Researcher: Deceptive Ads Still Widespread on Right Media

Yahoo-owned Right Media tolerates the sale of deceptive ads on its exchange, claims ad researcher Ben Edelman. Furthermore, he says those deceptive ads may account for as much as 34 percent of ad messages sold through the platform.

Edelman, a display ad researcher and assistant professor at Harvard Business School, is known for his analysis of how sub-premium ad space is brokered online. His reports are typically based on direct observation and documentation of ad code and creative.

In his latest report, Edelman combined such observations with data available through Right Media’s Media Guard content filtering tool to identify the prevalence of different kinds of misleading creative in ad messages. The most common of these, he said, are ads that promise something “free” without offering disclosure about consumer obligations associated with that offer. These account for nearly 18 percent of all ads trafficked through Right Media’s Remix ad exchange. Other common types of confusing ads include those with fake pull-down menus or buttons (6.7 percent) and ads that mimic operating system dialog boxes (5.1 percent).

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Right Media allows publishers to accept or deny each of these types of ads.

In a statement shared with ClickZ, Yahoo said it relies on advertisers to accurately classify their ad creative, and on publishers to accept only those ads that are acceptable for their Web sites. The company declined an interview request.

“Right Media is deeply committed to providing a high-quality experience for advertisers, agencies, networks and publishers,” the statement said. “If we learn that an ad is in conflict with laws or regulations, our expectations or our guidelines, we take action to remove it from the Exchange as quickly as possible.”

Edelman questions that claim. He notes Yahoo is aware of deceptive ads sold through the Right Media platform, since it places those ads into unique categories, for instance “Mimics Windows/Mac/Unix dialog boxes.” According to Right Media’s description in its Media Guard tool, publishers accepting ads in that category will get “Creatives that intend to convince the user that they are seeing a genuine dialog box when they are not.”

“If Right Media wants to put teeth behind its prohibitions on deceptive and illegal uses of its system, it should kick out the many ads that violate these prohibitions,” he writes in the report.

The attorneys general of several states, most notably Florida, have recently begun to crack down on digital advertising that purports to offer free products when those products are actually associated with a fee or other cost. A year ago online and mobile promotions firm AzoogleAds agreed to pay $1 million to Florida’s new CyberFraud Task Force after an investigation found online offers for “free” ringtone services were not actually free. That was followed by similar investigations of — and settlement payments from — other companies, including M-Qube, and AT&T.

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