“Cynical” digital sites accused of ripping off advertisers with dodgy ad placements

Online publishers are taking part in “cynical” ad placement to grab payments they don’t deserve, a media sales boss has warned.  

Laim Walsh, who heads up Microsoft’s Drive PM, says the tactic is used by publishers who want to make the most of cost per acquisition payment models. This is where advertisers who acquire a new customer make a payment to whichever site was the last one to serve them an ad.

So some sites are serving additional ads at the bottom of pages where he says they are unlikely to be seen, in order to improve their chances.

Writing on his Talking Digital blog, Walsh, who has previously run digital agency eMitch and Fairfax Digital’s sales operation, says:

“We live right now with worries over hitting budgets and this is driving this terribly cynical behaviour by many publishers, probably most publishers. The law of post impression of course is that a sale is recorded against the last site which displayed an ad before the product was bought unless there was a click through.”

He warns: “Our publishers think they are getting away with this little deception but all it is doing is undermining digital as a serious platform.”

And Ben Shepherd, digital director at media agency Maxus in Melbourne adds in the same posting:

“The ad placement known as the ‘south leaderboard’ seems to be appearing on a lot of sites. These appear on the likes of the entire Sensis/Bigpond network, ninemsn, News Digital Media, Fairfax Digital and Yahoo!7. The 5 big guys. Instead of setting a good example they are the worst offenders. Cmon guys … stop treating people like they’re stupid.”

google-heat-mapBut Paul Fisher, CEO of Australia’s Interactive Advertising Bureau, told Mumbrella: “The publishers are a lot more sophisticated than slapping ads wherever they think.” He said he was aware of eye tracking research that demonstrated that users look at spots that would not seem immediately obvious.

Google publishes a heat map for webmasters who want to know the most effective place to situate AdSense ads. It indicates that the bottom of the page can be an effective spot.

Fisher said: “We don’t publish guidance on where to position ads. That’s up to the editor of the content on each site. There is no industry standard.”


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