Uber claims it paid Fetch Media millions of dollars between late 2014 and early 2017 to buy mobile ads on behalf of the company. The total amount has been withheld, but the company said that just between 2016 and the first quarter of 2017, it paid Fetch more than $82.5 million.
It alleges Fetch Media spent the money on "nonviewable" ads, or ads that may have loaded on a webpage but were not seen by an actual person. Examples of nonviewable ads have included ads appearing lower on a website that a user never scrolled down to them or ads that are so small that they are indecipherable by the human eye. Uber also claims Fetch purchased nonexistent advertising, or bought ads on websites that didn't exist.
In a statement to CNBC, Uber said:
Fetch was running a wild west of online advertising fraud, allowing Uber ads on websites we wanted nothing to do with, and fraudulently claiming credit for app downloads that happened without a customer ever clicking on an ad.
The agency allegedly knew about these problems, but continued to spend the money as if nothing was wrong. Uber's contract required it to pay for an ad if someone installed the Uber app, they were a new customer and/or they took their first trip after seeing it. To show that these ads were working, Fetch provided data showing Uber increased its number of app installs. Fetch's metrics made the company appear so successful that Uber's advertising spend increased from less than $1 million a month in late 2015 to more than $6 million a month by late 2016.
However Uber claims the new customers would have come regardless if Fetch placed the ads or not because of the popularity of the company.
In response, Fetch had this statement:
Fetch terminated its agreement with Uber months ago after Uber stopped paying invoices for services provided by over fifty small business suppliers, engaged by Fetch to place Uber's mobile advertising. Following months of non-payment, Uber eventually raised unsubstantiated claims relating to ad-fraud as a reason not to pay its invoices, but there is no basis to these claims. Fetch not only delivered Uber's strategic goals, helping it acquire over 37 million new users since 2014, but also achieved an outstanding rating from the client throughout the two-year relationship.