Online Ad Fraud Is Off The Charts: "28% Of All Web Traffic Comes From Click Farms"

Authored by Bob Hoffman, author of the “Ad Contrarian” blog and writer of several books including "BadMen: How Advertising Went From A Minor Annoyance To A Major Menace," "Marketers Are From Mars, Consumers Are From New Jersey," and "101 Contrarian Ideas About Advertising"

Ad Fraud Is Off The Charts

In one of the most imprudent announcements in years, the ANA (Association of National Advertisers) congratulated itself a while back on having achieved a 10% reduction in ad fraud in 2017.

"The fraud decline is particularly impressive recognizing that this is occurring when digital advertising spending is expected to increase by 10 percent or more."

According to their calculations, global ad fraud dropped from $7.2 billion in 2016 to $6.5 billion in 2017.

The ANA announced this despite unmistakable indications that ad fraud is growing ferociously and is completely out of control. Every reputable independent ad fraud expert I know peed their pants laughing at this bullshit. Now there's some serious data indicating how ludicrously delusional the ANA and the marketing industry are.

A new report released by Adobe last week indicated that actual losses to ad fraud may be 10 times the ANA's number. The Adobe study, reported in The Wall Street Journal, claims that...

"...about 28% of website traffic showed strong “non-human signals,” leading the company to believe that the traffic came from bots or click farms."

Using Adobe's 28% number and projecting this out over $237 billion in estimated online ad spending this year (WARNING: COPYWRITER MATH COMING UP) I calculate that online ad fraud may reach $66 billion in 2018. This is astonishing, even to an old hysteric like me.

And it may even be higher. The Adobe calculation is based on the signals that Adobe can detect. Since the fraudsters are always one step ahead, it is reasonable to assume that there is some undetected fraud. Praneet Sharma CTO of Method Media Intelligence says, "Avoiding detection will be the major obstacle that fraudsters will present."

According to another ad fraud expert, Dr. Augustine Fou, "No matter what you are hearing or reading about digital ad fraud, I can assure you it's actually worse than you think."

Ya know, ten billion here, ten billion starts to add up.


Belrev Mon, 04/02/2018 - 12:56 Permalink

A commercial comes to memory from early 2000s in which systems hardware purchase themselves, deliver themselves, install themselves and run themselves. Welcome to humanless century.

FireBrander BaBaBouy Mon, 04/02/2018 - 13:06 Permalink

Brave Browser folks!

Goodbye to ads, scripts, trackers, all that bullshit...totally destroys folks like Google.

Note, Brave is new and raw; it will break some websites...but it's so nice for sites like ZH that are infested with annoyances that go beyond simple ads.

In reply to by BaBaBouy

Give Me Some Truth Rainman Mon, 04/02/2018 - 14:11 Permalink

The one category of advertising sales that is actually increasing - on-line - is now revealed to be a mountain of fraud. Think about what this means and tells us about the businesses and people who spend money to advertise. They are cutting back dramatically in “spends” on traditional advertising, and are being ripped off in the hot, “new” advertising sector.

In reply to by Rainman

Sokhmate RafterManFMJ Tue, 04/03/2018 - 04:44 Permalink

Bingo, alas, who would do it?

I ran a modest niche educational website. Wanted to increase traffic via adverting on similar niche sites that had 10X to 1000x or more traffic. Were I able to increase sales by 6-8 times, I would've been able to live on the proceeds, and quit or part-time my day job. I was small potato on tight budget. I offered those sites a commission of up to 50% of sales initiated from their site (by clicking on my ads.) No one would bite.

In reply to by RafterManFMJ

wetwipe Belrev Mon, 04/02/2018 - 13:14 Permalink

When was the last time you clicked on a ad (not by accident) let along bought something from a ad.

The whole thing is a fraud. Adverts on the internet do not work.

What was good for TV does not work for the internet. TV has hypnotic qualities that leave people in a suggestible state thus being great to sell you shit. 


In reply to by Belrev

itstippy wetwipe Mon, 04/02/2018 - 14:57 Permalink

When that sonorous voice comes on the TV touting the new Dodge Ram Guts And Glory trucks with oversized payload, magnum power engine, and load leveling suspension I perk up.  He's accompanied by images of thirty-something year old hard-hat wearing manly men hauling huge steel pipes and girders.  Before the ad's even over I'm out the door and headed to the truck dealership to buy another one.  

As an overweight balding guy who sells wholesale feminine products from my basement office for a living I really don't need a 4X4 pickup truck, much less three of them. I feel kind of foolish when the monthly payments are due, but then I look in my driveway and feel strong and virile.

In reply to by wetwipe

ted41776 Mon, 04/02/2018 - 12:56 Permalink

when was the last time you bought anything after clicking on an online ad? anyone? do they even teach maffs and things like conversion rates in school anymore or is that just considered racist homophobe sexist hate speech now?

Byrond Mon, 04/02/2018 - 12:57 Permalink

And the illusion falls and reality bites. So goes the internet tech era. But AI! But robots! But self driving cars! No, just ads and clicks and cheats and cons. 

Deep Snorkeler Mon, 04/02/2018 - 12:58 Permalink

America is a nationwide fraud-matrix of interlocked criminal amoebas.

98.8% of all internet ads are never seen by human eyes.

It's all fake, but it's all we have got.  Pretend and extend.


economessed Mon, 04/02/2018 - 12:59 Permalink

Why is this news?  Fraud is the currency of our lives, institutionalized by the Federal Reserve, and promulgated by every debt manufacturer on the planet. 

Fraud in advertising IS the business model.

Peak Finance Mon, 04/02/2018 - 13:00 Permalink


Click farms use Smartphones to run their scams, banks and banks of smartphones attached to computers for remote control and to feed the smartphones commands

If you are selling a product, or a service, and your customer base is not really using Smartphones to find you, then you can shut off bidding to smartphones by doing the following:

Go to "Adwords"

Go to "Campaigns"

Select your most important campaign (or least important campaign as a test)

Select "Settings" then "devices"

So, set the devices to "Computers" and "Tablets" to overweight and smartphones to underweight or to 0

Organically you will still show up in the smartphone search rankings but you will not be paying for bids there.  

Up your search engine game so you don't need to pay so much for clicks. 


Check the countries your adds appear, you can highly target this and exclude third world countyries where the fake clicks originate. This is not a fool-proof method like removing smartphones from your settings.