Three Pillars of Ad Quality: Time for Compliance

This is the second article in our Three Pillars of Ad Quality series, brought to you with the support of Ad Lightning. The first installment considered how publishers might approach ad quality beyond the current redirect crisis, and you can read it here.

There’s a wave of redirects crashing over publishers right now, so naturally they’re focusing on how to get out if its way. But there are a lot of other waves in the Sea of Bad Ads—ads that don’t comply with specs, or that have offensive creative. Even if you get out of the way of redirects, you stand to get mired in other ad quality issues.

According to Ad Lightning’s research, 28% of all programmatic ads don’t meet publishers’ quality standards. If we’re going to approach ad quality holistically and categorically, we’ll need to think bigger than just point solutions for each type of ad quality issue.

To get ahead of ad quality as a category of issues, publishers need to consider what an overall framework for creative compliance should look like. Quality issues are frequent enough that approaching them reactively, or on a case-by-case basis, is just too taxing of resources and time.

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Respect the Specs

Publishers have their specs. With LEAN, the IAB is making an effort to get advertisers and publishers alike on board with standards suitable for today’s understandably high expectations around user experience. But most pubs will tell you that as clear as they or the IAB can be about creative compliance, getting all buy-side partners to abide is an uphill climb.

It’s sometimes easier for agencies to stick with old familiar formats than to adopt new ones. It also can be easier for intermediaries to pass the buck if they know they’re effectively hidden to the end user. As the number one touchpoint with users, publishers find themselves picking up the slack.

Publishers can keep parrying whenever creative issues come up, or they can look toward a solution that’s customizable, keeps up with new malvertising threats as they emerge, and ensures compliance with specs. The solution has to be able to recognize everything you want to keep out—which is why publishers increasingly want and expect a feedback loop to keep up with emerging issues and recognize ad creatives that share similar characteristics with known issues.

We can approach compliance with creative specs in a similar way to proactively deterring malvertising attacks. The right tools can help block bad creatives before they reach the site. Publishers can map out on their own which of their partners are complying with specs and which are not, but tools to recognize and map likelihood of compliance would be more efficient, and would allow ops teams to focus on strategies for generating revenue.

Any holistic ad quality solution needs to establish a feedback loop and enable publishers to deliver reports to their demand partners.

Enter Ad Blocking

Of course, a lot of publishers use tools already to check ads for compliance with LEAN and their own specs. But cleaning up the buy side’s messes shouldn’t be publishers’ responsibility. Giving up the privilege of starting the conversation around an ad sale is an unfortunate consequence of the emergence of the programmatic market: By holding the purse strings, the buy side has long had the upper hand.

We can’t change that aspect of the marketplace today. But publishers can encourage the development of tech to block bad ads proactively, and to understand more about the sources of those ads.

The best ad blocking solutions help publishers deal with ad quality issues more holistically, by incorporating multiple strategies for quality assurance into one unified solution. Scanning creative can identify non-compliant ads; sandboxing iframes can help guard against redirect attacks; and blacklisting known threats while whitelisting trusted partners should all be part of the solution.

It’s key that the solution judge ads on a number of qualifications on a pass/fail basis, then block bad ads before they can render, using all of those available tools. In addition, any holistic ad quality solution needs to be able to process the source and frequency of bad ads. This establishes a feedback loop and enables publishers to deliver reports to their demand partners when necessary.

Think Proactively

Ultimately, when you’re getting bombarded and having difficulty focusing on future strategy, you need to move proactively. That means knowing about the bad ads and the current attacks in the ad ecosystem at that moment, and it means providing insights to exchanges and ad platforms.

Demand partners need to step up as well through pre-flight testing, staying updated on threats, and addressing them before bad ads make it further down the pipes. Publishers can do what they can to move the industry forward by having conversations with all their partners—but quality tech can help that process become more efficient.

Did you miss the first installment of the Three Pillars of Ad Quality series? Read it here and catch up on the concepts for looking beyond redirects. Look for the third installment, coming to these pages shortly.