Ad Lightning’s Q1 2021 Recap: Taking Control to Protect Brands & Customers
Q1 2021 had a definite yin and yang feel for the digital advertising ecosystem. While bad actors and their bad ads certainly kept everyone busy with their onslaught of malware and other threats, there is also plenty of reason for hope as we wade deeper into 2021.
I want to take this opportunity to explore some of the highlights you'll find in Ad Lightning’s Q1 2021 Malware Recap. As you'll see, although the fraudsters still have the pedal to the malvertising metal, publishers and platforms have the tools they need to protect their brands and the user experience. That is, as long as they choose to use them.
Bad Guys Doing Bad Things
Between 2020 and now 2021, the bad guys have had historically fertile ground to sow their destructive seeds. A global pandemic that sent advertisers running for the hills, a contentious election, social unrest – these are all Miracle-Gro for bad ads. And the Q1 data only bolsters that notion.
- Ad Lightning saw a 10% increase in malicious ads from Q4 2020 to Q1 2021.
- Trojans took the malvertising crown from malicious browser extensions, accounting for 36% of all the bad ads we saw in Q1, up from 29% in Q4.
- Redirects were concentrated across a small number of massive campaigns, with five campaigns delivered by five major SSPs, spanning 3,500 domains and totaling 1.5M blocks, accounting for the bulk of them.
At first glance, these statistics might seem like business as usual for the fraudsters. But as the saying goes, the devil is in the details, where a seemingly small change like Trojan ads taking the lead in malicious ads can have a massive effect on publishers and platforms trying to thwart them.
Suffice it to say, the ecosystem needs ad quality solutions that can pivot to a dynamic environment. If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that bad actors aren’t content with sitting still. They’ll change tactics, even play possum for a bit, but will ultimately do anything they can to keep publishers on their toes. Given the shifting sands we saw in Q1, the need for a flexible, comprehensive ad quality solution has never been greater because, unfortunately, no one knows what the fraudsters will have up their sleeve tomorrow.
Category Blocking: Calling the Ad Content Cavalry
I understand those Q1 malware insights were somewhat sobering. However, I assure you everything isn’t nearly as bleak as it might seem. In fact, there’s downright hope on the horizon, especially with the dramatic increase we’ve seen in category blocking recently.
As discussed in the Q1 Malware Recap, ad quality isn’t just a malware issue. With growing regulatory demands as well as ad content sensitivity across key target audience groups, compliance and appropriate content are also primary concerns for the digital ad industry. But that’s what makes the continued adoption of category blocking so encouraging, as demonstrated by the following Q1 statistics:
- 50% increase in category blocking across the Ad Lightning footprint
- 60% of Q1 blocked ads were custom and category blocks
- Block volume of violent content saw a 45x increase in Q1
Obviously, these stats are proof that Ad Lightning partners are proactively using our tools to take control of their ad quality fates. That third stat is especially reassuring where, in light of January’s national events, our partners were able to protect themselves at a time when sensitivities to violent ads were at all-time highs.
Of course, you’ll find deeper insights in the Q1 Malware Recap but, for now, I hope this overview of the Q1 ad quality landscape reveals the dichotomy we’re seeing across digital advertising right now. Yes, between the fraudsters, compliance concerns, and growing content sensitivity, the ecosystem might feel like a minefield at the moment. However, by choosing the right partners and solutions, ad quality can be an asset for publishers and platforms, not a liability.