Ad Quality Is 'Elephant In The Room' No One's Addressing

This year will surely mark the turning point for the fall of the ad-supported model, due in part to ad blocking increases and premium publishers’ migration to ad-free, subscription-based models.

This makes me wonder why audiences are moving away from us, and why more and more people are willing to pay more just to avoid being exposed to ads.

Wasn’t it everyone’s expectation that precisely targeted digital ads would raise the public’s acceptance of advertising in the end?

Perhaps the simple explanation is that people have always hated ads. Still, TV tells us another story entirely, since ad-supported TV has always dominated the market — and to an extent it still does. Subscription TV (such as HBO) was the niche product.

In the transition from TV to digital, many things have changed — most for the better of all involved.

Still, the problem with digital is surprisingly simple: the poor technical quality of the ads we’re exposed to.



Can you recall a time, ever, when an ad didn’t work on TV? When there was a black screen broadcast, or sound came out even though the TV set was muted? Probably never.

However, in desktop and mobile environments, ads don’t work 25% to 50% of the time, depending on which research you’re citing. In OTT it’s much worse.

While we, as an industry, are focused on being cutting-edge, algorithm-driven, data-targeted, and machine-learning-powered, we forgot our bread and butter, the basic and fundamental agreement between advertiser and viewer: being considerate and not ruining his or her experience.

According to a report from Accustream, a majority of ads do not play smoothly. Additionally, according to a Hiro Media report, 20% of ads play sound even when they are muted, and 1% to 3% of ad creative includes adware. (Don’t let this low percentage fool you, while low, once you get infected you will never forget it.) The reasons for this are varied:

-- Long demand chain going through multiple resellers
-- Junior ad ops personnel that misconfigure the ad server, generating excessive amounts of ad calls
-- Technical bugs (remember online advertising is a long piece of code, not broadcast footage)
-- And arbitrage fraud — selling outstream as full episode player

None of these challenges exist in traditional media.

What can we do?

Publishers first need to understand and acknowledge that this ad quality problem exists -- and just as they employ more and more powerful anti-fraud tools, they should also use anti-low-quality ad tools, such as:

-- Demand path optimization (DPS) becomes critical. In fact, several tools already offer analysis of the path ads have passed.
-- Real-time monitoring tools for filtering suspicious creatives.
--  Examine the file names of the ads. In many cases, the destination of the creative is what you’ll see. If you are on desktop and receive a mobile tag, you can expect a bad user experience.

It’s time the industry aligns forces to battle advertising’s poor user experience. From a publisher perspective, use ad monitoring and filtering (just as you would do for website traffic). From the advertiser perspective, it’s vital to make sure that your tech team is updated with the newest technologies and that your ads are running in the right places.

9 comments about "Ad Quality Is 'Elephant In The Room' No One's Addressing".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, November 2, 2017 at 9:25 a.m.

    "makes me wonder why audiences are moving away from us" -- are you kidding? Advertising is almost always intrusive, which makes for an inherently "pooer user experience" regardless of optimized fit and quality.

  2. Ginger Cookie from Consultant, November 2, 2017 at 10:17 a.m.

    And let's not forget of that over-hyped ad definition of "native" or "branded content" which is simply same definition of advertorials and before that TV sponsorships. 

    Digital/digital branding has clearly become more commoditized and compounded with increasing (omnichannel) inventory, to scaling and sustaining/increasing publishers' waning profit margins is clearly getting harder...look at Bloomberg publishing recent latest layoffs, Time Inc, Conde...etc....its a sign of the times with the need to restructure our overall digital ecosystem.  Huge topic. 

  3. Billy Tarter from Leads Dynamo, November 2, 2017 at 12:37 p.m.

    Publishers would do well to protect their user experience (and thus net revenue) from poor-quality ads coming through the open market, by utilizing the services of Ad Lightning or similar.  I'm not affiliated, just a fan.  And if we all benefit from a better experience, I'm ok with that.

  4. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, November 2, 2017 at 2:36 p.m.

    You need to expand the number of elephants in the room beginning with the fact that every ad has to be automated and no human involvement. Meaning if you look at what we do on we customize each digital sweepstakes ad. Our ads cannot be hacked or fake ads can be placed on our website.  Our Fortune come to us because of our security, accuracy, and we customize their ads to meet their standards. Not what the big ad distributors want, which is take it or leave it model.

    Who reading this column doesn't believe that human involvement in creating and presenting ads is better than robotic distributed network that cannot make good judgements for our clients?

  5. oded napchi from hiro-media replied, November 2, 2017 at 4:28 p.m.

    Thanks for the feedback. My claim here is that while ads are always annoying, people accept them on tv and not online. Several reason may be found. I presented one.

  6. oded napchi from hiro-media replied, November 2, 2017 at 4:30 p.m.

    Thanks for the feedback. Indeed this is the challange we are facing

  7. oded napchi from hiro-media replied, November 2, 2017 at 4:32 p.m.

    Not familiar with ad lightning but glad to hear more companies are joining the battle

  8. oded napchi from hiro-media replied, November 2, 2017 at 4:33 p.m.

    Thanks for the feedback. Your solution seems interesting indeed

  9. Ruaidhri Mag Fhloinn from TVadSync, November 3, 2017 at 6:18 a.m.

    I think part of the problem for online ads is that it can still be quite difficult to target audiences when they are in a receptive state of mind. One way to solve this is to combine TV and online as part of cross-platform retargeting campaigns, and use the former to emotionally prime the audience to be more receptive to the latter.

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