Home Marketing Large Brands Are Still Advertising on Made-for-Advertising Sites

Large Brands Are Still Advertising on Made-for-Advertising Sites

Large Brands Are Still Advertising on Made-for-Advertising Sites


Almost a year after the industry outcry over made-for-advertising inventory and months since many ad-tech firms have devised solutions to address the problem, ads from large brands are still being served on spammy websites, new research from Adalytics has found.

Adalytics found examples of hundreds of large brands advertising on made-for-advertising websites, facilitated by most major ad-tech firms (a notable exception was The Trade Desk, which Adalytics did not observe sending ads on MFA websites). Many of these firms had announced tools to limit brands’ exposure to made-for-advertising sites after a report from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) in June found 21% of impressions and 15% of ad spend in the study’s sample went to these websites. Of note, some ad-tech solutions to address MFA are relatively new, still haven’t fully launched, or apply to only some deal types, like private marketplaces.

MFA websites are defined by a high ad-to-content ratio, rapidly auto-refreshing ad placements, a high percentage of paid traffic sourcing, generic and non-unique content, and poorly designed websites, according to a definition put forth by the ANA, 4A’s, World Federation of Advertisers and Incorporated Society of British Advertisers in September. In practice, this means websites that are made to game programmatic systems and win ad dollars, and not actually attract readers, despite not being outright fraud.

“It wasn’t a huge surprise,” said a brand media buyer who participated in the study, but declined to speak on record because of sensitive industry relations. “The biggest frustration is the systematic failures in every level of the supply chain. You’ve got the big tech companies not being able to identify and take MFA out.”

Adalytics was able to conduct its study by using open-source data on the supply-side platform, demand-side platform, verification firm and agency behind a given ad placement. Adalytics analyzed ad placements on 22 websites that not only met the standards for MFA by the trade bodies’ definition but also verified by Jounce Media and DeepSee.io, media quality firms that the trade bodies consulted to learn about and define MFA.

Of note, the Adalytics study analyzed placements from Amazon’s DSP, a behemoth of ad spend that was not part of the ANA study. Adaltyics found Amazon placing ads on a variety of MFA websites.

Together, the research paints a picture of the difficulty of solving intractable problems in ad tech, where complex supply chains prevent any one actor from taking the blame.