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Unwanted ads issues in Ad Exchange

An “unwanted ad” can be anything from a mis-categorized ad that displays despite category blocks to a malicious ad that may auto-redirect the user out of your app. Ad quality is very important to us. We have very strict policies and systems in place to prevent unwanted ads, though there can be some unavoidable instances. In such cases, any additional information you can provide is crucial to investigating and blocking in a timely manner. In addition, it can help avoid such behavior in the future.


Examples of unwanted ads

  • Ads showing despite category, URL, creative, or advertiser blocks.
  • Ads that dynamically alter appearance or behavior (e.g., clicking through to unrelated domains).
  • Non family-safe ads.
  • Auto-redirecting ads (without user action).
  • Malware (e.g. virus alerts, downloads).

Check your setup

  • Do you use multiple demand sources/ad networks? If so, try to see which demand source is causing the issue by getting more information. If it is Ad Exchange, you can use some of the steps below to investigate and block the ad quickly.
  • Do you have blocks in place to avoid the unwanted ads? Many times, blocks are set up for one component but not the other (e.g., display web vs. mobile app).
  • Have there been any recent changes to your Ad Exchange settings? For example, a block could have been removed or de-prioritized. You can check the change history.

Help us investigate

Often, it’s difficult to get more information about unwanted ads. However, here are some simple tips and tools to gather as much detail as possible:

  • Screenshot: Include the whole screen if possible, showing browser, OS, and system time.
  • Device and browser details
    • Desktop and mobile web: User-Agent of the browser
    • Mobile app: mobile device and OS details
  • Exact occurrence date and timing (with time zone)
  • Clickstring (a.k.a. click tag): The clickstring helps to confirm that the ad came from us and provides additional information about the ad. Learn how to capture a clickstring on Publisher University.
  • Session traffic / Network trace (e.g., through tools such as charles or fiddler, or HAR export from Chrome Developer Tools): For redirects, be sure to have the traffic before and after the redirect. In Chrome Developer Tools, this can be done by checking “preserve log” in the Network tab.
  • Creative information:
    • Use the Google publisher toolbar to obtain creative details and block ads (desktop and mobile web through chrome device emulation).
    • In the Ad Exchange Creative review, find the ad via image search, keyword, or click-through domain and click on the expand icon to get more details.
  • If the AdChoices logo is present and it is difficult to get the clickstring, try the tracking URL for the ad.

Block an ad

In addition to the various tools, we also empower you to take action to block these ads when you see them or have enough information about them. You have the following options to block ads:

  • Publisher toolbar: After enabling Creative review, you can block the ad straight from the Publisher Toolbar.
  • Creative review in the Ad Exchange UI:
    • Click the creative to block it.
    • Click the drop-down next to “Block” to block the AdWords account as a whole. We recommend not using this option unless you’re consistently seeing unwanted ads from a particular AdWords advertiser.
  • Blocking rules in the Ad Exchange UI:
    • You can use the advertiser URL obtained from the click-through URL or the declared domain for the ad in the Creative review to block all ads coming from that URL.

Blocks are associated to one component (e.g. Display, Mobile Apps, Video). Therefore, you need to block for each component separately if you want the same block to apply to multiple components.

Also, keep in mind that blocking any ad will lower your potential revenue, as it reduces competition for your ad space by removing advertiser bids from the auction.

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