Harvard Prof: Deceptive Ads ‘Widespread’ On Yahoo’s Right Media

Ben Edelman, an assistant professor at Harvard’s Business School, forcefully argues that “Yahoo’s Right Media ad marketplace features widespread ads exactly designed to deceive.” In his lengthy article he offers 10 examples and lots of specific documentation of the kinds of deception he alleges. The ad types in question feature the following kinds of copy according to Edelman:

  • “You have been chosen to win a free…”
  • “Free” and similar representations with NO disclosure language
  • “Free” and similar representations with disclosure language
  • Deceptive or questionably realistic offer
  • Bait & switch advertising, i.e. offer from creative isn’t present on LP

These ads either are false or fail to make legally required disclosures according to the article. Edelman argues this is going on because:

Right Media is the web’s largest marketplace for “remnant” (otherwise-unsold) display advertising. Sellers of advertising space would typically rather sell their most desirable space elsewhere, where they can get higher prices. So Right Media is left with relatively less desirable ad inventory. Who wants to buy that space? In part, bottom-feeders whose ads have a tendency to deceive.

The article reprints a statement from Yahoo/Right Media defending itself:

“Right Media is deeply committed to providing a high-quality experience for advertisers, agencies, networks and publishers. We have rigorous platform standards and guidelines for our members that we expect them to follow, which include preventing the use of our system in a misleading, deceptive or illegal manner.  For example,  since Exchange members classify their own content, we expect all advertisers to accurately categorize their creatives and associated landing pages and we expect that publishers will select the types of ads that are appropriate for their websites. Our Media Guard tool for creatives also provides additional safeguards for the Exchange. If we learn that an ad is in conflict with laws or regulations, our expectations or our guidelines, we take action to remove it from the Exchange as quickly as possible.”

Perhaps when new Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz takes a look at the exchange/marketplace she’ll clean up the practices that Edelman complains about and generally “kick some butt.”

Related Topics: Channel: Display | Legal: General | Yahoo: Display Ads

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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