SSPs & Publishers Both Need Client-Side Ad Quality Solutions Like Real-Time Blocking
Think of the digital ad supply chain as a busy freeway, one that has plenty of on-ramps but only a single exit – the customer. And it’s that endpoint that makes the ecosystem’s engine run, where an ad compels the end-user into action, maybe buying the latest widget or, for B2B purposes, downloading a whitepaper.
The point is, it’s obvious why publishers need to ensure brand safety and protect the user experience (UX). They’re the ones facing the customer and, ultimately, responsible for that UX. But that’s not to say, of course, that publishers should be the only line of defense against ad fraud. Each one of those binary on-ramps is a potential entry-point for a fraudster to wreak their special brand of havoc. In other words, both publishers and supply-side platforms (SSPs) need client-side ad quality solutions to fight bad actors and their malicious activities.
The Industry Agrees: SSPs Must Up Their Ad Blocking Game
In our recent 2020 State of Ad Quality Report, we asked people from every corner of the digital advertising industry what trend will have the most positive impact on ad quality across the online advertising ecosystem. To no one’s surprise, nearly 70% of respondents said that SSPs adopting new ad quality solutions would help improve ad quality most. Likewise, when asked who isn’t doing enough to stop bad ads, SSPs were the top answer.
We’re not saying this to pick on SSPs, but simply to state the obvious. Publishers know their importance in the ad quality food chain, and, to their credit, many are taking decisive action by embracing effective ad blocking solutions. However, publishers aren’t in this fight alone. Or at least shouldn’t be.
But credit where credit is due. The majority of SSPs now use some type of creative scanning and internal tools to try and thwart bad ads. Unfortunately, as the scourge of redirects in recent years proves, they simply aren’t enough. And while SSPs investing in real-time creative blocking is thankfully a burgeoning trend, it’s still not nearly as pervasive as it must be to turn the malvertising tide. The bottom line is, SSPs have to do more, just as our State of Ad Quality Report found.
Everything is on the Line for SSPs
The situation isn’t critical just because of the negative impact on end-users, however. From a publisher’s perspective, they simply can’t afford to partner with SSPs that aren’t pulling their weight on the ad quality front. And while it’s certainly not a perfect solution – or even a preferred one – many publishers are left with no other choice but to turn off the SSPs sourcing the malicious ad inventory.
What does that mean for SSPs? Well, again referencing our 2020 State of Ad Quality Report, two-thirds of publishers have already turned off upstream partners due to ad quality issues. Granted, some of that was publishers trying to identify the source of bad ads from their various partners, but not all of it. And for the SSPs found to be the guilty party, is it logical to think that they could win back favor from the publishers? Probably not.
In other words, everything is on the line for SSPs and their ability to prevent malicious ads from reaching downstream. Whatever you want to call it – fight or flight, sink or swim, survival of the fittest – SSPs that identify and implement effective ad blocking solutions will continue. Those that don’t will eventually end up on the extinct species list and, just as in nature, there’s no coming back from that one.
Finding the Best Solutions for SSPs
But it’s not all doom and gloom for SSPs. Yes, server-side scanning and in-house tools help but only as the first line of defense that can pick out the most blatant bad actors and low-hanging malicious fruit. In reality, real-time blocking solutions are what will really allow SSPs to turn a positive corner on ad quality. Ad blocking provides far greater clarity on client-side malvertising trends, giving them a more accurate view of dynamics within the digital ad supply chain.
Even more importantly, ad blocking also gives SSPs the flexibility they need to continually adapt to new and ever-evolving threats, in effect, shielding publishers and end-users from bad ads that would otherwise find their way downstream. And since preserving ad quality really is a community-wide effort, ad blocking also provides the data that SSPs need to pressure demand-side platforms (DSPs) into implementing similar AQ technology platforms. Therefore, just as publishers can pressure SSPs into adopting effective ad tech, so can SSPs with demand sources for advertising inventory.
A More Accountable & Profitable Ecosystem
Publishers want to work with partners that take ad quality seriously. That understand the repercussions of lax ad quality and diligently work to improve it. This is what makes a comprehensive, holistic solution that addresses the full spectrum of bad ads so critical to SSPs and, naturally, the ecosystem itself. It’s not enough to weed out redirects & malware because that still exposes publishers and customers to data leakage and ad compliance issues.
Further, the right ad blocking solution doesn’t make publishers and SSPs choose between ad quality and revenue. As we detailed in our discussion on The Best Ad Quality Solutions for Publishers and Platforms, there are specific techniques that can prevent bad scripts from executing, without increasing latency to the point where it jeopardizes monetization and their CPM.
In fact, publishers and SSPs don’t necessarily use the solutions in the same way, where an SSP might prefer to apply the real-time ad blocking to statistically significant sample sizes rather than across the entire platform. Likewise, they can use the solution to monitor creative rather than block it, generating intelligence to feed back to their auction mechanics.
The good news is we, as an industry, are closer to a safer, more dependable supply chain than many might think. When web publishers partner with SSPs that embrace solutions like real-time ad blocking, everything from revenue to the UX benefits. Similarly, SSPs can choose to work with upstream partners that want to play an active role in eliminating ad fraud.
The result is a more accountable supply chain – from publishers, SSPs, and DSPs to ad exchanges, ad networks, and agencies – that ultimately benefits everyone involved. Imagine keeping everything good about programmatic advertising while minimizing the bad. It's not an impossible dream if everyone does their part.