Google training exercise results in multi-million dollar mistake

A blunder during a Google training exercise last week has cost the company millions, as a plain yellow ad appeared across the internet.

Between 11am and 11:45am on Wednesday 5 December, publishers were confused – and would later be delighted by – a 300×250 ad unit displaying only the colour yellow.

According to publishers, the plain yellow ad was paying more than US$20 (AU$27.81) CPM, easily pushing itself above competing ads.

The now infamous ‘yellow ad’ that appeared across the US and Australia has been revealed to be the result of a mistake made by a Google team member during a training exercise.

According to AdAge, publishers who checked their logs saw the advertisement arriving from Australian fashion retailer The Iconic.

Following the incident, Google assured affected publishers that they would be remunerated for the rogue ad.

“An advertiser training exercise led to an error where actual spend happened on publisher sites for approximately 45 minutes,” a Google spokesperson told AdAge.

“As soon as we were made aware of this honest mistake we worked quickly to stop the campaigns running. We will honour payments to publishers for any ads purchased and are working hard to put safeguards in place to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

AdExchanger reports that the campaign would have spent at least US$1.6 (AU$2.23) million, with total spending possibly being in excess of US$10 (AU$13.91) million.

According to reports, some publishers and exchangers saw more than US$100,000 (AU$139,075) in advertising spend within the yellow ad’s 45 minute lifespan. One publisher told Ad Age they saw US$270 (AU$375) CPMs, resulting in the company earning thousands every few seconds.

Google is conducting a review of the situation and establishing precautions to ensure it doesn’t happen again. According to reports, Google says the mistake did not affect other advertisers. No information has been made available regarding the perpetrator of the mishap.

 

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Josh Loh
BY Josh Loh ON 10 December 2018
Josh Loh is assistant editor at MarketingMag.com.au