Google Blocked 1.7 Billion Bad Ads Last Year

google-bad-adsGoogle identified 1.7 billion ads last year that violated its policies by deceiving users, containing malware or forcibly redirecting users to app stores. That amount is double the number it flagged in 2015.

“Five years ago, we were a lot more analog in terms of how to capture bad traffic,” said John Brown, head of publisher policy communications at Google. “It’s become more sophisticated on our end [technologically], and we’ve added [more] people to review.”

Some ads were caught before those advertisers could pay to display those ads through Google’s platform, while others raised flags later. Google would not disclose how much revenue it earned from the bad ads flowing through its system.

Google shut down 80 million deceptive ads, 112 million malware ads and 68 million ads for unapproved pharmaceuticals. Another 7 million deliberately tried to foil Google’s detection system. Google also disabled 23,000 mobile ads that automatically redirected to an app store; it only found a few thousand of these mobile app redirects the year before.

The difficulty of maintaining ad quality by finding and blocking bad ads has flummoxed ad ops teams. They must use complex quality assurance processes to find the ads, which evade detection through geotargeting, dayparting and network targeting.

Ad quality is a top concern for Publishers Clearing House, said Thomas Anderson, its head of programmatic. He called Google “light years ahead of everyone else” for staying on top of ad quality.

“What I would like to see from the ad tech community is more self-regulation,” Anderson said.

Because Google spans both the buy side and the sell side, publishers know whom to contact when they see a bad ad. But publishers often don’t have the same luck when working with other supply-side platforms (SSPs).

“The bad actors aren’t sneaking through the SSPs, they are sneaking through the DSPs,” Anderson said. “We can see it in the wild, we can catch it. But it becomes a game of telephone where we deliver the message to the SSPs who have to talk to the DSPs.”

And those DSPs, struggling to maintain market share against the duopoly, aren’t incentivized to cut off paying customers, even ones creating bad ads.

“Google doesn’t have to worry about losing revenue when it tells people to play by their rules,” Anderson said. “They get to push the market around.”

OpenX, ranked top in inventory quality by Pixalate, said the massive scale of programmatic advertising means bad ads also occur on a massive scale.

“Even an ad quality accuracy rate of 99.99% still results in 100,000 ad quality incidents,” said John Murphy, VP of marketplace quality at OpenX. “There is massive transaction volume in programmatic advertising and a very low tolerance for error by publishers.”

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