• Engineering

Ad Quality: The Other Side of the Fence

Sergio Serra
5 min read
Posted on May 10, 2019

One of the hottest topics in the advertising ecosystem today is Supply Quality. Advertisers have a legitimate concern regarding fraud more specifically: the credibility of supply and where their ads are displayed.

However, on the flip side there is another prominent quality issue affecting the advertising ecosystem: the quality of the ads served by Demand Partners.

It is reasonable to assume that just as both DSPs and advertisers expect the highest quality of supply from their partners, the supply side expects the same standard from demand partners. This expectation is mutual and must be fulfilled if not addressed. Unfortunately today, DSPs often underestimate such a need and end up sending multiple malicious ads.

Players across the ecosystem must understand that this implies serious collateral damage downstream. A user is a customer to both the publisher and the advertiser. Publishers monetize directly off them and advertisers wish to convey a specific message. As more bad ads are displayed to users, the worse the user experience essentially increasing the probability they will abandon that specific property. Ultimately, this is a lose-lose situation leading to high quality users driven out of the market.

Such high quality users represent the very lifeline of the publisher’s properties and when a publisher ends up losing them, the result is costly. DSPs must remember that they run the risk of suspension by server-side platforms (SSPs) or their bidding discretionality may become limited.

What are the different types of ad quality issues? Do they all fall into the same severity bucket?

One could easily make a distinction based on the following concepts:

Content Quality

In such a case, the ad contains a creative that shows inappropriate content to the user. Usually, there could be two scenarios:

  • The content is illegal or the content is against the SSP’s policiesUsually, these types of ads can hurt the users’ sensibilities and leads to multiple complaints to the publishers.
  • The content complies with the overall policies but it is against the publisher preferences, which are declared in the OpenRTB request via the ‘badv’, ‘bcats’ or ‘bapp’ attributes in the BidRequest object.

Behavioral Quality

While the previous incidents category can damage the user perception, this instance of poor ad quality literally disrupts the user experience. More specifically, the following incidents arise:

  • Auto-popup
  • Auto-click and Auto-redirect

In such cases, the DSP is responsible for catching such offensive ad markups at ingestion time. When such ads are served users are exit the app and/or forced to download malicious content onto the device.

How Can DSPs Help Minimize Ad Quality Problems?

While both the publisher and the SSPs try to safeguard their interest, DSPs are obligated to vet the quality of the demand they serve. This can happen through the following best practices:

1) Build internal quality checks

It is crucial for DSPs across the ecosystem to have an ad quality stack deployed against each creative. Each ad entering the system should go through a validation layer. What is the content of the creative? Is there any illegal content? What is the ad domain associated to the creative? Does it match? Is auto-redirect or auto-popup triggered?

Those are a few basic questions that an ad quality stack should be able to answer.

2) Partner with third-party ad quality vendors

There are several players that have built their own businesses around parsing ad markups and returning feedback. Available at different pricing tiers, DSPs should use them at a sampling basis. Top spending creatives should be submitted a few times with different targeting combinations.

3) Send crucial OpenRTB attributes in response

To ensure a transparent environment DSPa should send the following OpenRTB attribute into all the bid responses.

  • crid
  • adomain
  • iurl
  • cat

This way, SSPs and publishers have the basic information required to fight malicious ads.

4) Provide deterministic ways to render the creatives in local

Often, creatives sent by the DSP do not render after a specific time period, due to impression expiry logics.DSPs should provide values to the SSPs/publishers to hardcode into the necessary variable, if they wish to audit the creative themselves.

Providing a way around expirations for testing is vital for downstream auditing process. Additionally, this ensures that there are no reporting discrepancy issues with the partners while testing the creative.

5) Support the OpenRTB Ad Management API

The purpose of this IAB specification is to provide a standardized means for demand and supply partners to communicate with each other regarding ads that will be used in bidding. If the SSPs support such specifications, the DSP should try to integrate it as well. This helps suppliers get the creative markup upfront and make sure that all the data points required for hygiene analysis are transmitted upfront by the DSP.

Ad quality issues are a serious and tedious problem in the advertising ecosystem, and they should be seen with as much severity as Supply Path Optimization.

About The Author:

Sergio is a product manager for the SSP strategic business unit and has been at InMobi for almost five years. He manages the InMobi Exchange and most of the supply products at InMobi. Prior to InMobi, Sergio worked with different companies in the online space where he contributed to the product strategy and code base. With more than five years of experience working in ad tech, Sergio sits on the IAB Open Measurement and OpenRTB Working Groups.

Sergio holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management and Economics at Bocconi University in Italy, and got his master in business at HULT Business School in San Francisco. He is a tireless programmer passionate of philosophy and statistics.

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