QA is an oft-underserved function in online
advertising, but it’s an important one with many moving parts. One of them is
With so many different advertising formats
and requirements, creative ad agencies and the publishers that they serve are
challenged to ensure that everyone gets what they’re expecting. The publishers must
get advertisements that fit their size requirements and don’t interrupt their
On the agency side, executives and their
clients want to be sure that their advertisements display properly on a range
of devices, which might include smartphones, several different web browsers and
operating systems. They also want to see advertisements displayed in front of
the right people, based on a range of criteria that they have agreed upon with
A properly-managed advertising QA process
helps to guarantee these things, and it begins long before an ad ever reaches a
Advertisers and publishers alike have long
checklists to fill when preparing an ad to run on a site. They include items
like the format that the ad is coded in, whether there are controls to stop its
audio, the required network bandwidth and text localization.
Could the blockchain help with this
problem? Perhaps, but it isn’t where the real opportunities in QA lie.
Today, many agencies handle creative QA
manually, passing assets back and forth between publishers and clients for
approval. There are opportunities to enhance this process with blockchain
technology, although a lot of this QA is handled internally by teams at the
agency, publisher and client, the case isn’t as compelling. Given that the
agencies, clients and publishers know each other, existing centralized
automation systems may work just as well.
Blockchain technology could come into its
own with another task connected to advertising QA, though: ad verification. Not
all online advertising deals happen bilaterally between a creative agency and a
publisher. Often, publishers will sell advertising spots programmatically.
Agencies and clients buy them via demand-side platforms that handle real-time
bidding across multiple advertising exchanges.
These introduce far bigger quality
assurance problems than an ad that is too large or won’t play. Advertisers behind
a complex, programmatically-managed series of intermediaries may not be who
they say they are. They may use publishers as a conduit for malicious ads,
designed to infect viewers’ machines.
Forbes fell victim to such an attack, infecting
countless visitors with “malvertising” alongside a 2016 “30 under 30” feature.
It is one of many sites that has suffered from a lack of proper QA.
At the other end of the supply chain,
unscrupulous publishers can impersonate legitimate online properties selling false
ad impressions created by clickbots that only generate revenue for the fraudsters
who operate them.
Programmatic advertising is highly
distributed with many stakeholders, none of whom share data with each other. It
is also a high-volume and high-velocity business. These make centralized
auditing difficult but make it a ripe market for blockchain technology, which
thrives in environments like these.
Companies are already moving on this
opportunity with blockchain-based advertising verification systems. MetaX provides an Ethereum-based smart contract
solution that verifies advertiser domain names and ad impressions using
cryptography. It allows publishers to see who sold and resold their inventory,
and who to.
is also using blockchain technology to authenticate ads. Advertisers can
encrypt their ads, send them to publishers via existing programmatic markets
and only decrypt them when they reach a verified destination.
Agency teams, publishers and advertisers
may still flock to centralized systems when automating creative QA, but in the
fast-moving world of real-time bidding and fulfilment, blockchain-based QA
looks set to flourish. Companies like Rebel AI and MetaX aren’t the only
players to tackle this problem, and there are doubtless more coming.