‘Google’s refund is worth less than a sandwich – clients should realise they’re getting screwed’

In an out-of-character moment of generosity, Google has refunded advertisers the cash spent on fraudulent ads – but the offer is a fraction of the real costs – writes Bob Hoffman

This week Google announced that it was giving money back to advertisers. Are they suddenly going all cuddly and kind-hearted at Google? Not exactly.

What happened was that Google has apparently discovered there is ad fraud in the world. According to The Wall Street Journal “Google is issuing refunds for ads that ran on websites with fake traffic”. Google’s DoubleClick Bid Manager has been buying fraudulent traffic, as has every automated buying platform in the history of the internet for the simple reason that the web is drowning in fraudulent traffic.

But Google’s philanthropy has its limits. “Google’s refunds amount to only a fraction of the cost of the ads served to invalid traffic,” says the journal. Which leads me to believe that this exercise in minimal magnanimity will backfire as advertisers start to realise they are getting screwed. One ad buyer said their refund amounted to “less money than you would spend on a sandwich”.

WPP may need that sandwich

Meanwhile, over at the world’s largest agency holding company, they won’t be giving money back anytime soon. After announcing a lower than expected revenue forecast, WPP’s shares dropped by as much as 12 per cent. Shares of other large agency holding groups also fell as consumer products companies – dazed and confused by inefficiencies, fraud, and lack of transparency in much of the online advertising world – have been cutting back on advertising spending.

Facebook discovers 300,000 invisible Swedes

Facebook “metrics” have a long illustrious history of being laughable bullshit. Anyone who believes their numbers is an idiot. Here’s a lovely example. According to a recently published report, Facebook says they reach 1.5 million Swedes between the age of 15 and 24. The problem here is that Sweden only has 1.2 million of them. If Facebook reached 100 per cent of them, they’d still be 300,000 short. Sometimes I think Facebook’s calculations are done by bloggers.

Bob Hoffman has been the CEO of two independent agencies and is the author of the Ad Contrarian blog


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