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How to choose an Ad Quality solution

By Guandi

April 11, 2022


If you are looking to protect your advertising business, in this blog post we aim to show you how to choose an ad quality solution. Online advertising keeps the internet free for end users to enjoy a multitude of content and this has created a multi billion dollar industry for Ad Networks and Publishers that monetize ad inventory and for Advertisers bidding for this inventory in order to promote their products and offers. In a perfect world good ad inventory, high quality traffic sources, automated serving of great looking ad campaigns and highly engaged end users creates a mutually beneficial ad tech ecosystem. However, it is not a perfect world and there are several factors that destroy this ideal scenario: 

  • Cyber criminals using fraudulent ad campaigns to exploit for financial gain
  • Advertisers using creatives that are not suitable for a website’s audience or go against an Ad Networks Guidelines, such as +18 images
  • Advertisers using well known brand logos in their marketing materials to mislead end users
  • Advertisers using ad creatives that are not inline with industry IAB standards and Google/Better Ads Coalition compliance
  • With the growth in demand for automated programmatic ad serving, different forms of Malvertising and poor ad quality experiences can easily slip through the net 

This is the reality of the ad tech ecosystem and it is why Ad Networks and Publishers need an Ad Quality solution, such as AdSecure, that can detect the above listed activity so that Ad Networks and Publishers can immediately stop these types of campaigns to ensure they deliver a clean, trustworthy and great ad experience to end users.

What to look for when choosing an Ad Quality solution

The right technology

Cyber criminals who spread Malvertising are extremely tech savvy and up to date with the latest ad technologies. A good Ad Quality solution continually updates its technology stack to stay ahead of the game. The technology should be able to scan and interact with the ad campaign from the creative image, ad texts through to the landing page that an end user is taken to and the various urls within the ad supply chain. Because Ad Networks offer a large range of targeting features, the solution has to interact with the campaign from various GEOs, devices, operating systems, etc.

Once anything suspicious is discovered within the ad supply chain, the solution should alert the Ad Network or Publisher in real-time as to what exactly has been discovered. This alert then allows the Ad Network or Publisher to immediately remove the bad ad campaign and take any appropriate action against the advertiser:

  • Asking the advertiser to fix the campaign if it is not a serious threat, such as a broken landing page url
  • Banning the advertiser
  • Reporting the advertiser to the police

AdSecure’s Technical Lead Román Arranz, explains the main technologies and tech stack used by AdSecure:

“At AdSecure we need to make use of innovative technologies to run our SaaS product. AdSecure is a 360 degree ad quality solution used by ad networks, ad operations teams and publishers to scan ad campaigns to ensure that they meet industry quality standards and to detect all forms of malvertising. We examine the whole ad chain for any type of violation in order to alert our clients of any suspicious behavior. This protects their businesses and of course internet users from being exposed to any malicious advertising campaigns.

The muscle of our platform is the AWS cloud where we host most of our services and applications. The reason why we use AWS is because it allows us to develop quick experiments and manage our infrastructure programmatically.

In order to quickly develop any new feature we make use of various programming languages. We use TypeScript for our Backend with Node.JS due to the flexibility that the language offers and the huge developer community behind it. Python is also used for implementing detections. For the Frontend we use Angular to provide robustness to our application thanks to real DOM manipulation and its ability for two-way data binding.

Our APIs are powered by GraphQL and Apollo in order to exchange data between the Frontend and Backend. The functionalities provided by these frameworks guarantees data validation and faster integration, so that our API clients consume only what they need, which also saves on data transfer.

We also run orchestrated Chromium instances to analyze campaigns, sites and traffic from clients to ensure industry standard compliance.

Being an ad quality solution means that we have to manage a considerable amount of traffic and data in our databases so we leverage the use of Amazon DynamoDB. This allows us to store analyzed results and then allows us to carry out quick lookups and S3 to store detailed reports.

Finally, we also use ElasticSearch, Amazon Cloudwatch and Google Analytics to perform Business Intelligence tasks such as getting KPIs to gather trends for non-compliant behavior of the analyzed data.”

Easy platform integration

An Ad Quality solution should include an API which allows quick, easy integration with an Ad Network or Publisher platform. An API allows for any action that can be performed in the Ad Quality solution’s interface to be also implemented through the API. The API allows Ad Networks and Publishers to automate any action that the Ad Quality solution offers such as stopping a campaign when a detection is found.  AdSecure’s API uses GraphQL because it offers significant flexibility making platform integration fast and easy. The ability to precisely define the data a client needs is a powerful advantage over a REST API because GraphQL lets clients replace multiple REST requests with a single call to fetch any specified data. All AdSecure clients are provided with an API key when registering on the platform, and AdSecure authenticates the API requests using their accounts' API key. That being said, the API integration can begin as soon as a client creates an AdSecure account, and it requires only 2 steps:

  • Obtain the API key so AdSecure can authenticate the user's API requests for integration
  • Make a test API request to confirm everything is up and running

Once an API request has been successfully made, the client is ready to begin integrating AdSecure. Click here to learn more about AdSecure's API and the integration efforts.

A large, robust detection arsenal

Ad Quality detections can be broken down into four main categories, a good Ad Quality solution should ensure many different detections are included.:

1 - User Security violations: Cybercriminals have a huge range of malicious tools at their disposal to inject into an ad campaign, once an end user clicks on a malicious ad it can harm the end user by either compromising their data, their device and/or demanding a payment to recover seized files.  A comprehensive ad quality solution will detect the following user security threats in an ad campaign: Ransomware, ScarewarePhishing, Drive by Crypto Mining, Malware, Adware, Browser Lockers, Malicious URLsnon SSL compliance and Unwanted Programs.

2 - User Experience violations: These violations provide a very poor user experience and it is essential for Publishers to provide their end users with a great user experience. Not only does this ensure that the Publisher's website has a good Google ranking, it also helps the Publisher retain quality traffic and build up a strong, loyal user base. Websites with high quality organic traffic are highly sought after by advertisers, who are willing to pay a premium price when bidding for ad zones. However, showing ads with violations that provide a poor user experience can drive those quality website visitors away. User Experience violations are very annoying to an end user and perform functions without their permission. Here are some examples of detections: Auto-downloadsAuto-redirects, Auto-pops, Auto-vibrate, Back Button Hijack, JS Alert on entry/on exitLanding page error, Permission violationsUncommon Protocols.

3 - User Advisory violations

The User Advisory category covers violations to be cautious of, as they could indicate offensive material or the potential for suspicious activity. Detections include: Suspicious TLD (top-level domains frequently used by cybercriminals), Threat Intelligence (if a URL was flagged for a violation in any AdSecure analysis in the previous 30 days).  Unsafe content: these detections scan ad creatives and flag them if the ads display certain types of content that may not be desirable for a Publisher’s website to show including NSFW Adult elements, Racy elements, Violent elementsMedical contentSpoof content 

4 - Ad Performance

Digital ads should always meet the IAB industry standards and be compliant with Google and the Better Ads Coalition.  AdSecure offers a complete solution for ad networks and publishers to scan ad campaigns to ensure that they do. Issues like ad weight, file compression, dimensions, and request count can play a big part in an ad’s conversion rate. Website performance can be heavily impacted as well. Now that Google has added web content performance into its SEO rankings, monitoring for low performing ad content with this kind of detection tool can help publishers ensure they avoid SEO penalties from Google.

The ideal detection strategy

So now we have gone through the important detections that an Ad Quality platform should provide, many solutions offer a scanning method called Real-Time Blocking as the all in one solution. However, this is misleading because Real-Time Blocking relies on having a blacklist or third-party malware database of malicious domains or script patterns. Whenever any domains or scripts match the blacklist, the ads are blocked automatically before they can load and display to end-users. However cyber criminals are always developing new hidden and encrypted codes that cannot be detected by Real-Time Blockers. Malvertisers are constantly creating workarounds to avoid detection and developing new malware coding, so Real-Time Blockers that are based on blacklists and third-party malware databases just can’t keep up. 

Therefore an Ad Quality solution like AdSecure which allows scanning of campaigns before they launch and while they are running and that utilize the latest technology to expose hidden code is a far more effective solution. 

Benefits of using an Ad Quality solution

An excellent reputation: For Ad Networks, by protecting your Publisher network from distributing Malvertising and delivering a high quality ad experience creates an excellent reputation for your business. Having a clean optimized ad serving network will attract Publishers to want to use your network. Security blogs and media jump at the chance to expose an Ad Network or Publisher who has served malvertising, here is a recent article naming Google in Hacker News, These articles are then posted and can easily be found with a Google search. Having a robust Ad Quality solution protects your business from this kind of negative exposure, which will negatively impact your reputation.

Increased revenues: For Publishers, by providing a safe browsing environment and a quality ad experience for end users, this ensures that they will come back again and again to your site. These users are considered high quality traffic sources and are more likely to engage with the ads displayed on your site. More engagement means higher CTRs which attracts more advertisers to bid for your ad zones, which in turn leads to higher bidding prices pushing up your eCPMs. And of course, this benefits Ad Networks because revenues earned from your Publishers increase. For Advertisers on your network, they never get their ads blocked by Google and their ad creatives must be of optimum quality, this ensures they too get a better CTR and the potential to increase sales for their offers. It's a win-win situation for all stakeholders as your business becomes more competitive in the ad monetization business.

Excellent Google ranking: For Publishers, Google is the biggest browser globally and if it detects bad quality ads that do not meet industry standards, it will penalize site rankings and can actually block all of a website’s ads. Not only will this look bad for end users visiting a site, it will also make it harder for the site to be found. Ensuring ads meet the IAB and Google standards ensures that Publisher sites maintain an excellent Google ranking. For Ad Networks, helping to keep your Publisher network Google compliant with the ads you serve builds Publisher client loyalty and protects their Google ranking.

A great end user ad experience: The core driving force for revenues is of course the end user, and by providing a safe and engaging ad experience you are keeping them protected from highly tech savvy cyber criminal activity, making the internet a better place for everyone.

Why Choose AdSecure?

As an all encompassing Ad Quality solution AdSecure addresses all the needs from both Ad Networks and Publishers in order to stamp out Malvertising and also maintain industry standards for optimal ad delivery.  All the detections listed above are covered. AdSecure’s constant tech development ensures our Ad Quality solution is always one step ahead of cyber criminal activity and AdSecure offers the three stage detection strategy that ensures 360 degree protection. Check out AdSecure’s arsenal of protection solutions here, and our Case Studies, to see how we have helped our clients.

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