2023 Ad Quality Report

GeoEdge’s mission is to protect the integrity of the digital advertising ecosystem and to preserve a quality experience for users.

GeoEdge monitored and analyzed billions of advertising impressions across premium websites, apps, and SSPs to compile the research presented in this report. The data was collected using GeoEdge’s real-time ad security solution, which enables the measurement of quality and blocking of malvertising across devices and channels on live impressions.

Top Malvertising Attack Vectors

Auto redirects have dramatically re-emerged as the leading malvertising vector after years in the background, ranking at number one. The digital landscape remains besieged by misleading product offers, malicious ad extensions & add-ons, and financial scams.

2023: Mapping Malicious Ad Rates

The increase in malicious ads in Canada observed in Q3 continued through Q4, and the annual results are telling: this year, 1 out of every 95 ads in Canada was malicious.

Pre & Post-Click Attacks in 2023

There was a slight decrease in auto-redirects during Q4. Although October experienced the peak in malicious ad activity, there was a general reduction towards the year’s end, with pre-click attacks reverting to their usual frequency. The annual average indicates that 72% of malicious ads were post-click attacks, while only 28% were pre-click attacks.

2023 By Device Type

Desktops once comprised the majority of attack targets, but over the last 24 months, mobile devices have become the primary focus for attacks. Scammers are now predominantly targeting mobile and in-app users, with 56% of attacks aimed at mobile devices, 42% at desktops, and only 2% targeting tablets

SSP Malicious Ad Index 2023

 Google and SSP06, notorious for higher malicious ad rates, consistently showed averages of 1.25% and 1.51%. In contrast, SSP12, usually recognized for its low rate of malicious ads, faced difficulties in Q4.

This period saw an increase in abuse by malicious entities, leading to a hike in their annual malicious ad rate to 1.36%.

Specifically in Q4, this rate further escalated to 1.4%

Regional Trends in Content Blocking Across the Industry

In North America, publishers are particularly wary of political ads, especially during election seasons. This concern is reflected in the Elections 24 & Politics categories, which constitute 39% of the top 10 blocked categories in the US and Canada.

Additionally, weapons ads are a significant concern in these regions, accounting for 7% of the top blocks, unlike other regions where they’re not in the top ten. American publishers show a greater concern for blocking Weight Loss ads, ranking them 5th most blocked, compared to their lower rankings in Europe (9th) and APAC (10th).

In the EU and UK, gambling ads represent the most significantly blocked category, accounting for 58% of all top 10 blocked categories. This means that every second ad blocked for content reasons is a gambling ad, indicating a high level of concern. Additionally, it’s noteworthy that 5% of the blocked ads are for religious content, a higher percentage than other sensitive categories like Alcohol and Weight Loss.

In APAC, the situation differs significantly: Gambling still holds the 1st place accounting for 33% of the top blocks. Tobacco, which didn’t make the top 10 in any other region, takes the 2nd place with 16%. The data reveals APAC publishers show a strong concern for low quality or misleading health ads. The combined blocks of Tobacco, Health, Pharmaceuticals, and Weight Loss ads account for 33% of all top 10 blocks, matching the proportion of Gambling blocks.

Highlighting Some of the Year's Most Frequently Advertising Creatives

Attacks span a range of categories, targeting users with scams across GeoEdge’s 10 clickbait categories.

Financial Scam: Electricity Saving Technology

Malicious Add-ons & Extensions

Gift Card Scam

Misleading Product Offer: Fake Weight Loss Products

Behind the Scenes of Top Blocked Ads: Exploring Landing Page Narratives


About GeoEdge

GeoEdge’s advanced security solutions ensure high ad quality and verify that sites offer a clean, safe and engaging user experience, so publishers can focus on their business success. Publishers around the world rely on GeoEdge to stop malicious and low-quality ads from reaching their audience. GeoEdge allows publishers to maximize their ad revenue without quality concerns, protect their brand reputation and increase their user loyalty. GeoEdge guards digital businesses against unwanted, malicious, offensive and inappropriate ads — without sacrificing revenue.