Jun 29, 2018

Addressing the “Three Pillars of Ad Quality”

Last week, an insightful AdMonsters article summarized the current publisher perspective on ad quality solutions. It made three important points:

  1. No major SSP or exchange is immune from problems like redirect ads — even the most premium sites are affected. However, redirects aren’t necessarily the biggest headache inducer on the publisher side of the ecosystem. Malicious, offensive or non-compliant ads are equally or more disruptive and threatening. 
  2. It advised publishers to look beyond the most disruptive or pervasive issue of the day and holistically consider all of the ad quality issues they’re facing.
  3. With that mindset, publishers are shifting away from point solutions, toward solutions that are sustainable and reliable for the long run.

Along with Ad Monsters’ own findings, recent Ad Lightning research was cited throughout the story to illustrate the current trends behind the story.

We thought it may be helpful to add some color to the stats that came from our research:

  • Redirects are more prevalent in 2018 than ever before. The number of distinct final redirect URLs jumped roughly 30% from the end of 2017 to March of 2018, and it’s held steady since March. Redirects are a real problem, no doubt. In fact, the number of redirect paths per ad has increased by 59% from the first half of 2017 to the first half of 2018 (avg).


  • However, at the beginning of the year, redirects weren’t even identified as a top 3 concern when publishers compared their top worries to 2017 issues (based on an Ad Lightning ad quality survey conducted in January).
  •  87% of publishers surveyed earlier this year said their top concerns are offensive ads and scare-ware, followed by ads that disrupt the user experience (85%), malware (82%) and slow-loading ads (81%). Redirects were fifth on the list (79%).

The AdMonsters article also pointed out that publishers are increasingly dissatisfied with reactive solutions. This is also supported by some of our survey results that weren’t included in the AdMonsters piece. Here’s a glimpse of the greatest challenges publishers identified in the various solutions they relied upon:

We highlighted some of these and other survey results in our own article last month. You can read more about that here.

It’s obviously not enough to address the issue du jour with a quick-fix point solution. It’s not enough to implement a patchwork of reactive technologies when s critical threats arise. Publishers seeking true ad quality control should address redirects as well as the “three pillars” (malicious, offensive and non-compliant ads) with a single solution is both proactive and reactive. That approach enables better, more predictible user experiences and greater efficiency among ad ops teams.

We believe the AdMonsters article accurately reflects the importance of, and shifting tides toward, comprehensive, proactive protection against the gamut of ad quality threats.

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Jun 04, 2018

Our New Blocking Wrapper Restores Publisher Control of Bad Ads

Programmatic advertising is a revolving door of new threats, recycled old threats and bad actors. It’s been that way for a long time and we want to put a stop to it.

Today, we launched a major upgrade to the Ad Lightning platform: A powerful new suite of ad blocking tools for publishers. Finally, publishers will have the control they’ve been looking for to completely prevent malicious, offensive and poor-quality ad units from loading on their sites.  It's time for publishers to take the lead, inject their own brand of transparency, their own definition of control and determine which ads and partners measure up, on their terms.

In a recent survey of over 100 top publishers, most said programmatic partners and industry organizations don’t do nearly enough to address these issues, so it’s not surprising that the vast majority, 73%, said they’re most bullish on new technology solutions that will give them the power to block programmatic ads on their own terms.

In order for publishers to take full control of their advertising, they need a true long-term ad blocking strategy enabled by a solution set that meet five core requirements:

  1. Address ad quality issues proactively
  2. Block ads comprehensively
  3. Eliminate bad ads cost-effectively
  4. Provide centralized control and transparency,
  5. Integrate seamlessly into existing core ad tech


Proactivity is an important aspect of a sound ad blocking strategy. Whenever possible, unwanted ads should be blocked before they load on the page. In addition, ad quality insights should be available to Exchanges and Platforms, so they can resolve issues further upstream and perform pre-flight testing to ensure creative meets guidelines for compliance, content and security before going live.


Blocking strategies need to protect the publisher comprehensively against all advertising threats. Whether ads are redirecting audiences, introducing malware, slowing page loads or stealing data, the bad ones should be addressed with one solution that scales across the board.  Solutions should provide insight into where the bad ads are coming from, as well as the good ads, allowing for quick optimization of inventory partnerships and maximized renvue.


Your ad management solutions should enable you to improve both your revenue and margins, and those contributions to your business should be clear. The more complex the patchwork of tools, the more difficult it is to see how they’re helping your bottom line. When you eliminate the patchwork of narrow solutions in favor of a more comprehensive approach, your tech stack becomes more manageable and should cost less for both the short- and long-term.

Centralized Control and Transparency:

Publishers need technology solutions that protect the good ads (and the contribution those good ads make to ROI) while providing the flexibility to target bad ads based on publisher-defined ad quality definitions and thresholds. That type of precision is only possible if you have the details at hand to understand which ads have issues, the type and severity of those issues, how they affect your site, and the source of each bad ad. Armed with that level of transparency and an equally robust set of controls, you can take immediate, targeted, yet scalable action.

Seamless Integration:

Your ad blocking solutions should be compatible, and integrate easily, with your other core ad technologies (DFP, Pre-bid solutions, etc.). If pieces don’t work together, it’s difficult to get started, automate ad blocking rules or get a handle on the impact of your ad blocking efforts.

Ad Lightning's Blocking Wrapper

With today's launch, we’ve introduced an ad blocking solution that fulfills all five of those core requirements. We've taken our advanced ad scanning technology Site Scanning is the first critical component of a successful blocking strategy.  By running Site Scans we’re able to collect the HTML as well as all the Javascript responses for each resource within an ad call. This lets us see the source of the bad ad behavior and acurately identify the malicious “signature”.  This methodology helps prevent false positives and eliminates broad classifications of domains as malicious.

Some ad blocking highlights of the new launch:

The new Ad Lightning Blocking Wrapper stops bad ads from loading with a two-phased approach:  First a check to block known threats, followed by an enterprise sandbox application that blocks new and unknown redirect offenders. The new tech seamlessly integrates within your existing ad environment to watch every ad impression & proactively block ads across a more comprehensive list of threats.

The wrapper disables the ad's malicious behaviors and supports a broader set of publisher scenarios than other blocking solutions, minimizes latency and allows you to whitelist providers or ads you’d like the Wrapper to ignore.

Our blocklist covers malware (redirects, maliciously formatted ads and bad domains) and a broad range of other issues that negatively affect customer experience, result in data leakage or violate quality standards. You can easily customize your own blocklist to match blocking parameters to your own key quality issues and unique operating environment.

The Ad Lightning Insights Dashboard now includes reporting that combines both scanning and blocking insights. It’s a refreshing, revealing level of transparency that finally brings publisher-centricity to publisher-side ad blocking. Reports are updated in real time and include details on each type of threat, the source, and the number of times it was blocked.



Try it!

At Ad Lightning, we’re dead set on bringing transparency and control to the chaotic world of programmatic advertising for publishers and ad exchanges. Want to see what real transparency and control look like? Try the enhanced Ad Lightning platform for free. Just drop us a note for a free 30-day trial:  

More information on the upgraded version of Ad Lightning is available at

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May 29, 2018

Publishers still seek a solution to their #1 issue (and it's not GDPR)

Last Friday, GDPR went into full effect. Of course, that was big news. Articles about the new EU privacy regulations seemed to pop up everywhere we looked. So, we thought it might be refreshing to start this week with a look at something different.

At the beginning of the year, we surveyed well over 100 digital Ad Ops professionals in order to take their collective pulse on the industry challenges they expected to face in 2018. It was important for us to understand the various Ad Ops perspectives and outlooks for the new year.

Now that we're nearing the halfway point, it might be helpful to circle back and share a few of those insights in the context of industry developments so far.

In early January, most participants felt that a number of issues that challenged their operations in 2017 were likely to become even more concerning in 2018:

  • 63% of publishers felt that ad quality issues had not improved or had gotten even worse over the course of 2017.
  • 33% had a heightened concern about challenges posed by the EU’s GDPR initiative.
  • 75% of participants believed ad quality issues (bad ads) were a significant cause of website latency and that, in turn, reduces site engagement by consumers, hurt publisher ad revenues and reflect poorly on the media brand.
  • 28% of all display ads have at least one significant quality issue (based on Ad Lightning research published early last year)

Since the start of 2018, redirects and malware have become more prevalent than ever, even hitting the mainstream news. Some experts are now predicting that GDPR may make malvertising more profitable for bad actors and may even lead to an increase in malicious ad practices.

Most survey participants felt that their advertising partners and tech solutions fall short of addressing core challenges:

However, many participants were also optimistic about forthcoming technologies that will enable them to gain greater control of significant issues, especially publisher-side ad blocking solutions:

  • 73% believed publisher-side ad blockers will have the most positive impact on ad quality.

The advent of publisher-side ad blockers topped the list of promising developments for 2018:

Since the beginning of the year, some things have changed in the area of consumer-side ad blocking. And unfortunately, some things have stayed the same.

Google has launched their ad blocking capabilities in Chrome and non-Chrome consumer-side ad blocking has increased both in Europe and in the U.S. Of course when consumers use ad blocking tools or the ad blocking capabilities in Chrome, that has a negative impact on publisher ad revenue: No ad served, no ad revenue.

Meanwhile, the IAB continues to recommend that publishers respond to consumer-side ad blocking by simply asking site visitors to turn the blocker off. Throughout the first half of the year, numerous articles continued to suggest that the best blocker-busting options for publishers are to switch away from an ad revenue model (go with a consumer pay model) or improve the user experience so much that consumers choose to stop blocking ads. None of these are realistic long-term solutions for most ad-supported publishers. Many of the most serious experiential issues are created by problems within the programmatic ecosystem which remain outside of the publisher’s control. That’s why publisher-side ad blocking is so critical.

Early in the year, publishers were bullish about the promise of publisher-side ad blockers. So far, however, the smattering of early solutions fall short of offering the level of control and transparency required to make ad-blocking work in a publisher-centric way.

With all of the talk about GDPR, let’s not lose sight of the number one issue: publisher-side ad blocking. So far in 2018, publishers haven’t found what they’re looking for. Here’s to a better second half!

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