MFA – Made for Advertising websites

Have you heard of MFAs? I hadn’t – at least not until last year. But as a marketer, it’s crucial to have MFA (Made For Advertising) websites on your radar, as their emergence poses challenges to advertising effectiveness, leads to potential budget wastage, and risks brand integrity.

MFA - Made for Advertising

MFA sites generally present an interesting conundrum – on one hand, they aren’t fraudulent. Unlike bot farms and site operators that manipulate the browser window and straight up defraud advertisers to steal their money, MFA sites have valid human traffic. MFA sites are simply a response to what advertisers want: cheap, viewable impressions placed in front of valid human traffic. The content is garbage and the layout is packed with horrible ad units, but MFA sites has put adtech in the uncomfortable position of playing judge and jury.

Publishers that were told to hit certain KPIs i.e., brand-safe, viewable impressions with invalid traffic detection came up with MFAs as part of the answer.

Initially, MFA sites, designed primarily to exploit search engine algorithms and programmatic technology for ad revenue, constituted a mere 5% of all open web auctions in 2020. However, their prevalence has surged alarmingly. By 2021, they accounted for 15% of the ad-supported web, escalating to 20% in 2022. As of mid-2023, these sites commandeered an unprecedented 30% of ad auctions!

As Chris Kane, President and Founder of Jounce Media put it at the Programmatic IO event in New York City in October 2023:

This dramatic increase is not just a trend but a clarion call to the industry. Because when marketers tell DSPs to optimize by sales, conversions and real-world outcomes, they run away from MFA but when DSPs are told to value cost per viewable impressions, they gobble up MFA.

So Why Should Marketers Care about MFAs?

  1. Impact on Advertising Efficacy: MFA sites often lack meaningful content, leading to low engagement rates. Advertisements placed on these sites risk being overlooked or, worse, associated with low-quality content, thereby diminishing the impact and ROI of advertising campaigns.
  2. Brand Integrity and Consumer Trust: Brands inadvertently associated with MFA sites may suffer reputational damage. Consumers increasingly value authenticity and ethical business practices, and any affiliation with such manipulative sites can erode consumer trust.
  3. Resource Allocation: The rise of MFA sites in ad auctions means a significant portion of advertising budgets is potentially being diverted to ineffective platforms. Marketers need to ensure that their ad spend is directed towards channels that genuinely contribute to lead generation and incremental revenue.
  4. Data and Measurement Challenges: MFA sites complicate the measurement of advertising effectiveness. The skewed traffic and engagement metrics on these sites can lead to inaccurate data analysis, impacting strategic decision-making.

Think about this for a second:

The top 150 MFA sites in the world right now, per Jounce’s tracking, didn’t exist a few months ago…

So What Should Marketers Do?:

  • Enhanced Due Diligence: Implement rigorous vetting processes for ad placements. Utilize advanced ad tech solutions to identify and avoid MFA sites. Ask your adtech partner to block the network seller rather than try to block each MFA site one at a time. (because the site URLs change constantly).
  • Invest in Quality Environments: Focus on advertising in environments known for high-quality, engaging content. This approach ensures better engagement and brand alignment. Consider private marketplaces as most major SSPs have committed to providing zero MFA inventory in private marketplaces.
  • Leverage Data Analytics: As much as possible utilize robust data analytics tools and your adtech partners to gain deeper insights into ad placement effectiveness and audience engagement, enabling more informed decision-making.
  • Educate and Advocate: Stay informed about the evolving nature of MFA sites and educate peers and stakeholders.

In conclusion, the rise of MFA sites poses challenges and opportunities for marketers. Understanding and adapting to this phenomenon is crucial for maintaining the effectiveness, integrity, and efficiency of digital advertising strategies. As we navigate the constantly changing digital advertising landscape, always staying up-to-date on the latest developments will be key to ensuring that marketing continues to serve as a strategic growth driver in the digital era.

Copenhagen INK

Lars is the owner of Copenhagen INK and is an experienced and passionate marketer with a proven track record of driving business impact through innovative commercial marketing initiatives.

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