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PubForum Spotlight: We’ve Always Been At War With Bad Ads

By | Published

Imagine back to that more innocent time when people began “surfing the World Wide Web.” The first time you saw a digital ad, you probably marveled at the novelty of this gaudy, little flashing billboard begging you to “Click Here Now!” You probably clicked, wondering where it might lead, wide-eyed at the possibilities of a whole new world unfolding before you.

Now recall five pages later in your surfing experience, when wonder turned to dread—are those annoying ads going to be everywhere I go?

The issue of low-quality digital ads is as old as digital advertising itself. Those early ads soon brought malware and fraud with them, followed by the appearance of ad blockers in their earliest form. In some sense, publishers have always been at war against bad ads—and bad ads continue to limit our potential as an industry.

Fast forward to the present, where publishers are facing a very uncertain future. CPMs are down as advertisers pull back. Publishers are adding more ads per page and lowering their floors to capture more revenue, hoping to ride things out until higher CPMs return.

Unfortunately, more ads, lower floors, and other desperate moves lead to more opportunities for bad actors to step in. For users, more will adopt blockers to maintain some level of quality experience as they consume content.

“Publishers are fighting two battles at once to prevent revenue and user disruption: malvertisers and ad blockers,” said Confiant Cofounder and CEO Louis-David Mangin at AdMonsters Publisher Forum in Santa Monica. “Both are part of the same war, and for the industry to win this war, it needs to win both battles.”

Where We Are Winning

In his presentation, Mangin shared some battles we are winning. The rate of in-banner video (IBV) impressions has fallen precipitously over the past eight quarters. Industry initiatives such as ads.txt have closed the arbitrage opportunity that powered most IBV.

This, combined with moves by the major browsers and SSPs to disable autoplay video ads, has made IBV an endangered species. According to Confiant’s 2019 Q4 Demand Quality Report, 50% of low-quality and IBV impressions came from just two SSPs. With this information, publishers are in a position to further squeeze IBV out of the ecosystem.

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