One Google trainee just cost the firm £7.9 million

A Google trainee accidentally published a dummy advert on a “huge number” of websites and apps, the Financial Times reports. The unnamed employee inadvertently made the dummy ad – a plain yellow rectangle – active for 45 minutes on a number of sites across the US and Australia.

The mistake took place during a Google training exercise, in which trainees were instructed on how to use the in-house ad placing system. The mishap took place when one trainee, rather ominously, “went further than intended”, and submitted a live order into the advert buying system.

Unfortunately, the dummy ad was published at a higher rate of return than its authentic counterparts: more than $25 (£20) CPM (cost per thousand impressions), which exceeds the $2 (£1.60) – $4 (£3.10) market price of the ad space. What’s more, the ad was routed through a number of third-party exchanges, allowing it to reach an extensive audience.

In a statement, Google explained: “As soon as we were made aware of this honest mistake we worked quickly to stop the campaigns running.”

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However, as the dummy ad was live for around 45 minutes, its presence was able to do some significant damage. Google has asserted that it will “honour” any payments to publishers which they amassed as a result of the mistake. And while the total costs of the mistake have not been published, the FT posited it would cost the search-engine giant in the region of $10 million (£7.9 million).

Next time you reckon you’re having a rough day at work, just imagine the plight of this earnest trainee. Talk about a bad first impression…

As for Google’s part in the debacle, it has accepted its degree of responsibility, vowing to introduce new safeguards against an incident like this happening again. Nonetheless, it highlighted a significant blind spot for the giant, which has been pioneering force in the automation of online ad placements.

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