GeoEdge and InMobi recently came together for a roundtable discussion and joint eBook about bad ads and what app publishers and developers can do to stop unwanted ads from appearing in their apps. Amnon Siev, CEO at GeoEdge, and Shushma Ramachandra, Director of Trust and Safety at InMobi discussed the current state of bad ads and what can be done to stop them. Find out what they had to say about fighting bad ads.
What constitutes a bad ad?
While all bad ads share the potential to damage the hard-earned trust relationship between publishers, advertisers, and user audience, GeoEdge groups bad ads into three main categories:
- Ads that cause security issues (i.e., malvertising)
- Ads that contain bad content (e.g., ads that are off-brand, offensive and/or unwanted)
- Ads that have issues with their specs or behavior (e.g., ads that auto-play sound, etc.)
The first bad ad type, malicious ads, impact user security. In these instances, a user is targeted with a malicious scam engineered to distribute malware. There are also clearly offensive ads in addition to borderline cases serving ads that are not brand-suitable for a publisher’s audience. These ads do irreparable harm to a publisher’s reputation. An example would be an ad promoting gambling or vaping on a child-friendly app. Whereas, low-quality ads have technical specification issues, such as autoplay sound or a broken ad link that causes a poor user experience.
Trust and Safety Director, Shushma Ramachandra shared that bad ad types are seen by InMobi usually contain offensive or misleading creativity. These ads make false or deceptive claims about a product and often lack a close button, making it impossible for users to opt out of undesired content.
Siev outlined a two-pronged vector of attack by bad ads. First, malvertisers use a misleading incentive to convince users to click on a bad ad. Once a user navigates to the landing page, the second stage begins, leading to a convincing scam. Some examples are phishing scams or the peddling of counterfeit goods sold as genuine.
Why fight bad ads?
Bad ads harm a company’s brand equity. They cause irreparable damage to brand reputation, harming a publisher’s relationship with its audience. Not to mention, ad quality is highly correlated with a publisher’s revenue. Bad ads also detract from monetization by causing user churn and negative PR/ online reviews. Bad ads can also lead to a host of regulatory woes as different geolocations may prohibit certain types of ad content, which can mean sanctions or fines if an unacceptable ad is served.
Cecilia described the current state of ad quality. It is becoming more challenging to detect bad actors as their deceptive methods become more and more clever. The prevalence of bad ads requires industry stakeholders to invest in an ad quality partner dedicated to safeguarding programmatic as a strategic revenue channel.
Combating bad ads
What steps can publishers take to stop bad ads? As Siev put it, ad quality is a business choice. Publishers must consider their short-term actions and devise a long-term strategy,
For inmobi and GeoEdge, user protection is a joint responsibility-referring to attacks in which user devices are injected with malware without user consent or knowledge. Siev explained that GeoEdge recently uncovered a malvertising attack targeting IoT devices. The attack represents the first ad-based cyberattack breaching user privacy on streamers to download unauthorized apps.
This new frontier for bad ads indicates that the ad ecosystem will never be fully rid of malvertising. Siev explained, “You want to be open to diverse advertisers, and malicious actors will leverage that to slip in. There are always new ways scammers will try to make money. The recent IoT device attack was a new frontier of attack, and there will be others.”
Ad integrity to build your business on
Malvertising is a problem at scale requiring sophisticated detection and blocking technology. InMobi has been working in close collaboration with GeoEdge for nearly four years to make the digital ecosystem safer, more secure, and more profitable. Ramachandra mentioned, “Malicious creative often mimics legitimate campaigns and landing pages. It’s challenging to detect whether an ad is part of a genuine campaign or if a bad actor is attempting to mislead the user. We must validate the entire chain of events from the start of the creative to the final destination, the landing page.”
As Director of Trust and Safety, Ramachandra shared how important it is for InMobi to partner with an ad quality vendor. As she stated, “If you are vigilant, you can protect ad quality on your platform.” And partnering with a trusted ad quality vendor enables you to remain vigilant, safeguarding programmatic as a strategic revenue channel.
GeoEdge promises more than just technology. GeoEdge promises true partnership
GeoEdge works for and with its partners throughout the ad ecosystem. When you partner with GeoEdge, you benefit not only from cutting-edge technology, but from insights drawn from leading publishers and platforms around the world. Together, we are all committed to the safety and security of our users, and to a thriving digital industry.