Omnicom to Look into Digital Ad Spend – How Prevalent is Malvertising?

Shareholders of advertising group Omnicom and of Home Depot have urged the companies to investigate whether ad spending led to fraudulent advertising online. Omnicom manages $38 billion a year and shareholders petitioned to commission an independent investigation to discover whether this ad spending ended up being misdirected with fraudulent ads. How prevalent is malicious advertising – or malvertising?

Pop-Ups That Discredit Real Ads

Since 2018, there has been one major problem with online advertising, and it has come in the form of forced redirects or auto redirect ads. The ads are a sophisticated form of malware that often feature as a huge pop-up, which the user often cannot close. The site itself is then closed. Sometimes these bad ads result in viruses, other times people end up paying money. But these ads also harm publishers of real ads – as the sites may not be used again and the real ad has no chance to connect with potential customers.

Pop-ups can be found across the internet. Sites that allow people to watch films or TV shows without paying for a subscription service are infamous for the number of pop-ups, many of which interrupt the real site. The nature of these fraudulent ads could be said to be contributing to the distrust people may be feeling towards online advertising in general. Tackling these auto redirect ads could not only ensure that advertising spend is being used effectively but could work to place trust back in advertising.

Legitimizing Social Media Posts

Social media advertising has also come under fire for allowing content to be posted and boosted with little regard for its legitimacy. Instagram influencers also felt the brunt of a policy by the social media giant to have to declare if a certain post was being paid for through the brand the influencer was advertising. Facebook banned all political advertising in the run-up to the election in 2020 because of the oversight needed to ensure that claims made on the ads were genuine – much the same as a TV station or newspaper would.

This came in part as a result of the failed Fyre Festival of 2017 in which celebrities – including Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner – were seen to have been giving validity to the fake festival through posts to it online. Standards practices across the globe determined that if a celebrity – especially those with large followings of impressionable followers – was to promote a product for money, they should state that their views in the social media post were influenced by this payment.

In other words, influencers must determine whether what they are saying is coming from themselves as a person or themselves as a marketing tool. While social media giants may have undertaken some measures to mitigate against malvertising, there is still a lot more they could do to ensure that trust returns to online publishing.

Malvertising may be on the rise, but there are some measures that can be taken to defend against it. Social media is already being forced to tighten up its oversight. Companies are also being urged to ensure that they do everything in their power to prevent auto redirect ads from hampering their genuine ads. Together this could help to ensure the problem doesn’t get too out of control.

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