“For many weeks now, mobile users on both iOS and Android have been encountering a problem where visits to certain websites and apps have automatically redirected them to the platform’s app store to download various games,” Sarah Perez reports for TechCrunch. “The issue involves errant ad networks, which should be blocking these shady ads, but aren’t. Meanwhile, mobile consumers simply trying to use an app or read an article are treated to a poor user experience.”
“The ads promote games like Candy Crush, Clash of Clans, Game of War, Zelda Dungeon, and other titles,” Perez reports. “Affected sites and applications have included Imgur, the AP, NBC, Hearst properties, various newspaper sites and blogs, eBay, Perez Hilton, SomethingAwful, WeatherUnderground, TwitPic, Cheezburger.com, Slickdeals, Twitchy, NHL, and many others. This kind of issue has arisen in the past — many times unfortunately. In Imgur’s case in particular, Reddit users have been complaining about the problem for at least two months now. Over a week ago, the company responded on the site, saying that it was trying to figure out which ad network was at fault, but it was hard to pin down.”
“These auto re-directing ads have been affecting both Android and iOS platforms, on both apps and websites, and come in through various third-party networks. The ads move around, too, making them even more difficult to track down and block. It’s unknown at this time which networks have been involved to date, but the ‘auto-clicking’ ads could have a source that gets changed after the ad is first approved, which would make them hard to spot, it has been suggested,” Perez reports. “In addition, networks sometimes buy inventory from other networks, blurring the line as to who’s responsible.”
“For some, like NBC, the solution was to block the entire mobile gaming category from its on-site advertising,” Perez reports. “The company confirmed to TechCrunch that its issue originated from remnant ad inventory controlled by Google, and it has now resolved the problem.”
“Reports, like this from Digiday, have suggested that the problem stems from the gaming companies, like King or Supercell, whose apps are being promoted. But more suspect are the ad networks themselves. Many of these companies have bad practices, and in the past, some on Android have even gone so far as to push co-installs (when you install one app, they install another) or hijack your default search engine,” Perez reports. “What’s more likely is that some networks have directly – or without knowing, because they buy from others – organized this in order to get better performance. Game makers like King and Supercell may not even be aware, because they buy so much media across multiple networks and affiliation platforms, explains Appsfire CEO Ouriel Ohayon, commenting on the issue.”
“Apple also has a responsibility, Ohayon notes, saying that they could randomly sample ads from various apps for quality and communicate regularly with networks, asking them to comply with certain rules and regulations. They could also fix it so that their Safari mobile browser would block automatic redirects. Of course, this would be a difficult undertaking on Apple’s part, but the way it stands today is that these kinds of redirects are ruining the user experience and consumers end up blaming the publisher, the promoted app, and the platform, like Apple or Google,” Perez reports. “We know Apple is aware of the problem, but the company declined to provide a comment today. Google has not yet responded to our request for comment. Stay tuned.”
Read more in the full article here.
MacDailyNews Take: So, as many of you know from our discussions via email, we have been dealing with the problem for awhile now – and it’s been getting progressively worse. Finally, blessedly, we came across this article!
Tracking down the rogue ads isn’t just hard, it’s pretty much impossible. Many users have been helping our efforts by providing code, URLs, and screenshots. These rogue ads are purposely trying to hide their origins. Normally, with most ad networks and responsible advertisers, when you get an ad you don’t want to display, you can use the end URL to block the ad within the ad network’s controls and it’s done. Not with these. Also, the names of the apps themselves do not show up in any of the ad networks’ tools for blocking unwanted advertisers. On top of it all, we weren’t (and are still not) getting these ads on MDN on our iOS devices while running Safari, so we didn’t even know that there’s a problem until the emails started pouring in.
Again, to clarify, this issue only affects mobile users who are running mobile browsers to access websites, including MacDailyNews. Mobile users who access our site using the MacDailyNews app are unaffected. Mobile users can, as always, visit us via MacDailyNews app, where these ads do not occur.
For weeks now, we’ve been literally turning off entire ad networks trying to track down these things and exterminate them. They just keep coming. So, thanks to Perez’s article, we’ve just followed NBC’s lead and blocked the entire mobile gaming category from remnant ad inventory. Fingers crossed that this works! If it stops this scourge, we’ll take whatever revenue hit results.
This situation needs to be addressed! We’ve been spending many hours on this, trying everything and blowing quite a bit of hard-to-come-by January income, to no avail.
Please understand that we do not want to run these shitty ads, pardon our French. We want nothing more than to block these ads forever. And we’ll continue trying. We’d like to send whoever’s responsible for this crap sandwich to a small jail cell with a TV they can never turn off that just keeps automatically switching channels every minute to the next commercial.
We’re begging Apple, the ad networks, and whoever else to do what they can to resolve this vexing scourge. We apologize for not being able to turn off all of our ads (if we could, we would, but we need them – the good ads from our valued sponsors – in order to survive) and for the poor experience that some idiot somewhere so stupidly thinks is a good method to promote app downloads. Seriously, making users hate the name of the app you’re supposedly promoting is a bad idea, marketing genius.
Thank you for your patience and thanks to so many of our readers who have helped and continue to help us track these things down and exterminate them.
Again, we apologize for this situation and thanks for your patience and help.