WTF is cookie stuffing?
If there’s money changing hands online fraudsters are going to try to find a way to skim a percentage from the transaction. Fraud is a well-documented pox on digital advertising, but it’s also an issue for publishers and marketers working together on affiliate marketing deals, too. One of the more tried-and-true techniques is cookie stuffing. Let us explain.
First: explain what a cookie is?
There’s a lot of jargon here. Affiliate marketing is a process through which one business pays another for either bringing in clicks or, for retailers, sales on their sites. So if publisher X sends some visitors to Amazon to buy toothpaste, publisher X gets a small percentage of those sales, usually pennies on the dollar.
So WTF is cookie stuffing?
With cookie stuffing, while publisher X sends visitors to Amazon, a separate publisher actually gets credit — and hence money — for the sale. They do this by dropping multiple cookies after someone views a page or clicks on a single link. The hope is that dropping multiple cookies increases the chance that the person will go on to visit and buy from one of the commerce sites in question.
“Cookie stuffing creates wrongful attribution,” said Forensiq CEO David Sendroff. “It’s essentially stealing the credit for someone else’s attribution.” He said surreptitiously dropped cookies often replace those from legitimate publishers.
Where do these fake cookies come from?
The fake cookies come from a variety of sources — including pop-ups, scripts, toolbars and images embedded in message boards. Cookie stuffing is also common on online coupon sites, which fraudsters uses to drop handfuls affiliate cookies.
Why does it matter?
It matters because many more publishers are getting into affiliate linking. Gawker, for example, compiles a long list of affiliate link each days via its Kinja Deals series, and takes a cut whenever readers make a purchase. More affiliate linking fraud means less revenue for legitimate publishers.
It seems like a small problem.
It isn’t. Marketer Shawn Hogan helped scam eBay out of $28 million in online marketing fees from eBay before the company worked with the FBI to catch him in a sting operation. Hogan got sentenced to 5 months in prison, three years probation, and a $25,000 fine.
So why hasn’t cookie stuffing been stamped out?
The problem is that people like Hogan are the exception: Affiliate linking scammers are pretty hard to catch. For advertisers, hallmarks of cookie stuffing can include abnormally high or low conversation rates, depending on the techniques scammers use.
“With cookie stuffing, you’re committing a crime against another affiliate or the advertisers who is paying commissions on sales that would have happened anyway,” Sendroff said. “It’s not as eye-opening and it’s harder to catch because the advertiser has still made money.”
Publishers use subscriber-only events to sweeten subscription pitches
The Washington Post and The Information's events exclusively created for subscribers can add more value to paying readers.
‘Still understanding that behavior’: What BuzzFeed learned from a year of livestream shopping
BuzzFeed's shoppable live streams were watched for more than 1 million minutes in 2021.
Member ExclusiveMedia Buying Briefing: As independents set bullish goals for 2022, they grow their consultative powers
Many independent agencies enter 2022 extremely optimistic because they just closed the books on a banner '21. Will they be able to keep it up?
SponsoredHow the relationship between live events and mobile devices is evolving in 2022
Sponsored by AdColony The pandemic has accelerated changes in the way people consume content — and live events are part of that transformation. For advertisers, the questions are the kind on which campaign success depends: In what ways (and numbers) have people returned to watching sports, e-sports and events such as the Grammys? Are they […]
Tinuiti Report: Facebook still in hot demand with clients, despite Apple ATT hit
According to a report from agency Tinuiti, it clients increased their ad spend 32% YOY in Q4 on Facebook and its ever-growing cousin Instagram.
With Marquee, Jellysmack looks to turn non-digital natives into a new generation of internet stars
Jellysmack, one of the largest creators of social video on the internet, is trying to use its insights to make real-life celebs more internet-famous.