Google Blocked 1.7 Billion Ads in 2016

Contributor, October 13, 2020

In 2016, Google aggressively policed its ad ecosystem, DoubleClick AdX, by identifying and blocking 1.7 billion ads that violated its advertiser policies.

Google has sought to clear any and all ads which demonstrated intent to deliberately deceive users, contained malware or redirected users to 3rd party app stores.  The blocking of nearly two billion ads effectively doubled the amount of flagged violations Google handed out compared in comparison to 2015.

Published in the self-published report outlining its push to purge non-compliant ads from AdX, Google publically disclosed that they have stopped 80 million deceptive ads, 112 million malware ads and 68 million ads for unapproved pharmaceuticals.  In addition, 7 million ads attempted to outsmart Google’s detection system and 23,000 mobile advertisements used redirects to a third-party app store.

Ben Erdos, VP Platforms & Services at Total Media, commented that bad creatives have far reaching effects throughout the internet beyond breaking Google’s rules for the ecosystem.

“Maladvertising is a threat to users because it erodes faith in the advertisement itself and it is a threat to the user’s technology, their identity, and their hardware. Specifically, it can download spamware, ransomware, and malware. Such occurrences create enormous risk throughout to the lowest scale to users, in addition to draining bandwidth, and data plans later on.”

In the fight to maintain a standard of ad quality, Google has had to adapt and constantly improve its ability to identify malicious advertising which often goes undetected by Google due to geo-targeting, dayparting and network targeting. 

As gatekeeper of its own buy-side and sell-side platforms, Google stands to benefit from aggressively pursuing non-compliant advertisements on the buy-side to maintain publisher confidence that the delivered ads are of the highest quality.

Yanir Yudovich, Director of Business Development and Programmatic at Total Media, commented that despite Google’s best efforts to combat bad advertisements, the industry operates in a tag based world and that any nefarious party can manipulate the AdX auditing systems and rotate in bad adverts within already approved adverts and manipulate the ad rotation.

“Ad fraud happens when Google’s automatic auditing process eventually approves acceptable advertisements for AdX and then an advertiser decides to add in new third-party tags on their own ad server into the already approved creatives.  As long as we live in a tag based world, I cannot see how this phenomenon will change,” said Yudovich.

Yudovich went on to say that as long as Google allows third party tags in their ecosystem, Google remains vulnerable to advertisements that do not fulfil their strict requirements.

“I don’t see this vulnerability changing unless Google will decide to run a stricter ad approval process over more time intervals (e.g., more per day) to discover recent changes to advertisers submission.  If this would happen, there is no doubt that the number of bad advertisements being stopped could be higher than 1.7B.”

Google’s interest to push advertisers to adhere to their policies within the AdX ecosystem provides publishers and advertisers a high level of certainty and trust that the ecosystem is solid and a safe environment for all.

Though the reality is that the chances of stopping more fraudulent advertisements would amount to an extraordinary amount of additional measures and resources throughout the auditing process for Google, whom are already doing an exceptional effort as compared to their industry counterparts.

Publishers need not worry if they see a bad advertisement published on their website. 

As a first step, a publisher can send an ad’s click-through URL to the AdChoices program in order to work with the website’s official Google contact to report and address the issue.  In our experience, once a bad advertisement is reported, Google will take swift action to take down the advertisement.

Additionally, a bad advertisement is most often flagged through an SSP rather than from publishers themselves reporting a malicious advertisement.  As per usual, AdX will stop the bad ad before it is published or is running for a significant amount of time.