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| 3 minutes read

Navigating Disputes in the Digital Advertising Industry

The digital advertising industry, driven by advertising technology (AdTech), has dramatically transformed how businesses reach their target audiences. AdTech encompasses various tools and software that facilitate the buying, selling, and measurement of digital advertising. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising enables businesses to perform precise targeting and performance tracking, but their complexity has led to significant disputes over revenue calculation and distribution. These disputes often revolve around revenue calculation, service misrepresentation, budget mismanagement, transparency, fraud, and unfair practices, leading to high-stakes legal battles that shape industry standards.

Key Challenges in Advertising Revenue Calculation

  • Transparency and Accountability: The digital advertising supply chain is notoriously opaque, making it difficult for advertisers to trace how their money is spent and how revenues are shared. This lack of transparency can lead to disputes over the accurate calculation and distribution of advertising revenue.
  • Ad Frauds and Revenue Miscalculations: Fraudulent activities, such as click fraud (where automated systems generate false clicks on ads) and impression fraud (where non-human traffic is counted as legitimate views), significantly distort revenue calculations. These fraudulent activities lead to substantial financial losses and disputes over accurate revenue reporting.
  • Discrepancies in Metrics: The lack of standardized metrics across different platforms leads to inconsistencies in reported figures such as Conversion Tracking Discrepancies (where there is a disparity between reported conversions and actual sales or leads tracked). This discrepancy can cause disputes between advertisers and ad networks over the actual performance of advertising campaigns.
  • Contractual Ambiguities: Vague or poorly defined contractual terms regarding revenue sharing and performance metrics often result in legal disputes. Clear and detailed contracts are essential to prevent misunderstandings and disagreements.

Impact on Digital Advertising Agencies and Advertisers

Financial Losses and Legal Costs:

  • Overpayments for fraudulent ad impressions/clicks and underreported earnings lead to direct financial losses.
  • Significant expenses incurred through litigation, penalties, and compliance efforts.

Reputational Damage:

  • Loss of client trust and potential negative media coverage harm the public image.
  • Strained client relationships may result in contract renegotiations or terminations.

Operational Disruption:

  • Ongoing ad campaigns may be paused or disrupted, affecting performance.
  • Resources diverted to address disputes, impacting day-to-day operations.

Increased Scrutiny and Compliance Burden:

  • More rigorous auditing processes and enhanced transparency requirements increase operational costs.
  • Compliance with stricter industry regulations imposes additional burdens.

Market Competitiveness:

  • Loss of competitive edge due to damaged reputation and strained client relationships.
  • Resource allocation to dispute resolution and compliance hinders investment in new technologies and innovations.

How Ankura Can Help

  • Conducting Forensic Audits: Ankura performs detailed forensic audits to uncover discrepancies and fraudulent activities in ad revenue calculations. We meticulously analyze digital advertising transactions, data flows, and financial records, identifying inconsistencies, fraud, or non-compliance with contractual terms and industry regulations. Our detailed reports and expert insights support legal arguments and help resolve disputes effectively.
  • Reviewing Contracts: Our experts review contracts and decipher revenue-sharing models, performance metrics, and dispute resolution mechanisms. We identify potential breaches, ambiguities, and risks, providing expert analysis to support legal strategies and ensure fair resolution of disputes.
  • Providing Expert Testimony: In cases that go to trial, Ankura provides expert testimony by leveraging our deep understanding of digital advertising technologies and industry standards. We analyze technical evidence, offer insights on compliance, ad fraud detection, and algorithmic transparency, and present our findings in a clear, credible manner to support legal arguments. Our expertise ensures that complex technical issues are accurately conveyed to judges and juries.


Disputes over advertising revenue calculation are a significant challenge in the digital advertising industry. Transparency, accountability, and the adoption of standardized metrics are essential to resolving these issues. High-profile legal cases underscore the need for clearer regulations and more robust fraud prevention measures. Expert witnesses play a vital role in this landscape by providing the expertise and tools necessary to navigate and resolve these complex disputes.

Contact Ankura for more information on how we can help your organization navigate digital advertising disputes effectively.

© Copyright 2024. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of Ankura Consulting Group, LLC., its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals. Ankura is not a law firm and cannot provide legal advice.


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