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Google removed 2.3B bad ads, banned ads on 1.5M apps + 28M pages, plans new Policy Manager this year

Posted by on Mar 14, 2019 in adsense, Advertising, Advertising Tech, bad ads, Google | 0 comments

Google is a tech powerhouse in many categories, including advertising. Today, as part of its efforts to improve how that ad business works, it provided an annual update that details the progress it’s made to shut down some of the more nefarious aspects of it.

Using both manual reviews and machine learning, in 2018, Google said removed 2.3 billion “bad ads” that violated its policies, which at their most general forbid ads that mislead or exploit vulnerable people. Along with that, Google has been tackling the other side of the “bad ads” conundrum: pinpointing and shutting down sites that violate policies and also profit from using its ad network: Google said it removed ads from 1.5 million apps and nearly 28 million pages that violated publisher policies.

On the more proactive side, the company also said today that it is introducing a new Ad Policy Manager in April to give tips to publishers to avoid listing non-compliant ads in the first place.

Google’s ad machine makes billions for the company — more than $32 billion in the previous quarter, accounting for 83 percent of all Google’s revenues. Those revenues underpin a variety of wildly popular, free services such as Gmail, YouTube, Android and of course its search engine — but there is undoubtedly a dark side, too: bad ads that slip past the algorithms and mislead or exploit vulnerable people, and sites that exploit Google’s ad network by using it to fund the spread of misleading information, or worse.

Notably, Google’s 2.3 billion figure is nearly 1 billion less ads than it removed last year for policy violations.

While Google has continued to improve its ability to track and stop these ads before they make their way to its network, Google said in a response to TC that the lower number was actually because it has shifted its focus to removing bad accounts rather than individual bad ads — the idea being that one can be responsible for multiple bad ads.

Indeed, the number of bad accounts that got removed in 2018, nearly 1 million, was double the figure in 2017, and that would mean the bad ads are not hitting the network in the first place.

“By removing one bad account, we’re blocking someone who could potentially run thousands of bad ads,” a company spokesperson said. “This helps to address the root cause of bad ads and allows us to better protect our users.”

Meanwhile, while the ad business continues to grow, that growth has been slowing just a little in competition with other players like Facebook and Amazon.

The more cynical question one might ask here is whether Google removed less ads to improve its bottom line. But in reality, remaining vigilant about all the bad stuff is more than just Google doing the right thing. It’s been shown that some advertisers will walk away rather than be associated with nefarious or misleading content. Recent YouTube ad pulls by huge brands like AT&T, Nestle and Epic Games — after it was found that pedophiles have been lurking in the comments of YouTube videos — shows that there are still more frontiers that Google will need to tackle in the future to keep its house — and business — in order.

For now, it’s focusing on ads, apps, website pages, and the publishers who run them all.

On the advertising front, Google’s director of sustainable ads, Scott Spencer, highlighted ads removed from several specific categories this year: there were nearly 207,000 ads for ticket resellers, 531,000 ads for bail bonds and 58.8 million phishing ads taken out of the network.

Part of this was based on the company identifying and going after some of these areas, either on its own steam or because of public pressure. In one case, for ads for drug rehab clinics, the company removed all ads for these after an expose, before reintroducing them again a year later. Some 31 new policies were added in the last year to cover more categories of suspicious ads, Spencer said. One of these included cryptocurrencies: it will be interesting to see how and if this one becomes a more prominent part of the mix in the years ahead. 

Because ads are like the proverbial trees falling in the forest — you have to be there to hear the sound — Google is also continuing its efforts to identify bad apps and sites that are hosting ads from its network (both the good and bad).

On the website front, it created 330 new “detection classifiers” to seek out specific pages that are violating policies. Google’s focus on page granularity is part of a bigger effort it has made to add more page-specific tools overall to its network — it also introduced page-level “auto-ads” last year — so this is about better housekeeping as it works on ways to expand its advertising business. The efforts to use this to ID “badness” at page level led Google to shut down 734,000 publishers and app developers, removing ads from 1.5 million apps and 28 million pages that violated policies.

Fake news also continues to get a name check in Google’s efforts.

The focus for both Google and Facebook in the last year has been around how its networks are used to manipulate democratic processes. No surprise there: this is an area where they have been heavily scrutinised by governments. The risk is that, if they do not demonstrate that they are not lazily allowing dodgy political ads on their network — because after all those ads do still represent ad revenues — they might find themselves in regulatory hot water, with more policies being enforced from the outside to curb their operations.

This past year, Google said that it verified 143,000 election ads in the US — it didn’t note how many it banned — and started to provide new data to people about who is really behind these ads. The same will be launched in the EU and India this year ahead of elections in those regions.

The new policies it’s introducing to improve the range of sites it indexes and helps people find are also taking shape. Some 1.2 million pages, 22,000 apps and 15,000 sites were removed from its ad network for violating policies around misrepresentative, hateful or other low-quality content. These included 74,000 pages and 190,000 ads that violated its “dangerous or derogatory” content policy.

Looking ahead, the new dashboard that Google announced it would be launching next month is a self-help tool for advertisers: using machine learning, Google will scan ads before they are uploaded to the network to determine whether they violate any policies. At launch, it will look at ads, keywords and extensions across a publisher’s account (not just the ad itself).

Over time, Google said, it will also give tips to the publishers in real time to help fix them if there are problems, along with a history of appeals and certifications.

This sounds like a great idea for ad publishers who are not in the market for peddling iffy content: more communication and quick responses are what they want so that if they do have issues, they can fix them and get the ads out the door. (And that, of course, will also help Google by ushering in more inventory, faster and with less human involvement.)

More worrying, in my opinion, is how this might get misused by bad actors. As malicious hacking has shown us, creating screens sometimes also creates a way for malicious people to figure out loopholes for bypassing them.

Source: The Tech Crunch

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‘Amazon Live’ is the retailer’s latest effort to take on QVC with live-streamed video

Posted by on Feb 8, 2019 in Advertising, Amazon, brands, eCommerce, Live, live video, qvc, shopping | 0 comments

Amazon is taking on QVC with the launch of Amazon Live, which features live-streamed video shows from Amazon talent as well as those from brands that broadcast their own live streams through a new app, Amazon Live Creator. On the live shows, hosts talk about and demonstrate products available for sale on Amazon, much like they do on QVC. Beneath that sits a carousel where shoppers can browse product details and make purchases.

More than one video streams on Amazon Live at the same time, so shoppers can tune to the one that most interests them.

For example, Amazon Live is currently streaming a Valentine’s Day Gift Shop show, a cooking-focused show (In the Kitchen with @EdenEats) and Back to Business Live, which is showing off products aimed at daycare centers and schools.

You can tap on the different videos to change streams, scroll down to watch recordings of those videos that were recently live or view which live shows are coming up next.

On the web, the live-streaming site is available at, but it’s not listed yet in Amazon’s main navigation menus so it remains hard to find. On mobile, there’s now a section labeled “Amazon Live” that’s appearing on both the iOS and Android app’s main navigation menu as of a recent app update.

We’ve confirmed the page is newly added, though this is not the first time Amazon has offered live streams.

The retailer has dabbled in live streaming in the past, with mixed results.

Two years ago, it pulled the plug on its short-lived effort, Style Code Live, which also offered a QVC-like home shopping experience. The live show featured hosts with TV and broadcast backgrounds, and brought in experts to talk about beauty and style tips.

But Style Code Live focused only on fashion and beauty.

Amazon Live, on the other hand, covers all sorts of products, ranging from smart home to games to toys to kitchen items to home goods to electronics to kitchen items and much more. It’s also positioned differently. Instead of being a single live video show featuring only Amazon talent and guests, live streaming is something Amazon is opening up to brands that want to reach a wider audience and get their products discovered.

Above: Amazon Live hosts – according to LinkedIn, they are not Amazon employees

You may have seen some of these live-streamed videos from brands in the past.

On Prime Day 2017 and again in 2018, Amazon aired live video streams promoting some of the Prime Day deals. These videos were produced by the brands, very much like some you’ll now find on Amazon Live.

The company has also aired live-streamed content on its Today’s Deals page, and has allowed brands to stream to their product pages, their Store and on before today.

Amazon now aims to make it easier for brands to participate on Amazon Live, too.

On a website detailing Amazon Live, Amazon touts how live-streaming video can drive sales, allow a brand to interact with their customers in real time — including through chat during the live stream — and reach more shoppers. One early tester, card game maker “Watch Ya’ Mouth,” is quoted saying that live streaming had helped to increase daily visits to its product detail page by 5x and “significantly grew our sales.”

The informational site also points brands to Amazon’s new app for live streaming, Amazon Live Creator.

Available only on iOS, the app allows a brand to stream its video content directly to on desktop, mobile and within the Amazon mobile app. The app supports streaming directly from the smartphone itself or through an encoder using a professional camera.

It also includes built-in analytics so brands can determine how well their stream performed, including things like how much of their budget they’ve spent on “boosting” (a way to pay to reach more shoppers), total views, unmuted views and other metrics.

According to data from Sensor Tower, Amazon Live Creator was released yesterday, on February 7, 2019, and is currently unranked on the App Store. It has no reviews, but has a five-star rating.

Currently, the live-streaming feature is open to U.S. Professional Sellers registered in the Amazon Brand Registry, Amazon’s website says, and live streaming from China and Hong Kong is not supported.


Amazon has been interested in live streaming for some time. The company patented its idea around live video shopping last year and was spotted hiring for its Amazon Live efforts before that.

However, Amazon had claimed at the time that its live-stream shopping experiences were “not new.”

That’s true, given that live streams that would sometimes appear around big sales, like Prime Day, for instance. But Amazon has promoted its live video directly to online shoppers since Style Code Live.

This week’s launch of the Amazon Live app for brands and Amazon’s move to create a dedicated link to the Amazon Live streams on its mobile app indicates that live video is becoming a much bigger effort for the retailer, despite its attempt to shoo this away as “old news.”

This increased focus on live video also comes at a time when Instagram is being rumored to be working on a standalone shopping app, and is heavily pushing its creator-focused IGTV product into users’ home feeds. QVC itself just announced its new identity, plans to venture deeper into e-commerce, and shoppable video app. And, of course, YouTube has capitalized on how both live and pre-recorded video demos from brands and influencers can help to sell products like makeup, electronics, toys and more.

Amazon formally declined to comment.

Source: The Tech Crunch

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Google warns app developers of three malicious SDKs being used for ad fraud

Posted by on Dec 7, 2018 in ad fraud, ad tech, Ads, Advertising, Advertising Tech, android apps, Apps, developers, fraud, Google, Google Play, sdks | 0 comments

A few days ago, Google removed popular Cheetah Mobile and Kika Tech apps from its Play Store following a BuzzFeed investigation, which discovered the apps were engaging in ad fraud. Today, as a result of Google’s ongoing investigation into the situation, it has discovered three malicious ad network SDKs that were being used to conduct ad fraud in these apps. The company is now emailing developers who have these SDKs installed in their apps and demanding their removal. Otherwise, the developers’ apps will be pulled from Google Play, as well.

To be clear, the developers with the SDKs (software development kits) installed aren’t necessarily aware of the SDKs’ malicious nature. In fact, most are likely not, Google says.

Google shared this news in a blog post today, but it didn’t name the SDKs that were involved in the ad fraud scheme.

TechCrunch has learned the ad network SDKs in question are AltaMob, BatMobi and YeahMobi.

Google didn’t share the scale to which these SDKs are being used in Android apps, but based on Google’s blog post, it appears to be taking this situation seriously — which points to the potential scale of this abuse.

“If an app violates our Google Play Developer policies, we take action,” wrote Dave Kleidermacher, VP, Head of Security & Privacy, Android & Play, in the post. “That’s why we began our own independent investigation after we received reports of apps on Google Play accused of conducting app install attribution abuse by falsely claiming credit for newly installed apps to collect the download bounty from that app’s developer,” he said.

The developers will have a short grace period to remove the SDKs from their apps.

The original BuzzFeed report found that eight apps with a total of 2 billion downloads from Cheetah Mobile and Kika Tech had been exploiting user permissions as part of an ad fraud scheme, according to research from app analytics and research firm Kochava, which was shared with BuzzFeed.

Following the report, Cheetah Mobile apps Battery Doctor and CM Launcher were removed by Cheetah itself. The company additionally issued a press release aimed at reassuring investors that the removal of CM File Manager wouldn’t impact its revenue. It also said it was in discussions with Google to resolve the issues.

As of today, Google’s investigation into these apps is not fully resolved.

But it pulled two apps from Google Play on Monday: Cheetah Mobile’s File Manager and the Kika Keyboard. The apps, the report had said, contained code that was used for ad fraud — specifically, ad fraud techniques known as click injection and click flooding.

The apps were engaging in app install attribution abuse, which refers to a means of falsely claiming credit for a newly installed app in order to collect the download bounty from the app developer. The three SDKs that Google is now banishing were found to be falsely crediting app installs by creating false clicks.

Combined, the two companies had hundreds of millions of active users, and the two apps that were removed had a combined 250 million installs.

In addition to removing the two apps from Google Play, Google also kicked them out of its AdMob mobile advertising network.

With Cheetah’s voluntary removal of two apps and Google’s booting of two more, a total of four of the eight apps that were conducting ad fraud are now gone from the Google Play store. When Google’s investigation wraps, the other four may be removed as well.

Even more apps could be removed in the future, too, given that Google is demanding that developers now remove the malicious SDKs. Those who fail to comply will get the boot, too.

One resource Google Play publishers, ad attribution providers and advertisers may want to take advantage of, going forward, is the Google Play Install Referrer API. This will tell them how their apps were actually installed.

Explains Google in its blog post:

Google Play has been working to minimize app install attribution fraud for several years. In 2017 Google Play made available the Google Play Install Referrer API, which allows ad attribution providers, publishers and advertisers to determine which referrer was responsible for sending the user to Google Play for a given app install. This API was specifically designed to be resistant to install attribution fraud and we strongly encourage attribution providers, advertisers and publishers to insist on this standard of proof when measuring app install ads. Users, developers, advertisers and ad networks all benefit from a transparent, fair system.

“We will continue to investigate and improve our capabilities to better detect and protect against abusive behavior and the malicious actors behind them,” said Kleidermacher.

Source: The Tech Crunch

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Apple’s Search Ads expand to six more markets in Europe and Asia

Posted by on Jul 25, 2018 in ad tech, Ads, Advertising, Advertising Tech, app-store, Apple, Apps, developers, Mobile, search ads | 0 comments

In December, Apple introduced a new pay-per-install ad product called Search Ads Basic aimed at smaller developers, to complement the existing Search Ads product, which then became known as Search Ads Advanced. Today, the company is expanding Search Ads to more countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, and Spain, bringing the total number of countries where Search Ads is available to thirteen.

In addition to the U.S., Search Ads Advanced had already expanded to Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the U.K.

Developers in the newly supported countries will be able to create campaigns using Search Ads Advanced starting on July 25, 2018 at 4 PM PDT, with those campaigns appearing on the App Store starting August 1, 2018 at 4 PM PDT.

Meanwhile, Search Ads Basic will be available across all thirteen supported countries starting on August 22, 2018 at 10 AM PDT.

To encourage sign-ups, Apple is offering first-time advertisers a $100 USD credit to try out the product.

While the first version of Search Ads launched back in October 2016 in the U.S., the idea behind the newer “Basic” product was to offer developers a different – and simpler – means of reaching potential customers.

Search Ads was originally designed to allow developers to target users’ keyword searches, combined with other factors like location, gender or whether or not they had installed the app in the past. Developers would pay when users tapped on those targeted ads.

With the launch of Search Ads Basic, it’s easier to set up campaigns.

Developers only have to enter the app to be advertised, the campaign’s budget, and how much they want to pay per install. Apple helps by suggesting the max developers should pay using historical data. Then, developers only pay for actual installs, not taps.

Although the App Store was redesigned with the launch of iOS 11 to offer improved discoverability, search is still a key way people find out about apps.

Apple says that over 70 percent of App Store visitors use search to discover apps, in fact, and 65 percent of all downloads come directly from an App Store search.

The ads work well, too, as they have an over 50 percent conversion rate, on average, says Apple.

Apple’s advantage over the pay-per-install ads found elsewhere on the web isn’t only the ads’ placement – at the top of App Store searches, where they’re identified with a blue background and “Ad” icon – it also manages this without violating user privacy. That is, it doesn’t build specific profiles on individuals for ad targeting purposes, and it doesn’t share user data with developers. By its nature, this makes the system GDPR compliant.

In addition, Apple only places an ad when it’s relevant to a user’s search – developers can’t pay more to have their ad shown more often across less relevant searches, which offers a more level playing field.

Apple didn’t say when Search Ads would reach other countries, but with the new expansions it has some of the top markets now covered.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Tackling the Internet’s Central Villain: The Advertising Business

Posted by on Jan 31, 2018 in Advertising | 0 comments

From Russian propaganda to tech addiction, the incentives and excesses of the digital ad business are the cause of much of what ails online discourse.

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Pittsburgh, PA Publishing Company Teams with Charity to Fulfill Senior’s Dream

Posted by on Jan 31, 2018 in Advertising | 0 comments

Dorrance Publishing Co., Inc., has teamed up with Wish of a Lifetime to fulfill the Lifelong Dream of Mary Jeffredo of Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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‘Gloomy.’ ‘Amazing.’ Trump’s Speech Divides the Pundits.

Posted by on Jan 31, 2018 in Advertising | 0 comments

After the ‘most tweeted’ State of the Union speech ever, Megyn Kelly and Chris Christie try out new roles, and Van Jones comes out swinging.

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Meet the Super Bowl Matchmaker for Brands and Artists

Posted by on Jan 30, 2018 in Advertising, Magazine, The Big Game | 0 comments

Daniel Sena’s favorite Super Bowl was XLVIII. In 2014, Sena worked on a whopping four Big Game spots. He was neither at an agency nor a brand. Rather, Sena was at Interscope Records, pairing its artists (Afrojack, Zedd, Skylar Grey and OneRepublic) with Anheuser-Busch brands (Budweiser, Bud Light and Bud Light Platinum) to create memorable…

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This Hollywood Producer Is Finally Talking About His Secret Agency

Posted by on Jan 30, 2018 in Advertising, Magazine, The Big Game | 0 comments

For years, Microsoft’s most emotional and engaging ads–specifically, inspirational Super Bowl spots celebrating tech’s impact on people’s lives such as “Empowering Us All” (2014) and “Braylon O’Neill” (2015)–had an element of mystery. At the time of their release, Microsoft had credited “in-house” talent. But now, the mastermind behind the ad is talking. Andrew Panay, a…

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5 Ads You Don’t Want to Miss During Super Bowl LII

Posted by on Jan 30, 2018 in Advertising, General, The Big Game | 0 comments

Super Bowl LII is almost upon us. Sports fans are one step closer to Philadelphia versus New England, with the former pegged as the underdog by most (except Amazon’s Alexa, who says she’s “flying with the Eagles”). Everyone else is gearing up for the only day of the year when they’re actually excited for commercial…

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