Google Called Out Over Fraud Refund Practices; Nielsen's Plan To Track Product Placements

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Google’s Fraud Refunds

The ad management company AdTrader published a Medium post encouraging advertisers to join its class-action lawsuit against Google. Back in December, AdTrader sued Google over almost $500,000 in publisher ad revenue it says the ad platform giant improperly seized. The company alleges Google claimed it would return the money to advertisers, but never did. AdTrader makes the case that Google has been pocketing revenue from frozen publisher accounts for years. Google has boasted of terminating 250,000 AdSense accounts in a single year, and only changed its fraud rebate policy after a Wall Street Journal report last summer. One tantalizing addendum about the interconnected nature of fraud (rebates aside): DingIt.tv, the publisher outed by BuzzFeed for fraud, plays a critical role. AdTrader’s account was cut off in May, just days after a Google account rep started asking questions about DingIt’s relationship with AdTrader.

Tracking Product Placement

Nielsen has trotted out a product allowing marketers and TV networks to track brand integrations across linear TV, subscription streaming services and social media (namely, YouTube). It’s part of Nielsen’s broader efforts to sync TV campaigns and digital video so marketers can “effectively research within an ecosystem that provides qualitative, apples-to-apples comparisons across devices.” Read the release. The product underscores the growing importance of getting brands in front of audiences within ad-averse SVOD services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Interesting Times

LA billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong will acquire The Los Angeles Times from its current parent Tronc, Paul Farhi reports for The Washington Post. As a member of Tronc’s board, Soon-Shiong has had a front-row seat to recent chaos at the paper, including back-to-back management purges and several waves of layoffs. Still and all, the paper remains a valuable property with 435,000 paid subscribers and 31.6 million uniques. More.

One Percenters

When Google Chrome’s ad filtering policy goes into effect next week, 0.9% of publishers will start off with “failing” grades, Axios reports. An additional 0.5% of publishers show ads that fall within the “warning level.” The new ad standards initially affected more publishers, but 37% of publishers already adjusted their ad formats, including Forbes and Tronc-owned newspapers Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times. The 12 formats Google is rejecting include autoplay video with sound, large sticky ads at the bottom of a page and prestitial ads with countdowns. If a publisher shows more than 7.5% of ads in these formats, Chrome will trigger ad blocking. Read on.

Disclose Now

It’s not just the feds who are worried about political ad transparency. Seattle’s election authority is asserting Facebook violated a city law requiring political disclosures to detail the “exact nature and extent of the advertising services rendered,” Reuters reports. The fine could be up to $5,000 per ad buy. Facebook says it provided the city with the information it needs, but Seattle counters that it never received full spend numbers, targeting data or ad visuals. This “doesn’t come close to meeting their public obligation,” says Wayne Barnett, executive director of the Seattle ethics and elections commission. “We gave Facebook ample time to comply with the law.” More.

Imagineering

In the fourth quarter Disney suffered an 11% dip in ad revenue at ESPN, as well as pressures at the ABC broadcast network, “where higher rates were offset by a decline in impressions,” the company said Tuesday. Still, Disney and its investors are bullish on the upcoming launch of streaming video service ESPN Plus. Management used the earnings call as an occasion to unveil the pricing for that service: $4.99 per month. And Disney is “reimagining” ESPN’s entire mobile experience with new content and personalization powered by underlying tech and data courtesy of its acquisition of BAMTech. Earnings release.

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