One of the fast-growing concerns in the advertisement industry is ad injection, which can take multiple forms, from pop-up ads to disguised ads that can blend in the content. Thus, as a publisher, it’s crucial to take the necessary steps to keep your website safe to avoid falling victim of ad injection’s consequences.

According to recent studies, injected ads can be observed during 15% to 25% of online shopping sessions. This highlights a concerning trend that can have a significant impact on eCommerce key performance indicators (KPIs).

“Unwanted ad injectors aren’t part of a healthy ads ecosystem. They’re part of an environment where bad practices hurt users, advertisers, and publishers alike” said Google. Nobody likes ad injection; it is placed without the publisher’s consent, users are likely to install malware by clicking on an unknown ad, and advertisers lose impressions.

But, What Is Ad Injection

Ad injection is an activity involving the insertion of ads on a publisher’s web page without taking his/her permission. It’s a program that can insert new ads or replace existing ones during web surfing sessions of a user.

Publishers who are not running any ads on their web pages can also get affected as unwanted ads are blocking content on their webpages. Moreover, the visitors can be under threat posed by these ads via spam and malware stored in them.

If we talk about advertisers, the ad spaces purchased by them to display their ads are falsely taken by unwanted ads due to ad injection. Worse, advertisers would have no idea if their ads are running or not.

Whereas on the positive end of spectrum, Ad injector is used to boost or injects any kind of advert on a page of the publisher’s site. This helps publishers monetize their site and advertiser can also get more impressions.

What is an example of Ad Injection?

Imagine visiting a website that’s ad-free, but suddenly, pop-up or banner ads appear out of nowhere – that’s ad injection in action. Alternatively, you might click on a link, expecting to see specific content, only to end up on a page swamped with ads.

Ad injection can even happen in less obvious ways like ads disguised as authentic content or hidden in obscure corners of a webpage. Not only do these tactics diminish the user experience, but they can also inflict reputational and monetary damage on a website.

How Does Ad Injection Work?

There are a number of software that come bundled with browser extensions or add-ons that enable ad injection. These extensions get quickly installed on your browser. Once installed, they quietly inject N number of ads on various web pages.

By clicking on these ads, users end up installing malware. In a worst-case scenario, malware combines itself with the existing software and downloads. All this happens because users are unable to distinguish between the ads infected with malware and ads which are legit Take a look at some findings researched by Google:

  • Multiple browsers  viz. Chrome, Firefox, Safari, IE, others were detected with a Ad injection.
  • 75% Chrome extensions were injecting ads and malware, which were removed and disabled by Chrome.
  • More than 5% users visiting Google sites have at least one ad injector software installed.

How Ad Injection Impacts Publishers’ Revenue?

The average rate of abandoned carts across all industries is 69.57 percent. While there can be various reasons for this, one possible cause could be ad injection. Yes, ad injection can also end up affecting the card abandonment rates as well.

If a customer is swayed away by a rouge advertisement, not only publishers will lose their potential revenue, but they also get their reputation affected. Now you must be wondering why.

These injected ads often show up in the form of pop-up ads, and a few more formats that are intrusive in nature. Worst of all, they try to promote competitors’ products, price comparisons, and more. They can even display illegal content on websites which can destroy publishers’ reputation.

Here are a few more ways in which ad injection affects publishers.

  • Negative impact on customer loyalty and trust in the brand
  • Decrease in revenue due to ineffective ad placements
  • Slow website loading speed resulting in poor user experience
  • Blocked content due to excessive or inappropriate ad placements
  • Reduction in conversion rates due to ads negatively impacting the customer journey

In fact, according to Statista, the digital cost of ad fraud has been on the rise since 2018. 

Ad Injection
Image source – Statisa

Whose Fault Is It?

Blaming one party for ad injection and the issues surrounding it would be wrong. There are software companies that monetize their software by bundling it with ad injector software. Whereas, many publishers deliberately install ad injection plugins on their websites to display more ads on their pages.

Furthermore, programmatic ad buying, a process of automatic selling and buying of digital inventory, reduces transparency. Not to forget, the advertising system is a complex network of publishers, ad networks, advertisers, ad exchanges, and more.

This has created an opportunity to push unwanted ads via ad injection and advertisers don’t even notice the problem until it’s too late.

Publishers do not mind ads being shown on their web pages unless they block their content. This is why they do not always notice that ad injection is causing their ad space to be used by unwanted ads.

Web pages are filled with a great number of ads. Hence, visitors don’t care what kind of ads are being shown. Most visitors simply ignore ads if a website has ads popping from everywhere. Such negligence sometimes leads to the installation of spam on their device risking privacy and causing data theft.

So as you might understand, ad injection is thriving due to the recklessness and lack of transparency of the system. It’s scary enough to imagine that a publisher’s ad space is being used by other unauthorized ads.

On top of that, these ads can also transfer malware to the visitor’s device. Not to forget, you (publishers) can’t really blame anyone for issues caused by it, but maybe yourself

How To Fight Against It

If Google is addressing an issue, then you should consider it as a serious one. Meaning, ad injection might not seem a big problem from the outside. However, if you take all details (minor and major) in account, a whole different story will build around it.
Considering Google’s security compliance, here are some tips to fight against ad injection:

  1. Read Software Policy Before Installing It

    AdWords Advertisers must comply with the Unwanted Software Policy for each software being downloaded from their site. However, publishers and customers are recommended to review the policy on their own, before using a service.
    Transparent Installation: Software should be easy to download and install. It should have clear proposition which can be easily understood by the user.
    Simple Removal: User should be able to disable/remove the software anytime.
    Clear Behaviour: Software should work, behave, and deliver as promised.
    Data Collection: User should be notified in case there’s any kind of user data being collected.

  2. Browser’s Warning Should Be Taken Seriously

    Many times, before installing software, web browser gives warning to the user like “this software is not safe to use” or “return to safety.” However, some users don’t take these warnings seriously and continue with the process.
    Ideally If this is the case, you should abort the process once you see a warning sign from your browser. If required, you may try out some effective ad fraud prevention measures.

  3. Avoid Affected Companies

    In order to reduce the malpractice caused due to ad injection, Google reached out to advertisers to alert them about deceptive ads. Furthermore, a list of companies involved with this kind of ad fraud was also named out.
    Calling out the names of these companies effectively reduced the number of ad injection fraud incidents.Hence, young advertisers and publishers are recommended to go through this list.

Conclusion

Ad fraud cannot be avoided entirely. However, there are strict rules and policies designed for the ad industry to fight back.

The simplest way to avoid ad fraud is to follow the rules. In the case of ad injection, advertisers need to be more cautious and publishers should choose more transparent ad services.

FAQs – Ad Injection

1. How to recognize ad fraud?

Ad Fraud can be recognized when –
I. Credit report errors or unrecognizable accounts
II. US mail stops delivering bills or statements. An identity thief may have changed your billing address.
III. You have significantly out-of-order checks
IV. Credit denied without reasonable cause
V. Accounts are frozen by banks and financial institutions
VI. Obtaining credit cards without applying.
VII. Denial of credit that you didn’t apply for
VIII. Debt collectors contact you about merchandise you didn’t buy
IX. Notifications about address, password, or information changes

2. How can mobile advertising fraud be prevented?

By breaking down communication silos and analyzing data carefully, mobile ad fraud can be caught and prevented. Start by reviewing the analytics data you’ve been collecting. Track impressions and clicks at every stage of your campaign.

3. What are the ways to protect yourself from fraud?

You can Protect Yourself from Fraud by following ways:
I. Make sure your online information is secure.
II. Keep an eye on your accounts. …
III. Business Email Compromise. 
IV. Shred sensitive documents. 
V. Do a credit check.
VI. Share your information with caution.
VII. Call filtering.
VIII. Spot suspicious activity.


Author

Deepak has a keen eye for detail and a deep understanding of the ad tech landscape. Whether it's through in-depth articles, thought-provoking insights, or compelling storytelling, he’s dedicated to helping people navigate the complex world of ad tech with the simplicity of his words.

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