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The damage Malvertising can do to your online brand reputation

Bad Trustpilot reviews, word of mouth, social media viral rants, bad press, loss of revenues, Google penalizations... A true business reputation nightmare that can easily be triggered by Malvertising! Keeping a great online brand reputation is important to reach new customers and keep them loyal to the brand. Also, customers are ready to pay premium prices for companies that have built a strong, honest and trustworthy reputation. For online companies this translates into putting online brand safety on top of the priority list: Whether you are an ad platform, advertiser or website publisher, this means avoiding associating your brand with dangerous, inappropriate, unsavory, or irrelevant web content, making sure to promote ad security and quality according to the IAB Standards, as well as a satisfactory and undisrupted user experience, at all times.

What is malvertising and how does it affect your online brand?

Malvertising uses digital ads to spread malicious or non compliant content designed to steal end user’s sensitive personal data, cause harm to their devices with malicious codes and viruses, showing end users unrequested inappropriate content, and non compliant ads that are not aligned with industry standards according to organizations such as Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), Google Chrome and the Coalition For Better Ads, which can negatively affect online brand reputation. Malvertisers launch malicious ad campaigns via ad exchanges, ad networks and publisher websites with the goal of achieving financial gains using sneaky methods, with minimum effort. Once end users click on the ads or visit the ad’s landing pages they become a victim of a malvertising attack, which can come in the form of phishing, browser locker, crypto mining, malware, and more.

In order for ad-serving platforms and publishers to make sure that advertisers’ ad creatives, urls and landings are compliant and safe, ad networks and publishers should either have a compliance team manually checking and approving the campaigns, or a technology solution like AdSecure that automatically monitors every single ad pre and post-launch to ensure that the end user is safe from inappropriate or dangerous content at all times. A lot of digital businesses choose to use a combination of the two.

How can Malvertising affect your online brand reputation?

Negative word of mouth, bad reviews, association with dangerous and/or inappropriate content… A true online brand reputation nightmare that could easily be triggered by the sneaky action of bad actors! Because malvertising compromises the end user’s safety and welfare, it also threatens the integrity and reputation of all online businesses, from ad platforms, to legitimate advertisers, to publisher sites, as a knock-on effect. Ultimately, being able to come up with the right solution to monitor advertisers’ campaigns and protect the end user against inappropriate or dangerous content will be the factor to ensure a good reputation for online brands and businesses.

In terms of threats that can affect online businesses and end users, we have 3 main categories:

#1 User Security Violations: This category covers violations that harm the user’s safety.

#2 User Experience Violations: Non-critical violations that can provide a poor user experience, driving them away from websites over time.

#3 User Advisory Violations: Violations to be cautious of, as they could indicate offensive material or potential suspicious activity.

The damage Malvertising can do to your online brand reputation

How Malvertising affects end users: From disturbing to stolen

Destroyed devices, compromised financial data, stolen identities, exposure to disturbing content… You name it!

End users are the main victims of malvertising, since they become exposed to data loss, compromised personal sensitive information, exposure to unsolicited non-age appropriate or politically incorrect content, corrupted devices, and even financial loss and identity theft. In the lesser cases, malvertising can negatively affect their browsing experience, which can lead to them leaving the website they were browsing and not coming back to it if the issue remains unresolved. The end user might click in an ad that they think will lead them to a desired product or service, and end up in a non-compliant landing, or simply might be browsing sites in search of their preferred content and become exposed to upsetting, sensitive, violent or dangerous content.

How Malvertising affects publishers, or the power of social media

As human psychology dictates, our minds tend to be heavily attracted to negative biases. We have seen it happen: Negative messages and complaints on social media spreading like wildfire, on occasion going viral! You definitely do not want your users to come across malicious or scam ads, or viruses on your site to then go on a rant about it on social media! And it works exactly the same with Trustpilot or Google reviews.

The main online brand reputation threat that malvertising poses to publishers is a heavily damaged reputation, loss of traffic and revenues, and legal liability to damages caused to users visiting their sites. Not only end users will be driven away from the website, but also, no advertisers will want to use a corrupted website to promote their brands, again leading to serious revenue losses. The association of publisher sites with unsavory or politically incorrect content, dangerous viruses or even an unsatisfactory browsing experience can not only seriously damage the image of the site, but it can also lead to Google penalties, with the site being ranked down, or even completely blocked from relevant browsers such as Chrome.

While publishers are aware of the problem, they find it difficult to test for or block malicious ads, especially when millions of ads are shown daily from their advertisers. This makes it very difficult to test all the ads that are actually shown to users, which makes specialized detection software a must.

How Malvertising affects ad networks: The dark side of journalism

You have probably heard it before: An ad network losing clients over negative media articles associating the business with scam ads, viruses and malvertisement. Journalists pick up on everything, and next thing you know your platform’s name is all over the first page of Google Searches, and not in a good way!

The common strategy for Malvertisers is to update their malicious ads to ad networks or third-party ad vendors, making these platforms especially sensitive to their reputation being affected by malvertising. If the vendor or ad network unknowingly approves the corrupted ad, the seemingly innocent ad will get served through any number of sites the vendor is working with, compromising the safety of thousands of end users and sites. If the issue isn’t resolved quickly, this can seriously damage said ad platform’s online brand reputation - Let alone if journalists find out about it!

How to prevent malvertising?

Whether you are an ad platform, advertiser, or a website publisher, in order to prevent your brand being affected by malvertising, integrating a new online brand safety process is a must. The AdSecure platform offers tools designed specially to help you to build and strengthen your online brand safety strategy. AdSecure will allow you to monitor your advertising supply chain or website content and flag any ads that could cause issues for you and your brand. Want to start protecting your business, making it Malvertising-proof? Contact us for more information on the AdSecure platform!

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