27 Jun

Outsmarting Today’s Snake Oil Salesmen: Solving Rogue Ad Risk for Wireless Carriers

by Adrian Velthuis, CRO


In the late 1800s, cowboy turned ‘entrepreneur,’ Clark Stanley took Stanley’s Snake Oil on the road and sold it as a healing concoction. People bought in and bought vials of the stuff. That is, until federal investigators discovered that his ‘miraculous’ solution contained mineral oil, red pepper, and turpentine, but no snake oil at all.

Stanley’s career ended that day and you might think that this sort of nefarious advertising ended along with it. After all, we’re smarter now, right? We’re at least smart enough to know a bottle of turpentine when we see one.

While that may be true, the snake oil salesmen of the digital age are smarter too. Rogue advertisers, out to take advantage of consumers for profit, are finding new ways everyday to trick ad networks, wireless carriers, publishers and consumers into buying their snake oil. And the risk is much more dangerous than a lotion that simply doesn’t heal as it promises. Rogue ads put consumers at risk of interacting with malicious content and put carriers at risk of losing potential revenue.

Like Mr. Stanley, today’s rogue advertisers hijack existing exchanges, pathways, and trust to deliver misleading or malicious ads. Taking advantage of an extremely large and rather chaotic digital advertising marketplace, these hackers sign legitimate contracts to gain a clear path to consumers. Their rogue ads then compete with legitimate advertising, all too often being chosen as one of multiple rotating ads and kicking off a chain of consequences that impacts everyone from the end user all the way back to the ad network.

Bad ads or worse
At best, users see misleading ads. At worst, they inadvertently install malware on their smart phones. Either way, as consumers lose trust in ads and publishers, they increasingly turn to ad blockers and other maneuvers to avoid future negative experiences.

Publishers and carriers lose
Ad blockers are not good news for publishers who rely on ad revenue. Rather than risk serving rogue ads and losing consumers, publishers limit their advertising demand pool. Unfortunately, in the process, they also limit inventory access for new or smaller DSPs to join their networks, thus constraining the competitive nature of real-time bidding.

Rogue advertisers persist
Rouge advertisers continue getting better, innovating faster than most monitoring solutions and finding new ways to remain undetected.

The most well-known solution to this problem is sampling. Using test equipment, ad firms take samples off the production line and look for signs of rogue ads. They catch what they can and monitor the system regularly. But, as a recent AdMonsters piece noted, sampling on test equipment can not keep up with innovative rogue advertiser, fails to catch rogue ads wandering around in the wild, and cannot scale sufficiently to deliver a truly safe environment for subscribers. Rogue advertisers keep sending their bad ads out into the wild undeterred and carriers and publishers continue to lose.

Fortunately, Mobile Posse goes beyond sampling with a proprietary approach that safely maximizes advertising revenue for carriers while delivering a safe content experience for users.

The solution starts with large sample, live environment monitoring, plus built in safeguards to block rogue ad functionality specifically. The system is designed to provide immediate resolution and continuous improvement to detect bad ads before they impact users and smartphones.

This proprietary approach, achieves 99.999% confidence in detecting rogue ads across the 1.6 billion page views generated by our 14 million monthly US mobile users. Working in lockstep with leading platforms and DSPs, it blocks known rogue advertising techniques and examines over 1 million real-time ad requests every day to adapt to emerging patterns and threats.

The world will always have more than its fair share of Clark Stanley’s, peddling deceit. But for carriers, Mobile Posse has a solution to deliver premium content, maximize ad revenue, and keep out the Snake Oil.

Mobile Posse serves wireless carriers and Smartphone OEM with a carrier grade solution that lets them participate in the Mobile Content Discovery Ecosystem to increase subscriber ARPU from Mobile Advertising, rather than additional share of wallet. Preventing malvertising is important for publishers in general and the industry as a whole but it is most critical for Wireless Operators to protect their subscribers, their brand, and their network.