A Google worker who was being introduced to the firm’s advertising systems may have inadvertently cost the firm up to $10 million in losses after accidentally pressing something they shouldn’t have. The employee apparently submitted a buy order causing a blank yellow ad to be displayed on lots of sites around the net. The error took Google 45 minutes to rectify and it said it would honour payments to publishers whose visitors had clicked the ad.
What made the incident more harmful is that the ads were placed at as much as ten times the normal market price. According to two sources, the orders were for more than $25 per thousand impressions, rather than the usual $2-$4.
Discussing the actions it took, Google said:
“An advertiser training exercise led to an error where actual spend happened on publisher sites for approximately 45 minutes. As soon as we were made aware of this honest mistake we worked quickly to stop the campaigns running.”
The ad was able to propagate even further with the assistance of third-party exchanges, which resulted in lots of users in the U.S. and Australia seeing the ad late on Tuesday California time. Google hasn’t said what will happen to the trainee but it did say that the mistake was an “honest” one.