Earlier this winter, The Daily Mail and several other major news organisations began hearing complaints from users about an unfortunate glitch they experienced when they tried to visit the sites via mobile devices.
Upon entering a group of websites that included the Mail’s massively popular website MailOnline, the Associated Press, NBC Sports, and Perez Hilton, iPhone users were served an ad that automatically redirected them to the iTunes store page for King’s popular mobile game, Candy Crush.
Daily Mail executives said the ads were placed on its mobile site not by Candy Crush developer King but by a third party contracted to advertise the game. A spokesperson for King confirmed the same, and said the company does not condone such ads.
With more than 40% of its traffic now coming from mobile devices, MailOnline and its fellow publishers were forced to choose between angering large portions of its readership and losing money by briefly shutting down its third-party ad servers.
But now, MailOnline is working with the mobile advertising exchange Nexage to give itself and its peers a third choice, one that comes in the form of a new product to give them greater control over the ads they run. This way, when a company tries to cheat the system, publishers can block the specific unwanted ads from appearing without turning off the ad exchange spigot.
The product, called Nexage Protect, is currently in beta testing, and serves as the mobile advertising industry’s latest attempt to crack down on fraud that places premium publishers beside shady advertisements, and vice versa.
“We want to make sure that the environment where brand advertisers are looking to buy with us looks like a clean, well-lighted space,” MailOnline chief operating officer Rich Caccappolo said. “We don’t want users to walk away because they had a bad experience because an ad redirected them somewhere, or blocked them from reading something.”
Nexage Protect works by allowing mobile publishers to block specific ad buyers, advertisers, and ads from accessing their inventory. The software also has malware detection built in and gives publishers the opportunity to toggle with their controls in real time.
Protect also lets ad buyers and brands know exactly where their ads will run and scans the content on the page to prevent, for instance, an airline from appearing next to a story about a plane crash.
Nexage chief marketing officer Victor Milligan said his company, which manages ads served to about 500 million unique users each month, decided to invest in additional controls after premium publishers and advertisers told the company they viewed brand safety as a priority of critical importance.
According to Milligan, app developers and publishers are starting to realise they can benefit more in the long run by limiting their advertising partners to well-regarded brands than they can by sullying their brand selling cheap inventory to direct-response marketers.
He said that big brands spent 70% more on Nexage’s exchange in 2013 than they did the year prior, suggesting that premium publishers could be able to benefit from consumer brands willing to spend more for mobile advertising space than lower-quality advertisers.
“As more publishers and brands come into mobile, they’re expecting the kind of visibility and controls they would get in any other medium,” Milligan said. “I think that in a very short period of time, it’s going to be table stakes to make sure you have the opportunity to see and protect the things that could hurt your brand.”
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