Don’t be Fooled by the ‘Bait and Switch.’ Working Together to Prevent Fraud.


Don’t be Fooled by the ‘Bait and Switch’


There are companies in the digital ad space that are transparent and reputable. And then there are others.

The latter bunch will sometimes stoop to “bait-and-switch” tactics. Their media kits and proposals might incorporate site lists that include premium publications. That’s the bait to win the business. But they might never actually get placement on these sites.

That’s where the switch comes in. These ad networks rarely get any significant inventory from a premium publisher and instead spend the revenue on some of the less expensive, less desirable – and perhaps even fraudulent – sites on their list. Good for their margins; not so good for the client/agency.

The network might come back to the buyer with a screen capture of the ads on the premium site, even though the impressions really came from those more dubious publications.

Some companies commit even more egregious acts of deceit. They don’t own, operate or legally represent any of the inventory they say they represent, but compile lists from ad exchanges that include premium sites that would be well beyond the demand side’s budget. The rest of the list is made up of sites the client might look upon as filler. But guess where the ads will end up? These companies try to cover themselves with small print that reads, “we guarantee the plan will fall across this list but cannot confirm impressions across every site.”

And there are other deceptive practices. Some networks might keep sources on their list that they formerly represented but no longer do. Anything to hook buyers.

This is not only happening in digital media, but it has now also caught on with Connected TV. We saw this happen recently with a video ad network claiming they represented 4 different billion media companies for their Connected TV inventory – none of which was true. Those companies all were signed exclusively to us.

Luckily, some advertisers have caught on. And yet some companies continue to employ these shady manoeuvres.
A little bit of vigilance will help advertisers avoid getting reeled in.

How to Avoid the Bait and Switch

  • If a site list appears too good to be true, it probably is
  • Ask to have impressions verified in pre- and post-buy reports.
  • Be direct with the seller: ask if you can buy only the premium site as a one-site buy. If the seller says no, then
    chances are it doesn’t have the rights.
  • You can always get the publisher to verify whether the seller does in fact have Canadian rights to its inventory.
    Ask for a contact reference directly to the site itself.
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