Why Fixing Poor Ad Quality Should Be a Bigger Industry Priority

ad quality

The advertising industry as a whole has always understood the importance of an ideal user experience, not just to get the consumer’s attention, but the seamlessness needed to make it so ads are less of an intrusion. Writing exclusively for ExchangeWire, Oded Napchi (pictured below), CMO, HIRO Media, talks about how poor ad quality still plagues the industry and why it should be given more priority before further losing the attention of the all-important consumer.

2017 was a turning point for the demise of ad-supported models and the rise of ad-free solutions. This coming year we could see more of this ditching advertising for subscriptions and an increase in ad blocking.

It makes me, and many colleagues, 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? For all of us in this industry, this 'trend' should be of particular concern.

A simple and common-sense explanation is that the average person just hates watching advertisements and the time-suck they cause. But, in truth, television tells us another story entirely. In TV, ads have always dominated the market – and to an extent, it still does – and subscription TV (such as HBO) was the niche product for premium users.

So, what’s changed in the transition from TV to digital? The fact of the matter is that many things have changed and most have been for the better of all involved. I believe the answer is surprisingly simple – it is the technical quality and experience of the ads we’re exposed to.

While there are issues and inconsistencies with TV ads, whether it be pixilation or being blaringly loud, these issues have mostly been addressed and resolved. Whether it be through legislation, which has reduced the inconsistent volume of loud commercials or the cable providers fixing the glitches over time, TV advertisements have had lower amounts of quality issues.

However, in desktop and mobile environments, the answer is 25-50% – depending on which research you point to. In OTT, it’s much worse.

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 1-3% 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 who misconfigured 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.

My point is that 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 of the viewer and not ruining his or her experience.

What can we do?

There are several tools publishers can utilise for limiting their exposure to low-quality ads. But first, we need to understand and acknowledge that this ad-quality problem exists, and just as each publisher employs more and more powerful anti-fraud tools, they should also use anti-low-quality ad tools, such as:

– Demand Path Optimisation (DPO)- DPO becomes critical. In fact, several tools already offer analysis of the path ads have passed.

– Prefer demand partners that are closer to demand, DSP or exchanges, having an SSP connected to SSP just ensuring bad user experience.

– Lower Your Timeout: ad answer shouldn’t take longer than 10 seconds. If it’s longer, you likely have a long demand path.

– Real-Time creative monitoring and blocking. Use real-time monitoring tool for filtering suspicious creatives.

– File Names: examine the file names of the ads, in many cases the filename will hold the true destination of the creative. If you are on desktop and receive a mobile tag – a bad user experience can be expected.


The user experience is central to the advertising model. We, as an industry, neglected the protection to the user experience and focused on protection to the advertiser. It is time that the industry aligns forces to battle advertising’s poor user experience.

HIRO Media

Oded Napchi, CMO, HIRO Media

By serving users better ads, advertisers can benefit from a higher click-rate, brand recall, and are less likely to have their advertisements blocked by ad blockers in the first place.

By looking at the successes of TV, we must hold ourselves accountable by fixing the technological glitches of our advertising ecosystem and, more importantly, providing users with high-quality ads that are useful and of interest to their wants and needs. A current exemplar of good form is highly integrated advertising, be it through native placements or branded/sponsored content.

While most advertising is a plea for user attention, custom content actually offers the value exchange that consumers are increasingly demanding. The value of this exchange, of course, depends on the creative. What’s required to make all this work is a deeper relationship between publishers, agencies, and advertisers. Technology alone can’t solve these issues, publishers will need to open the door to opportunities and, therefore, stand to gain by working on these relationships.