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Facebook shutters buying platform in Atlas

Bad inventory accounts for 75% of volume as industry continues its war with fraud

Facebook is shutting down an ad buying platform after being “amazed” by its high volume of bad inventory. But those who work in the industry were already lukewarm on the platform and say they don’t think it will be missed any time soon.

The ad buying platform was being tested last year in Facebook’s ad server, Atlas, which it bought from Microsoft in 2013. Although Facebook says it was able to deliver ads with “unprecedented accuracy,” the company’s ad tech head Dave Jakubowski said in a blog post that there were simply too many bad ads and bots.

“We removed over 75% of the volume coming from our exchange by turning off publishers circulating bad inventory,” said Jakubowski in the post. “We knew that, in good conscience, we couldn’t sell what Atlas and our people-based measurement told us was valueless.”

Most ad exchanges have seen their share of struggles in terms of inventory quality, and it’s something that industry insiders are always watching. However, the fact that Facebook discovered such a high volume so quickly has raised some eyebrows.

“It’s very shocking to me that, right out of the gate, they would have such poor quality inventory,” said Josh Rosen, president of Wave Digital Media. “But I highly commend them for recognizing it before they invested into it heavily, and before individuals such as myself invested into it heavily as well.”

Jay Aber, vice-chair of the Interactive Advertising Bureau [IAB] of Canada’s board of directors and president of The Aber Group, told Marketing it is odd that Facebook is using bad inventory as the main reason to shut down the platform though, since many have the same problem.

“It’s no secret that viewability is a challenge, and so is non-human traffic, but organizations such as the IAB are trying to tackle it right now,” Aber said.

If anything, the shutdown of Facebook’s buying platform may help springboard a larger discussion on the overall quality of advertisements. Sonia Carreno, president of IAB Canada, said ad tech has significantly advanced in the past five years to accurately target “qualified traffic,” which is broadly defined as verified, in-target, human impressions.

“Marketers are demanding greater transparency, and with this comes the natural lean towards premium units, including native and video,” Carreno said, adding that Facebook’s announced shift toward native and video ads after shutting down its buying platform is not unique. “In Canada, there was a 28% increase in spending towards video advertising, and we expect to see this growth continue.”

Industry professionals echo the idea of marketers wanting more transparency. Rosen said his company is constantly monitoring for fraudulent activity such as sudden influxes of traffic or a high amount of click-throughs from a single source.

“It’s our duty as buyers to provide service to our clients that includes being more transparent and more in tune with what we are buying,” he added.

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