Ad Injections 101

06 Jan

Have you ever downloaded a file off the internet? You know what I’m talking about. When you have the “run” and “install” pop-ups and the 5 million page terms and conditions that none of us EVER read.[1] Well… if you’re downloading these kind of apps on your work computer and then doing QA or checking geo-targeted ads and content, then you may be giving completely inaccurate information to your clients. No. You are definitely giving completely inaccurate information to your clients.

So… what exactly am I talking about?

I don’t know if you’ve hear of this little bastard, but I’m talking about ad injectors. Ad injectors insert ads into others’ sites, without permission from those sites and without payment to those sites.[2] Say what!? That seems unreal. Well. It’s not and here’s exactly what’s happening.

When you download apps off the internet, they will bundle themselves into an installer which will persuade you to install additional programs onto your computer. This is where not reading the terms and conditions or the pop-ups and just clicking “next” “next” “next” come in. So really, when you think you’re getting what you were looking for, you are… but you’re also getting much more than you expected.

So let’s say you search Google.com for “boots”; Google will come back with results less than seconds later, but in even less time, the ad injector will push forth results of its own and replace the ads that Google, more importantly the brand that paid for the these ads, present. In the case of the search results, it will often say enhanced results on the top. But in fact, these aren’t enhanced results at all. They’re ads! And, as usual, when you click these ads, the advertiser will be charged a fee.

Ok, so who gets paid here?

Normally, the money would go to Google, right? But Google isn’t making any money here. Why? Because the ads were never put up by Google in the first place. The ads belong to an entirely independent third party service who hijacked the Google search page and placed their own ads as a way of making money. So let’s reiterate this- the ads on Google have not actually been placed there by Google!

Why do advertisers do this?

Well, this is a very attractive scheme to advertisers because now they are being offered inventory in places they would have never been offered before! For example, not too long ago, a Target ad actually showed up on Walmart’s homepage. If that’s not a shocker, then I don’t know what is.

Why do Ad Injectors do this?

On one hand, ad injectors could sell inventory directly to the publishers. In fact. If the price is good enough, advertisers may even say yes. It would indeed be more appealing to advertisers as these ad injectors would be able to offer up space that would otherwise be impossible to attain i.e. Walmart or Wikipedia. Additionally, the spots on the page (above the fold, main banner) would definitely be an attractive aspect to advertisers.

But this isn’t what ad injectors do at all. Rather, they work through an intricate and complex web of ad networks, exchanges and other mediators. There are many benefits to these mediators, the strongest being the ability to increase efficiency. However, because these webs are so complex, the advertiser may be going through 3 or 4 mediators before getting to their publisher. The advertiser may never even suspect that they are going through an ad injector!

Why could this be problematic?

If you have an ad injector installed on your computer and you’re doing QA for your company or for a client and the purpose of this QA is to deliver information regarding geo-targeted content or ads, nothing you will see will most likely be accurate. That means that snapshots of the sites you send with the ads may be completely different, leading you to be an inaccurate and unreliable source of information in the eyes of your client.

So…

Before you continue downloading anymore free apps, realize that these ad injections are ruining your internet experience. Be cautious and aware and make sure to always read the fine print.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] See… I told you so.

[2] http://www.benedelman.org/injectors/

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