Much more than a third of your advertising budget is wasted

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In a recent Wall Street Journal report, the allegation was made by the IAB that 36% of digital advertising traffic was fraudulent, driven by bot networks, fake websites, and hacked computers. I don’t doubt these figures for a second, because the measurement system by which payment is made for advertising is the click, and clicks are easy to generate and automate.

What’s more important, though, is that even a third of your ad budget wasted in digital is significantly better than traditional and offline, where you have absolutely no idea how much your budget is wasted. When you put up a billboard on a highway, you’re making some very broad assumptions about who drives by that billboard, and who has time or interest to read it. There’s a good chance, unless you’ve got a recognizable brand with an immediate call to action (fast food chain of your choice, next exit) that the ad won’t do much good.


Even in digital advertising, an awful lot of advertisers spend an awful lot of money trying to sell me something I already own. On the gaming blogs I read, Blizzard continues to try to sell me the Reaper of Souls expansion for Diablo III, and I already own it – and because it’s all online, they know it, they have my data and purchase record, and they still show me ads for it.

John Wanamaker is often quoted as saying that 50% of his advertising budget is wasted, he’s just not sure which half. I’d venture to say that advertisers waste far more money on bad targeting than they do on fraud. By no means is fraud a non-issue – it clearly is. But if 50% of your budget is wasted on bad targeting and 36% on fraud, then you’re really only getting 14 cents on every dollar working for your business. I’d say there’s some room for improvement there, wouldn’t you?

Let the ad networks fix the fraud problem (they will, it’s in their best interests to do so) – as marketers, we need to fix the targeting problem.

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