Case Study: Learn how Smart achieved 99% secure ads

Executive Summary 

Smart and Confiant became partners in April 2016, driven by a shared concern around the growing ad security and quality issues emerging throughout the industry. It was no longer possible to operate without real-time 24/7 systems and technology to safeguard the quality of creatives served onto Smart’s Marketplace. The initial scope and return on investment of the partnership was strengthened with the addition of an RTB integration in September 2017. At that point, Smart could state that Confiant’s support was a “no-brainer” and already ROI positive. Ongoing operations associated with this partnership led us to a very solid security level of more than 95% ad revenue generated and realized without any security issues. Further strengthening into continuous improvement processes led Smart to reach a world-class 99.9% of ad-secure revenue, almost eradicating security threats on Smart’s marketplace.

Challenge

In the spring of 2016 the entire adtech industry, including Smart AdServer, saw a steep rise in “bad ads'' of questionable quality and even more questionable security. Smart recognized that this situation was no longer manageable with the systems and technology in place at that time and that they would have to put significant assets in place to address the security risks posed by malvertising at scale. Smart also realized the risks created by large-scale growth of IVT (invalid traffic) in the US and EU, arising from the inherent lack of control over Supply and Demand induced by complex programmatic value paths. Dealing with it was workload intensive without a real-time 24/7 technology solution in place. 

Even with a tech solution, new processes around ad security and quality needed to be implemented because, as the team discovered, without the processes, an open connection to the “bad actors'' remained. In addition to hiring team members, Smart determined they would need to create a new process around quality for creatives, purge bad connections, and secure a technology solution that could pinpoint and identify quality issues and threats in real-time.

Results

"The right vendor / The right stance / The right team. "

Implementing an anti-malvertising and ad quality solution was easy, but changing the internal processes and team was a different story. Making sweeping changes has not been easy, and has taken multiple iterations to get the thresholds and CTM processes (Customer Threat Management) right. Overall, it takes time for warnings and threats to drive behavioral change among partners and buyers. According to Smart, “We are very happy with the results we’ve reached thanks to that process, as we have been able to become the most secure global SSP in the industry when it comes to preventing security issues and malicious threats. While quality is a top priority, Confiant has helped us do this in such a way that it has not cost us any business and is ROI positive.” Smart is now at this utopia stage of “exquisite delight” for Publishers, with 99.9% secure ads thanks to Confiant and this continuous internal improvement, which Smart refers to as: “The right vendor / The right stance / The right team.”

Solution

After reviewing a few options, the Smart team landed on Confiant. At the time, the real-time curation of bids and creatives by Confiant’s security team was developing tools to handle very sophisticated fraud schemes as they initially appeared (e.g. high-pace-rotating creatives, campaigns and demand paths from large-scale offenders, highly sophisticated scanner evasion fraud schemes combining custom targeting, advanced environment detection, cloaking techniques and creative “flipping”). As time progressed the Confiant Security team added this functionality. The Confiant Security team has done a very good job in detecting, investigating, and addressing these schemes quickly, and then shutting them down.

After implementing Confiant’s solution, Smart was efficiently reaching more than a 95% security level, in a financially and operationally efficient manner. But, occasionally occurring fraud schemes were still preventing reaching the 100% level of “exquisite delight” as phrased by the Smart team. This “utopia” Smart says, would be “For premium Publishers that would allow Smart to one, reduce executive complaints from Publishers and two, develop more advanced partnership discussions with our marketplace partners, on both the Supply and Demand side.” Thus, allowing Smart to generate more revenue while protecting existing revenue.

From the Smart team:

What has changed since early 2020 is the stance Smart took in regard to security issues and malicious attempts. Previously, we had zero tolerance to security issues, and we were trusting our partners to have similar tolerance levels. We had not realized that despite the high-quality support from Confiant solutions, we had to be tougher on imposing our zero tolerance level to demand partners working with offenders. Keeping our connections with these actually helped these bad actors in that they could keep on bidding in small volumes to try to bypass and evade Confiant’s scanner.

Conclusion

The battle against malicious offenders creating security issues is far from over, but we at Confiant and Smart hope that the entire industry will start tackling this issue with a collective effort to eradicate malvertising and malicious clickbait, once and for all. Fraud is not “a cost of doing business”, which is what we keep hearing, it’s something we should address and actively and collectively eliminate. Improving industry standards, such as the buyers.json standard which Smart supports, will definitely help, but our stance towards fraudsters should really change to be absolute-zero tolerance. These results demonstrate that doing so does not lead to revenue losses, but instead is actually ROI positive in the short, medium and long term.