Adtech problems: Creative quality and the growing malware threat

Programmatic advertising continues to grow in importance within the digital media industry. While this shift brings with it greater scalability and more sophisticated targeting for businesses, it also comes bundled with new issues – some with the potential to derail the entire sector.

More than ever, publishers are being exposed to risk from poor quality ad creative, malware and malvertising. Advertisers, meanwhile, must battle fraudulent impressions and clicks. How can digital advertising players weather these challenges and make the most of the opportunity programmatic ads represent?

Tackling harmful ads at their source

Tackling harmful ads at source is the key to cleaning up the adtech landscape, with one company already working to resolve the problem.

Leading malware and ad quality assurance provider The Media Trust -- an Atlantic Leap client -- has launched its SMART initiative, designed, as they say on their website, “to assure digital ad quality, performance, data privacy and security,”

“SMART enables publishers and their various upstream partners in the digital advertising ecosystem to block and then remediate — in real time — any disruptive, annoying or harmful ads” says The Media Trust. Publishers are able to gain real-time control over the ads that are served to their audience, but also benefit from reduced labour costs associated with manual reviewing of ads, improved continuity of revenue, and better collaboration and communication throughout the supply chain.

Affecting user experience

Some malware drops botnets as a payload. Botnets surreptitiously create a network of compromised computers which are then used to automatically generate fraudulent advertising impressions. Consumers’ machines are exposed to risk and their performance suffers; meanwhile, advertisers are forced to pay for inflated ad delivery.

When it comes to quality, some of the techniques used by advertisers can be problematic: the ads with out-of-browser redirects that take you from your mobile browser to the app store when clicked (or even when not); audio and video that play without the user activating them; and more. These are especially onerous to consumers who want a fast mobile browsing experience and who are worried about data charges; furthermore, mobile devices are highly personal and any unwanted intrusion can be frustrating and offensive.

As a result, users are increasingly implementing ad blocking which can devastate the already fragile economics of digital media. Working with both advertisers and agencies to pre-scan and certify ad creative before it enters the advertising ecosystem could be one way to improve the user experience and reduce user resistance to advertising.

Beyond bad ads

It’s not just the ad side of things that needs cleaning up; the entire media landscape is open to manipulation. The average publisher is only in control of about 20% of the code on their site, with the rest of it outside their control, whether this be code delivered through a CMS, a third-party ad server or a third party delivering video to the site. Each represents a door through which “bad stuff” can travel. To fully overcome the problems programmatic advertising creates, all parts of the delivery path must be monitored and controlled.

We’re now seeing more effort from buyers and sellers alike to create a cleaner digital advertising environment, with special focus on those supplying ads. Buyers, sellers and the tech companies that plug them together are being held more accountable for making things work and for being transparent. Steps like this are essential to ensure the media industry can weather the side effects, and enjoy the benefits, of the programmatic shift.