human cognition.
  • Embrace publishers that have proactively implemented an anti-bot solution.
  • Demand third-party attitudinal research that confirms effectiveness of ads.
  • Require site transparency on all network buys.
  • Implement attribution tracking technology on all video buys.

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