Made-For-Advertising Websites: Taking Advantage of Marketing Budgets

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Made-For-Advertising (MFA) sites are often seen using clickbait to attract vulnerable viewers, damage brand reputation and suck budgets out of marketing campaigns. In some cases, major sites are using well-known .coms, duplicating content and developing MFA sites with the promise of high click returns for advertisers, only to be let down by misleading contracts.

Forbes ran into trouble when it was uncovered that it was operating an MFA site, featuring ads from global brands such as McDonald’s, Disney, and Microsoft, who were led to believe that their major ad campaigns were running on, when in fact, they had no direct access to the audience at all.

The MFA site featured reformatted articles, with a significant increase in ad exposure, with one consumer reporting being shown 27 New York Times subscription ads, and 201+ total ads whilst viewing one page.

These deceptive practices not only disrupt user experience but also pose significant security vulnerabilities. MFA sites exploit various strategies such as pop-up ads and auto-play videos to maximize profits for site owners. Typically hosting low-quality content, fake news, and dubious links, these sites pose a considerable threat to brand image, reputation, and marketing budgets.

According to the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) in the US, MFA sites siphon off a staggering 15 percent of ad spend, underscoring the magnitude of their impact on the digital advertising ecosystem. This alarming statistic highlights the need for robust measures to combat the proliferation of MFA sites and safeguard the integrity of online advertising.


MFA sites are typically large clickbait headlines, aimed at attracting visitors to generate page views. These sites are developed to feature floods of ads across a single web page or section. MFA sites are generally designed to fool digital advertising buyers, exhibiting extraordinarily high rates of viewers and ad interactions.

This system brings in massive profits to the site holder instead of the company running the ad. This Forbes MFA site was not even directly accessible through, fooling brands who were under the impression that their adverts would feature on the highly prestigious website. When companies started to discover their ads featured on the MFA site, questions started regarding the integrity of the ad placements and the audiences that it reached.

Forbes attributed the issue to an error made by, the AdTech company managing its ad-bidding software. At this time, the company admitted to mistakenly informing advertisers that they were bidding for ad slots on They rectified this error before the website was shut down in 2021.

Taking Control Over Lost Ad Spend

The Forbes MFA site is just one example demonstrating the need for transparency and accountability in the digital advertising ecosystem. Companies must take control of their advertising budgets and be transparent about who they are targeting. Advertisers and ad platforms need to consider the ethical responsibilities of running content which, if targeted at the wrong audience, could impact vulnerable audiences, or harm the brand image altogether.

Beyond draining budgets and tarnishing reputations, these deceptive platforms perpetuate a cycle of wasted ad spend, inundating users with false impressions that fail to resonate with genuine or intended audiences.

Moreover, the absence of regulatory oversight and editorial integrity surrounding MFA sites leaves brands vulnerable to insidious brand-image damage. This not only undermines the integrity of online advertising but also erodes consumer trust and confidence in digital marketing channels.

Fighting Back Against Fraud

The ideal solution would be tighter regulations or the extinction of MFA sites altogether, however, whilst they are still able to run, business and marketing teams can implement a range of steps to prevent confusion, reputational damage, and loss of profits.

Addressing ethical concerns in advertising goes beyond safeguarding brand reputation; it’s a critical strategy for mitigating ad fraud and optimizing ad spend allocation. Unscrupulous entities exploit the digital landscape by creating MFA websites solely to siphon ad spend away from legitimate publishers. With the proliferation of Artificial Intelligence (AI), fraudsters find it increasingly effortless to replicate websites, amplifying ad inventory and generating subpar content for illicit gains.

To combat this, marketers must leverage industry-specific tools designed to thwart ad fraud and mitigate the influx of compromised traffic to their paid advertisements. Implementing robust monitoring mechanisms enables marketers to detect and address fraudulent activities swiftly, minimizing exposure to MFA sites. Regular campaign monitoring empowers marketing professionals with invaluable insights, enabling them to refine targeting strategies and enhance ad performance over time.

By adopting proactive measures to combat ad fraud, marketers can protect their brand integrity and optimize ad spend allocation, ensuring maximum ROI and driving sustainable growth. In an era rife with digital deception, prioritizing ethical advertising practices is not just a moral imperative but a strategic one for long-term success in the ever-evolving digital landscape.

The author, Matthew Ratty, is CEO and Founder of TrafficGuard.

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