In a recent exercise, TubeMogul followed a hunch about pre-roll videos and discovered something shocking: an alarmingly high number of sites their clients’ videos were playing on had imitation pre-roll ads. The fake pre-roll ads auto-play, and often appear as page-overlays, forcing the viewer to watch a “pre-roll” ad they never intended to see. 

They’re calling it an exercise, which I guess means they can’t technically call it a scientific study. But they did test videos and pre-roll ads on 7,000 web sites, so it’s probably safe to say they’re data suggests a trend. And they must have seen some pretty heavy occurrences of these imitation video pre-roll ads, because they’ve come out of the experience creating a new tool for their customers.

It’s called PlaySafe, and it’s billed as an ad verification tool. TubeMogul will be able to detect these phony pre-roll ads now automatically, to help ensure their clients’ viewers aren’t subjected to unwanted and harassing ads. Here’s Brett Wilson, TubeMogul’s CEO on the new tool:

“Upon discovering the rampant spread of fake pre-roll we decided to act. TubeMogul is about delivering a better brand experience and PlaySafe ensures brand advertisers they are getting what they are buying.”

See, these fake pre-rolls are, in TubeMogul’s estimation, in violation of the regulations that govern online advertising–and that’s in addition to just being really, really annoying. And advertisers, who spend millions creating content and trying to get it in front of exactly the right eyeballs, are growing increasingly concerned about ad-related fraud. They want every dollar in online video to be well-spent and not manipulated or wasted.

PlaySafe will use the existing analytics platform TubeMogul provides to spot the offending ads. If it finds an illegitimate ad on a site, they’ll instantly–and automatically–shift that advertiser’s campaign budget directly over to sites that aren’t showing imitation pre-rolls.

It’s pretty cool-sounding technology, and something that I think is perfectly timed. We’ve seen trickery and fraud in search and in display advertising, so of course we’re going to see it with video. We’re going to need more and more proactive tools like PlaySafe as the world of video ads continues to evolve.