When the question “what worries you” most comes up, I find that while the answer will often be much the same across businesses in a given industry, it will change over time.
From a publishing and Ad Operations perspective, protecting yourself from malicious attacks or malvertising (malware+ advertising) is top of mind where cyber-criminals use display advertising to distribute different forms of malware. That’s also the type of feedback that comes out of IAB-style conferences and in conversations with clients. People want to know how to flag it, how to address it, and how to prevent it.
For the larger publishing companies, this is probably less of an issue if they are utilizing in-house tools or a trusted ad server. Google’s Anti-Malvertising Team and IAB’s Anti-Malware/Anti-Fraud Working Group also studies malware distribution throughout the digital supply chain and works with the security community in order to pinpoint compromises and vulnerabilities on the web. But what about the smaller companies that can’t afford to invest in these more comprehensive platforms? From my experience, the best way forward is a combination of freeware and partnerships.
The Right Tools
For those companies that don’t have any kind of creative specs, or are using an ad server they don’t trust, or who aren’t able to review the creative ahead of time, there are free tools available. One trusted source is Adopstools.com, which allows you to upload files to check for malware. This is a tool that has been around for years, so it’s proven.
Many of the big names are also bringing out free ad management versions. DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP) by Google has a free enterprise version called Small Business, which complements its paid version, Premium. This is a great way for smaller companies to start out before upgrading to a paid version when they’re able. But it pays to be cautious and use a version that has reliable QA in place.
Google actively works with trusted advertisers and partners to decrease the probability of malware and averts fourth-party calls or association to advertisers or vendors that are not certified.
Third-party ads are also scanned for malware when they enter their system. Google uses a programmed malware system that continuously scans all creatives running through their network and if malware is detected, it is automatically removed to protect publisher websites and users.
The other element to managing QA issues is partnership. In my experience, it’s all too common for small start-up companies to have process gaps. Flagging, for example, is often overlooked or incorrectly used. This forces companies to look for workarounds, which is why QA is so important. They can’t afford to lose any impressions or allow site issues which affect their revenue.
Having a good partner helps smaller companies work through the QA process, prepare documentation for process and procedure consistency, and put the right people in place to initiate that and execute. While working with a trusted partner and consultant is important for larger companies, it’s even more critical for smaller companies that need a lot of help.
Such companies often rely on a strategic partner who is willing to invest time in them. Because the fact is, small companies often require a lot of time from their partners. They need help to figure out better, more efficient ways of managing their processes because all too often, small companies are working from a basic spreadsheet rather than using dedicated products and solutions.
Another important consideration for small companies is working with a partner who also supports larger companies in order to bring in best practices and leverage that wider industry knowledge around process improvements and ways of operating. So is your partner a true thought leader? Will they invest time in you? And will they be honest about what they can deliver and when?
In my experience, many of these smaller companies go on to bigger and better things. But the steps they put in place, in terms of finding the most appropriate technology solution to respond to challenges like fraud, and choosing a partner willing to form a longer-term relationship, may well be integral to that success.