Positioning its latest purchase as another effort to clean up the fringes of the display ad ecosystem, Google's Neal Mohan announced today the acquisition of spider.io and its seven employees, led by founder Douglas de Jager. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
In a post on the DoubleClick Advertiser blog, Mohan wrote:
"Today we’re announcing our latest investment: we’ve completed an acquisition of spider.io, a company that has spent the past 3 years building a world-class ad fraud fighting operation.
Our immediate priority is to include their fraud detection technology in our video and display ads products, where they will complement our existing efforts. Over the long term, our goal is to improve the metrics that advertisers and publishers use to determine the value of digital media and give all parties a clearer, cleaner picture of what campaigns and media are truly delivering strong results. Also, by including spider.io’s fraud fighting expertise in our products, we can scale our efforts to weed out bad actors and improve the entire digital ecosystem."
Spider.io made a splash in March 2013 with what it said was the discovery of the Chameleon botnet: "Spider.io has observed 120,000 host machines on what it has dubbed the 'Chameleon' botnet. It says these machines are driving traffic to a cluster of at least 202 websites, resulting in a minimum of 9 billion monthly ad impressions served."
Google already boasts one of the strongest anti-fraud reputations in the industry, aided by both manual and automated review processes designed to identify influxes nonhuman traffic and prevent ads from being served against it. The company employs hundreds of staffers to help enforce its traffic and site quality policies.
To these efforts, de Jager and his team will add knowledge of nonhuman traffic schemes and how they are perpetrated through networks and marketplaces such as AdSense and DoubleClick Ad Exchange. De Jager's philosophical approach to identifying fraud is that bot hunters must change as fast as the fraudsters do, creating disincentives for the bad guys to keep at it. As de Jager wrote in an April 2013 piece for AdExchanger titled "Display Advertising Fraud is a Sell-Side Problem":
"If fraud is to be tackled across display advertising, then the dynamic nature of the problem needs not just to be accepted. It needs to be embraced. Ultimately the efforts of fraudsters will only be prevented if the measures to identify and prevent fraud keep changing quickly enough that it becomes financially unviable for fraudsters to keep trying to game the system."
In that same piece, de Jager described how his future employer pioneered fraud prevention in its PPC search ads marketplace, noting display advertising shenanigans pose greater challenges. In pay-per-click advertising, he wrote,
"If the clicker does not stay for a long time on the destination page and instead bounces, then the recipient of the click may never be in a position to determine whether the click was fraudulent. This information asymmetry is even more pronounced across display advertising, not least because display ad impressions seldom result in an analyzable click trace.
In May of 2013, de Jager wrote "A Botnet Primer for Display Advertisers."
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