back to article Facebook's pay-for-more-eyeballs shtick looks too good to be true: Page views, Likes from 'fake' profiles

Imagine a store where you go in, pay money, and sometimes leave empty-handed. That's digital advertising on social media in a nutshell because it's seemingly full of fraud. Simon Arthur, founder of custom parts maker Big Blue Saw, believes he had more or less that experience buying Facebook ads. In a blog post on Friday, …

  1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Very much in keeping with the expected honesty of FB really. I trust them as far as I can comfortably spit a rat (as Ford Prefect put it).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Heck Paul, I wouldn't trust them that far.

    2. VikiAi Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      I must admit a soft spot for a character in one of Sherri S. Tepper's early fantasy works, who expressed, "I could trust him as far as I could kick him up a chimney!"

      1. israel_hands

        My Dad's favourite was always "I'd trust him about as far as I can throw a chimney by its smoke."

  2. LDS Silver badge

    between 3 per cent to 4 per cent of monthly active users on the site were fake

    Probably that too is at least an order of magnitude too low...

    1. Dog Eatdog

      Re: between 3 per cent to 4 per cent of monthly active users on the site were fake

      My dog and his friends would surely agree with you.

  3. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Ad Money

    As ascribed to John Wanamaker, half the money (or more) spent on advertising is wasted without any fraud involved. It is the nature of advertising, Often increased spending does not improve sales. So a good bit of the ad budget is wasted but it is fiendishly difficult to determine what was a waste. Now include Fraudbook sleaze operations and you have recipe of at best a very ineffective ad campaign. Also, social media advertising is probably idiotic if you are trying to reach certain types of customers to begin with.

    1. Palpy

      Re: Ad Money, then and now

      Then, Wanamaker: "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The problem is, I don't know which half."

      Now, internet advertiser: "95% of the money I spend on internet advertising is wasted on making fraudsters solvent, and the other 5% just pisses people off. What's the use?"

      That said, I did know one person who I think actually paid attention to internet ads, and perhaps even liked them. Odd person, he. Held many strange beliefs. And, to tell the truth, I always liked the Japp ad in which the Rastaman pushes the Porsche over the cliff. But it's Norwegian, and fergodsake it's from last century.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is news?

    I've always been staggered that businesses think that "likes" mean anything, or that anybody on social media is who their profile says they are. Whilst somebody has woken up, the whole "business" of social media and online ads is far too profitable that the main beneficiaries are going to let it go.

    A few more tales like these, and I think we should expect event greater effort by those beneficiaries to put out fake science that shows the value of their services. The two most obvious ad-slingers rake in $150bn a year, in return for not much at all (the GDP of Kuwait, or Hungary....). They won't be giving that up easily.

  5. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Internet advertising is a complete scam

    Google, Facebook, and all of these companies know that the majority of their "views" are fake, or simply a result of fat fingers trying to swipe a new page on the phone but not being fast enough. But they are getting paid for the "views" so don't expect anything to change - fake/false advertising views are making them money - they have every incentive to never really investigate them.

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Internet advertising is a complete scam

      The fakery is not views but the concept of effective, targeted ads based on likes, searches, etc. Depending what is used as the basis for determining the group it is little more than reading goat entrails at the local Roman temple. The problem a lot of these groups is they have no context of why the person did what they did. So you are really reduced to a variation of mass market advertising with a better sounding buzzword bingo.

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

        Re: Internet advertising is a complete scam

        Here's an arstechnica story documenting BGP hacking to mask fake advertising views. $29,000,000 profit to the hackers using tools created by the NSA and others to mask visitors ... and corporations still pour money into Internet Advertising ... ROTFLMAO!

  6. Winkypop Silver badge

    Not fake!

    Alternate personas are people too you know! *

    * Your mileage may vary.

    1. VikiAi Silver badge

      Re: Not fake!

      I resemble that remark!

      I tried to create a FB account (which I would have destroyed again shortly after) a few weeks ago in a desperate attempt to contact a company who had screwed up their actual web page so much that their facebook 'support' page (who the hell uses a dodgy-arse FB account for a support forum?!?) was all it looked like I could get to.

      FB refused to accept my actual identity as real (I needed to discuss a majorly-stuffed-up order, so had to identify myself properly). They would have been happy to accept my primary internet alt, though (backed out before committing to that - my alt deserves more respect than that!)

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: Not fake!

        The moral - don't use a company that relies on FB for support. I can understand why some very small businesses might see it as a cheap way of supporting contact and detail (although they are probably incorrect) but any large company or anyone I want to put an order in with - not a snowwballs chance in hell.

        1. VikiAi Silver badge

          Re: Not fake!

          Very much! This was a quite large international operation I had been using happily for 8 years. Then what looks like a case of the Director's teenage nephew taking over their web presence. (Whether that was the actual case, it was certainly the actual effect!)

          Now all outstanding orders are settled, I have moved my business elsewhere.

  7. dnicholas Bronze badge

    "Bob, wheel out the android to say sorry again"

  8. Roger Greenwood

    Every now and again . . .

    . . in a spare moment (too few) I randomly click on adverts. Partly this is to support the website I am on, partly this is to improve the quality of ads then seen elsewhere.

    I don't really care (or sometimes even notice) what they are as long as they have nice pictures. If I used FB I would probably do the same - am I a fake account?

  9. Milton Silver badge

    The open secret

    The open secret is surely that internet advertising is a vast waste of money, and that advertisers have very little idea, in the ocean of dross and uncertainty, what works and what doesn't.

    1. Most of us know that "targeting" and "personalisation" are garbage. The closest I ever get to it is seeing a ton of ads for something I already bought months ago. usually the stuff thrown at me is irrelevant twaddle. And if I've already decided not to buy something, a cheap shitty ad is not going to change my mind: more likely just cause irritation.

    2. The level of fraud is staggering, and consumes huge wads of cash. FB and Google and the rest have no incentive to prevent this: so they just make empty gestures while doing as little as possible.

    3. The ads themselevs are simply terrible. When's the last time you saw a quality, interesting, engaging, even funny advert on the net? The net may be the only advertising medium where the quality is even worse than that infinite slurry pit of all cretinism known as radio. Usually one laughs at an ad only because it is even more risibly pathetic and amateurish than the others.

    4. Marketurds, who are fundamentally paid liars, are not in their job because they are committed to honesty (or even particualrly bright: it's a third-rater's job if there was one). They are, in short, the very last people to either recognise dishonesty elsewhere, or to know what to do about it if they did. People whose very purpose is to deceive are themselves the easiest to deceive.

    It's a cesspit of superficial, vacuous shyte, dishonesty and greedy cynicism—and the perfect exemplar of our times.

    1. Whitter
      Thumb Up

      Re: The open secret

      Milton eh? Sounded like poetry to me!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Most traditional advertising ineffectual, almost all internet adverting fraudulent..

    Traditional advertising was about building brand recognition. In very well defined demographic media outlets. People did see the ads. Any effect was usual secondary and long term. People more likely to buy the familiar than the unfamiliar.

    Internet adverting is based on a huge lie. That the ad metrics companies can target much more effective advertising using massive amount of vastly intrusive personal information collected from a very wide range of sources and data consolidators. After twenty years, and knowing exactly what technology these companies use, I think I can count on one hand the number of adverts delivered while online that showed the slightest bit of technical competence in the most basic analysis of the data to hand. 99.9% of ads delivered could be targeted purely on the basis on the website content type alone. Zero metrics involved. You know, just like what traditional media outlet ad depts used to do. The other 1% are based on a brute force, cookies, search history, illegal session spying over multiple sites (yes Facebook, I'm looking at you). Again. Zero value added. In fact even less effective that ill placed traditional media ads. Hence we now all have ad blockers.

    So we have a situation where the ad metrics companies , consolidators, brokers etc take over 1/3 of all ad spend while adding *negative* value to the process.

    Then we have outright fraud. Not just the utterly fraudulent video ad numbers from Facebook. Divide by at least 100 to get actual real views . And then the number of Facebook a/c's. To get the actual number of real a/c's that are active with regular use first divide by ten. And depending on the country divide by another single digit number. For a/c's that show up in Facebook sells. Start by dividing by 100 and go from there.

    Google is a bit better. But only slightly. Until recently, and completely unlike Facebook, they actually took ad fraud somewhat seriously.

    Internet ad's are a complete fraud. From top to bottom. Companies who actually take control of their online presence and do the traditional role of the ad dept in a traditional media outlet do get real value for money. That form of advertising /marketing is actually very effective in reaching potential customers.

    The rest, outright fraud.

  11. Andy Non

    There are real accounts on Facebook?

    I'm only on there to participate in a couple of specialist hobby groups. My name is real but everything else such as date of birth and profile photo is fake or left blank. I've never ever clicked on any ads and the vast majority of those they did show were completely irrelevant to me or obvious click-bait. I do have AdBlock but Facebook seem to have given up on their anti-anti-ad blocking, for me at least for the moment. I would never buy anything via Facebook anyway, too many dodgy advertisers and dodgy looking products / services. I have zero trust in Facebook or their advertisers.

  12. MrReal

    Facebook is just a site for old people, everyone interested has been shadowbanned and/or left.

    You may as well type your life story into a book and mail it direct to the CIA and anyone who pays FB a few bucks too for all the privacy it has.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here's the thing: targeted ads are easy. If you are selling widgets you take out a full page ad in Widgets Weekly and you are guaranteed a 100% audience of widget wranglers. No tracking, no "personalisation", none of that is necessary. And everyone apart from marketing morons understands this.

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      thing is, on the internet i get adverts for fridge freezers 1 week after i buy one. Maybe there is someone out there buying multiple fridge freezers.

      1. dnicholas Bronze badge

        Amazon are always trying to sell me stuff I already bought (on Amazon)

  14. Delbert

    Failing to look surprised

    Anybody casting a critical eye over Facebook can see with one eye closed that they are being spammed with a stream of irrelevant advertising and sponsored posts. Somebody is paying by the click to have their uninteresting products placed in front of you multiple times. Think - if you didn't like it the first five times maybe we can try some more (he's paying)? We tried their offer of a free 'boost' worth twenty five pounds (they said) a fair wedge for our shoestring budget it yielded nothing quantifiable no wave of extra likes, clicks etc and we suspect it really annoyed more people who are not even slightly bothered about Classic Rock music. As my teacher would occasionally say "Needs More Work"

  15. Potemkine! Silver badge

    proof at least that digital advertising can work.

    So in the magical world of online advertising, correlation is causality? This explains a lot.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019