Hundreds of major brands unaware their ads appear on 'Made for Advertising' sites

Chris Pash
By Chris Pash | 14 March 2024

Hundreds of major brands are unaware that their their ads are being served on websites defined as Made for Advertising (MFA).

A study by Adalytics found the ads were placed both through programmatic and non-programmatic channels and can be more expensive than advertising at a Super Bowl half-time show.

This indicates that demand-side and supply-side providers are failing to protect brands from exposure to the click bait sites.

The study found The Trade Desk did not appear to have any ads served on Made for Advertising sites but many other platforms do.

"Some ad exchanges, which claim to work with vendors such as Jounce Media to eliminate Made for Advertising inventory from Private Marketplace (PMP) deals, appear to continue to serve brands’ ads on MFA sites specifically via PMP deals," the Adalytics study found.

"For example, it appears that the Dell, Microsoft, Comcast, Vail Resorts, Adobe, and other brands had ads served on sites Jounce Media has classified as MFA specifically via PMP deals that were transacted via ShareThrough."

The programmatic supply chain has big buckets of cash leaking to sites using cheap or hijacked content, essentially clickbait designed to attract ads. 

The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) in the US last year released a research report which found 21% of overall ad impressions occur on MFA sites and advertisers do not have control over their media placement decisions.

A range of industry player announced plans to combat the problem.

Media agencies took action, including GroupM which announced protections using Jounce Media’s technology in tracking MFA domains within the campaign planning processes.

“The challenges associated with MFA domains are likely to grow even more complex as the media ecosystem continues to evolve rapidly,” then said Rory Latham, GroupM’s senior director, Global Investment, Programmatic. 

Adalytics found almost all of the brands taking part in the ANA’s 2023 Programmatic Transparency Study continue to have their ads placed on Made for Advertising websites as of January this year.

Brands  observed on Made for Advertising websites as of January 2024 include: Procter & Gamble, Bayer, Reckitt, AT&T, Johnson & Johnson, AbbVie, Novartis, Pfizer, State Farm, PwC, Hershey’s, Unilever, Mondelez, Mars, Haleon, Ford, NBC Universal, Disney, AARP, Pfizer, Dell, US Army, US Air Force, US Navy, the Wall Street Journal, General Motors, Google, Meta, Hyundai, Molson Coors.

"MFA sites employ aggressive ad refreshes, which can result in a user being shown the same ad up to thousands of times during a single page view session," said Adalytics .

H&R Block had 2,117 impressions served to one consumer on a single MFA article in less than one hour. Verizon had 781 ad impressions served to one viewer on an MFA article in less than one hour.

"Due to an apparent lack of frequency capping when campaigns serve on MFA sites, some brands are paying astronomically high prices to reach a single consumer," said Adalytics.

Kroger paid an effective cost per 1000 people reached of $US5,491 to reach one consumer on an MFA site.

Comcast paid an effective cost per 1000 people reached of $2,628 to reach one consumer on a MFA site in a single page view session.

The cost to reach one unique viewer on an MFA site can be more expensive than the cost of incremental reach of advertising on the Super Bowl half-time show or of running ads on Netflix or Amazon Prime video.

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