AAAA - American Association of Advertising Agencies

09/27/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/27/2023 09:30

Advertising trade groups release new parameters for spammy ‘made for advertising’ sites

The advertising industry's most influential trade organizations have come together to spell out new definitions for 'made for advertising' websites, which still hoodwink great numbers of media buyers daily.

A coalition of four leading advertising trade groups - the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A's), the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) and the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) - today published new guidelines for defining so-called 'made for advertising' (MFA) websites.

Though they aren't technically classified as fraudulent, these sites parade as prime ad real estate but are generally devoid of meaningful content and are instead designed solely to attract an influx of ad dollars. MFA sites often use clickbaity headlines and provocative content to attract visitors to low-quality content in order to generate ad revenue for the site owner.

Recent data from the ANA suggests that MFA sites account for 15% of all ad spend and 21% of all impressions in the $88bn global programmatic market. But media buyers are often unaware that they are paying for their ads to be delivered on MFA sites.

With the help of Chris Kane, founder of programmatic supply chain firm Jounce Media, and Rocky Moss, co-founder and chief executive of, an AI platform specializing in detecting ad fraud, the trade groups have spelled out new parameters for what defines MFA sites in an effort to help advertisers make smarter buys.

To be categorized as an MFA site, the industry groups say, a site must "exhibit some combination" of characteristics including:

  • A high ad-to-content ratio - usually over twice the internet average
  • Rapidly auto-refreshing ad placements like banner ads and autoplay video ads
  • A high percentage of paid traffic sourcing with little to no organic audience
  • Generic, low-quality content that may be syndicated, dated and non-unique
  • Templated and poorly designed website

In spite of the fact that these sites are basically façades for ad arbitrage, they often trick media buyers because they exhibit strong viewability and measurability, promise brand-safe environments and purport to have low rates of invalid traffic.

The new parameters will be a welcome development for media buyers, industry insiders say. "Having a standard industry definition is definitely helpful as it allows advertisers to leverage the same yardstick to measure and address MFA challenges," says Jack Smith, chief product officer at DoubleVerify, an ad measurement, verification and analytics platform. DoubleVerify has itself recently expanded its brand safety and suitability solutions to help advertisers better monitor and avoid MFA sites.

"Media buyers care a lot about addressing MFA sites - not only because they can be associated with fraud, but also because of brand safety and suitability concerns," Smith says. "MFA sites are a brand safety and suitability issue in certain cases where advertisers find value in the content of the site even if it has general MFA characteristics."

The characteristics spelled out by the ANA, 4A's, WFA and ISBA may help stem some such brand suitability issues.

The ANA in particular is undertaking significant efforts to demystify the programmatic ecosystem; in June it published a report on programmatic media supply chain transparency, which will be followed by an accompanying report later this year on ad quality, pricing and supply-side platform optimization.

The ANA recommends that media planners and buyers "determine, independently, if MFA sites fit with their brand suitability standards for content and user experience and clarify their tolerance for the inclusion of MFA inventory in their campaigns," per a statement published today.

Read the article on The Drum.