Here’s the dirty secret of the digital Web: traffic is not traffic, eyeballs are not eyeballs…they are machines. The problem of machine-generated traffic is enormous, so much so that many of the popular healthcare consumer sites that claim huge numbers of visitors are fueled by bots. While this Bloomberg clip ventures to estimate that 25% of video ad views are actually bots landing on those pages, other experts have appraised this at 50% to 80%. Is this surprising given the lack of transparency in Web analytics? Is this surprising given the amount of ad revenue that is at stake?
Here’s a lesson in modern day economics: lack of transparency + large amounts of money = opportunity for larceny. Who are the beneficiaries? Websites that attract more advertising dollars based on inflated rates. And, the more popular and accepted the Web property, the smaller the incentive is to uncover the fraud. How much incentive is there to unravel the labyrinth of deception? Very, very little. Who wants to upset the apple cart? Who has time to devote the investigative skills of Hercule Poirot or NCIS: LA?
There is one hard and fast answer: Authentication, authentication, authentication. For advertisers to have complete confidence that their ads are reaching the right healthcare professionals, the Web behavior of each individual must be authenticated. In healthcare, the stakes go way beyond the price of corn flakes. Serving the wrong content to the wrong eyeballs can result, not just in inflated expectations and ad dollars paid to Internet bots, but also in violations of CIA. We’re not talking CIA as in the Central Intelligence Agency. No, we’re talking about something much more serious to manufacturers, who are bound by Corporate Integrity Agreements; we’re talking about the violation of agreements that have been struck with the FDA. So, who’s got the chops to peek under the covers? Many of us who are in the ad-buying chain.