The Rise of Ad Quality

Post on November 8, 2016 by Nishant Khatri

Nishant Khatri VP, Product Management, Ad Serving

While the jury is still out with regard to what led to the rapid rise of ad blockers, everyone agrees that low quality ads and the resulting impact on user experience played some role. As a result, many publishers keep ad quality top of mind, and increasingly are looking for tools to enforce the rules that they think are most suited for their readers/users in an effective and efficient manner.

After looking at these macro trends in publisher ad tech, we at PubMatic decided to invest significantly in developing the ad quality platform of the future. Although that was almost a year ago, we’re now seeing the results of our investment in ad quality management coming to fruition. But before we discuss the results, let’s take a few minutes to deconstruct the topic of ad quality as a whole.

What is Ad Quality?

It’s important to understand what “ad quality” really means. Many publishers focus on certain aspects of ad quality, such as how many ads to show on a given page. As a monetization partner for publishers, we have a consultative role in helping publishers make these kinds of determinations, but we also see PubMatic playing a bigger role in helping publishers to enforce rules that determine what kind of ads should be delivered in publishers’ various ad slots.

Within that scope, ad quality is largely defined as inclusive of three specific areas (although for a small subset of publishers there are other areas that are also important, for now we’ll just address the following three). Publishers define ad quality in terms of:

  1. The ability to control which advertisers are allowed/not allowed to run on their sites and apps, including specific advertiser names or categories such as gambling or alcohol;
  2. The ability to control which creative types are able/unable to run on their sites and apps. Auto-play video ads are an example of a commonly blocked category based on how it frequently interferes with user experience;
  3. The ability to prevent malware on their sites and apps.

In addition to these three areas, we’re beginning to see other trends emerge as well. Some publishers, for example, want to block certain file types such as Flash ads. Since we are focused on continually updating and improving all of our publisher products, including those for ad quality, all of our product updates and new publisher tools are informed by this type of feedback and knowledge.

Ad Quality Product Principles

Providing publishers with future-proof tools is just as important to us at PubMatic as providing them with tools that help solve the challenges they face today. That’s why we invested in building a next-generation ad quality platform that could deliver on each of the following:

  • The ability to detect problems quickly and efficiently is incredibly important in the real-time environment of programmatic buying and selling. In order to meet this requirement, our platform needed to be fast—almost real-time—a feature that presents numerous challenges from both a cost and a technology perspective;
  • Our next-generation solution also needed to be comprehensive; in other words, we needed to be able to help publishers ensure the quality of every ad—another feature not without its own challenges;
  • In order to be the best possible solution, the platform also needed to incorporate both in-house technology and leverage tech and specialty features only available from third-party experts, which meant that we needed to determine which part of the platform would be in-house and what portion or portions should be left to third parties;
    Last, but certainly not least, we needed to incorporate automation—an extremely important aspect of the platform when it comes to scale and effectiveness.

As you can imagine, these product requirements translated into a whole lot of software to write!

Real-Time Ad Scanning

After seven months of development, we launched our Real-Time Ad Scanning platform earlier this year. Currently we have almost 200 publishers using our Real-Time Ad Scanning globally. The platform has the capability to capture every ad in the bid stream, make automated judgments on thousands of creatives every day (including creative from more than 100 demand sources representing thousands of advertisers), and to annotate each result with a confidence level. The automated process is then supplemented by the efforts of our ad quality operations team, which uses an in-house tool to review the creative where appropriate and confirm or adjust confidence levels.

As with any technology, we measure the success of our Real-Time Ad Scanning by examining the results it produces for our customers. That’s why we were particularly pleased to see an increase in the volume of violations caught proactively as well as an increase in publisher satisfaction overall. Now, after nearly a year of additional investment and fine-tuning, we continue to see even better results for our publishers and continue to expand the various areas of ad quality that our solution addresses based on new trends in publisher concerns.

What’s Next?

After working with about 200 publishers and fine-tuning the product over the last year, we’ll now be rolling the platform out to the rest of our publishers globally, continuing to make changes and updates as additional feedback and results come in. In addition, we are releasing several products and features to reduce response times and give publishers additional automated controls to remove ads that they don’t like—both proactively and reactively.

Publishers invest significantly in acquiring new and maintaining their existing audiences, and as such PubMatic will continue to do our part to help them keep those audiences happy with the best consumer experience possible.