Research & Development

Rewarded Traffic: The Inorganic User Engine Driving Ad Campaigns on Major Websites and Podcasts

Posted 2 months ago   |   15 min read
Rewarded Traffic - Incentivized Traffic in a Top Hat
Rocky Moss - deepsee.io CEO
Rocky Moss
Chief Executive Officer

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Introduction to Rewarded Traffic

In this article we provide clarity into the practice of “rewarded traffic,” or traffic generated by users who are compensated with in-game currency in exchange for opening ad-monetized publisher pages in a webview during an ad break. There is no real industry documentation about this format for creating web traffic; it could best be considered an abuse / misapplication of rewarded ad placements.

For Example, take this session we captured from the Subway Surfer app on Android:

An example of a session to Young Hollywood generated via rewarded advertisement

At ~:15 seconds you can see where a users is asked to choose between using in-game currency to re-spawn, or watching an ad. The “Ad” is actually a whole ad-monetized publisher page (younghollywood[.]com in this case) containing multiple display placements and a video ad. The video doesn’t load properly in this example due to the packet capture software we were using, but normally a video ad would be the first thing you see. After visiting 2 pages for ~15 seconds each, we can drop back into the game.

For years, millions of daily visits to ad-monetized publisher destinations have likely been generated this way. In these situations, advertisers have no idea that they are paying to reach a user who is being compensated to interact with the publisher’s content.

Despite a growing negative sentiment, and public comments by Google and The Trade Desk condemning incentivized traffic as invalid, rewarded traffic maintains a thin veneer of legitimacy due to the fact that users are paid using in-game currency, not gift cards or cash (despite in-game currency having a quantifiable cash value). To make matters worse, the practice remains largely unnoticed / unknown, because such traffic is hardly ever identified as rewarded/incentivized to the buyer.

Our hope is to make this practice more transparent to programmatic ad buyers, and inspire them to ask the questions that need to be asked in order to prevent serving ads to users without genuine intent in the content.

What is Incentivized Traffic?

Incentivized traffic comes from users who are paid to visit a certain web property. They may additionally be required to perform subsequent actions on the page to receive their rewards. Compensation usually comes in the form of points that can be redeemed for cash, prizes, or gift cards.

Is Incentivized Traffic Considered IVT?

The MRC does not consider incentivized traffic invalid, but there is growing sentiment by the largest DSPs that this traffic is invalid. A few months ago, we published research on incentivized traffic sourcing by one of the worlds largest publishers. At that time, both Google and The Trade Desk made fairly unambiguous statements about such traffic being considered invalid.

At the time, Google offered this on-the-record statement:

“Google considers invalid traffic to be ad traffic that does not represent genuine user intent or interest. This includes both incentivized traffic and traffic from pop-unders. Generally speaking, invalid traffic applies to any clicks or impressions that may artificially inflate an advertiser’s costs or a publisher’s earnings.[…]”

This is echoed in numerous places across their publisher policies, for example in the AdSense publisher policies:

Rewarded Traffic: The Inorganic User Engine Driving Ad Campaigns on Major Websites and Podcasts
https://support.google.com/adsense/answer/2660562?hl=en#zippy=%2Cusing-an-incentivized-traffic-source

Google’s specific mention of “genuine user intent or interest” is helpful when thinking about rewarded traffic as well, because that bar is clearly not met. As we saw in the video featured in the introduction, the user has no idea where they will be sent when they choose to watch an ad. It’s the same for users we showed to visit websites via Swagbucks in the past.

What Are Rewarded Ads?

Do We Really Need Another Term for “Incentivized?”

A quick check of your local thesaurus may reveal that “incentivized” and “rewarded” mean largely the same thing. Unfortunately, within the universe of AdTech jargon, the terms are unlikely to merge. It’s commonly understood that “incentivized” traffic is generated by users paid in something like cash; gift cards, paypal balance, things of that nature are the commonly assumed end-goal of a user generating incentivized traffic.

“Rewarded,” on the other hand, signals a user is compensated using items / currency unique to the game / app-environment they are in. These items generally can’t be turned into cash, though they can often be purchased with cash.

How Are Rewarded Ads Supposed to Look?

According to Google Ad Manager’s feature brief: “Ads that users can choose to view in exchange for an in-app reward — such as watching a video ad to get an extra life in a game […] are called ‘rewarded ads.'” This aligns with the commonly understood definition of a rewarded ad creative looks like: a video, or interactive game demo; certainly not an ad-monetized web page.

A good example is visible at the end of our video in the intro section. For example:

Rewarded Traffic: The Inorganic User Engine Driving Ad Campaigns on Major Websites and Podcasts
A normal rewarded ad experience.

Can Advertisers Identify Rewarded Inventory?

Rewarded video / interstitial ads actually can, and should, be identified using the “rwdd” attribute within the “Imp” object of a bidRequest. This attribute has appeared at least since version 2.6 of the Open Real-Time Bidding (ORTB) standard. For those not in the know, that’s a fancy way of saying that we have standards around rewarded ads, and how they should be identified to advertisers. Bid requests are how publishers announce their ad-inventory to interested buyers, and transmit various attributes of the user & the environment where an ad would be rendered.

However, this standard assumes a “normal” rewarded ad experience wherein the ad placement can be accurately attributed to the app a user has open. Advertisers buying inventory on web pages loaded within rewarded traffic placements generally have no idea the context in which the page is loaded; they would see it as a mobile web impressions, and the visit as organic.

Given what we know, there’s an uncomfortable question here that needs to be asked:

Is Generating Rewarded Traffic a Valid Use of Rewarded Ad Placements?

We put forth that it is not.

Can you think of any other case where an entire website would be considered a valid ad creative? If entire websites were valid ad-creatives, wouldn’t websites often be trafficked within display & video placements all over the internet in order to juice visitor numbers? Unfortunately, we live in a society, and that would not be considered acceptable by any major DSP.

It’s not even just websites that are the destination of rewarded traffic; we captured evidence that users are made to listen to audio advertisements within podcasts. This results in inflated podcast listener counts & audio impression volumes. For example, take this session from the Subway Surfer app on iOS:

Bloomberg/Businesweek podcast traffic generated via rewarded placement

Who Generates Rewarded Traffic?

One of the largest companies with skin in the game, and the one we’ve dug into for the purpose of this blog post, is the Jun Group. Since 2013 they’ve operated the HyperMX SDK, which is integrated within hundreds of the top apps across multiple marketplaces. HyperMX is a mediation platform for video ads, and it’s also used to deliver the rewarded traffic experiences we’ve shown examples of.

Which Apps Use the HyperMX SDK?

A sample of the Android apps which can be observed generating Jun Group rewarded traffic is available here. They also integrate with iOS apps, but it’s harder to detect the app in such cases due to differences in available measurement signals between iOS and Android. It’s likely the iOS counterparts of these apps also integrated the HyperMX SDK, and we can certainly confirm that for one in particular.

The most popular app by FAR, and the one we did most of our testing in, is the Subway Surfer app. This app has over a billion installs on Android alone.

In the following video, Jun group’s CEO explains how they’ve included their SDK in several hundred of the most popular apps worldwide in order to to reach hundreds of millions of people back in 2013 (certainly much higher now):

It’s not terribly important you watch the whole thing to understand this blog post, but we found the following quote to confirm our understanding of how the SDK is used:

“We can also bring people to any page from our placements. So, a user might have an opportunity to go see something that’s sitting on a major publisher site, and it might have a video on it, or it might just be a page.”

@1:24 in the above video

Basically, this goes to show they’re not terribly coy about what their tech does. We understand why they feel that way, there are no standards around this traffic, and hardly anyone knows how it’s truly delivered.

That bravado is further demonstrated in their case studies. For example:

Rewarded Traffic: The Inorganic User Engine Driving Ad Campaigns on Major Websites and Podcasts
This case study demonstrates the value prop to web publisher clients

Translated to a non-weaselese dialect of English: “the publisher oversold direct campaigns, and had no way to deliver the organic inventory to the advertisers. In order to satisfy the advertiser without any uncomfortable conversations, they paid for over 13 million inorganic visits per-day from users playing mobile games, who had no attachment to the content. The advertiser and the IVT tracking vendors, were none the wiser.”

This next one makes a lot more sense given the forced podcast visits from the example we shared:

Rewarded Traffic: The Inorganic User Engine Driving Ad Campaigns on Major Websites and Podcasts
This case study demonstrates the value prop to podcast creator clients

When we look at this, the words wiggle & dance around until they look more like: “we forced 6 million people to listen to a couple 15 second snippets of a podcast, and paid them 125 GuGaCoins for their troubles.”

Weak KPIs will always be exploited, and this traffic fills a hole.

Examining HyperMX SDK Signals From Our Packet Captures

Over the course of the past few months, we played Subway Surfer while capturing detailed network logs from our iOS and Android devices. Feel free to skip to the end if additional technical details don’t interest you.

There’s a lot we could say about the flow of traffic, but we want to keep it relatively concise. Folks who want the deepest dive possible can reach out to us on Linkedin or Twitter for more details. Suffice it to say, none of the bid requests we saw from the ad-monetized web pages in the video labeled the placements as rewarded, and why would they? Almost everyone in the supply chain believes this to be a normal mobile-web experience.

Particularly, if you are a DSP, SSP, or exchange, and you’re interested in learning how to identify this traffic within your logs, please do reach out. We can help you enact filters for such traffic using the data you have available.

Programmatic Display & Video Supported Web Page

This first example relates to the experience from the following video (shared at the top of the article as well):

2 Young Hollywood pages visited in a rewarded traffic placement

Before we are sent anywhere, HyperMX gathers some information relevant to the bid request. That info can be seen in the following request to https://marketplace-android-*.hyprmx.com/trackings/offerImpressionAttempt (my personal information removed and replace with “[REDACTED]”)

{
	"placement_id": 32910,
	"offer_identifier": "[REDACTED]",
	"offer_type": "web_traffic",
	"distributor_id": "1000214203",
	"uid": "[REDACTED]",
	"msdkv": 316,
	"sdk_version": "6.0.1",
	"device_os_version": "8.1.0",
	"device_type": "android",
	"device_model": "[REDACTED]",
	"device_fingerprint": "[REDACTED]",
	"device_manufacturer": "[REDACTED]",
	"device_brand": "[REDACTED]",
	"device": "[REDACTED]",
	"device_product": "[REDACTED]",
	"device_width": 720,
	"device_height": 1404,
	"pxratio": 2,
	"connection_type": "WIFI",
	"bundle_id": "com.kiloo.subwaysurf",
	"bundle_version": "2.31.0",
	"cleartext_traffic_permitted": true,
	"target_sdk_version": 30,
	"permissions": ["android.permission.WAKE_LOCK", "android.permission.INTERNET", "android.permission.ACCESS_NETWORK_STATE", "com.google.android.c2dm.permission.RECEIVE", "com.google.android.finsky.permission.BIND_GET_INSTALL_REFERRER_SERVICE", "com.google.android.gms.permission.AD_ID", "com.kiloo.subwaysurf.permission.C2D_MESSAGE", "android.permission.ACCESS_WIFI_STATE", "android.permission.RECEIVE_BOOT_COMPLETED", "android.permission.FOREGROUND_SERVICE", "com.android.vending.BILLING", "com.android.vending.CHECK_LICENSE", "android.permission.VIBRATE", "BIND_GET_INSTALL_REFERRER_SERVICE"],
	"user_permissions": {
		"camera_permission": "denied",
		"calendar_permission": "denied",
		"microphone_permission": "denied"
	},
	"gaid": "[REDACTED]",
	"ad_id_opted_out": false,
	"persistent_id": "[REDACTED]",
	"mobile_js_version": 120
}

In this case, Jun Group has an interested client looking for “web_traffic”, and we get a correlated response from the https://marketplace-android-*.hyprmx.com/embedded_offers/player endpoint:

{
	"offer_skin_path": "boomerang_popup_explore",
	"tracking_view_html": "",
	"tracking_impression_html": "",
	"quarter_1_tracking_html": "",
	"quarter_2_tracking_html": "",
	"quarter_3_tracking_html": "",
	"quarter_4_tracking_html": "",
	"ivt_tracking_html": "https://pixel.adsafeprotected.com/jload?anId=929070\u0026advId=JunGroup\u0026campId=\u0026pubId=1000214203\u0026chanId=\u0026placementId=175484\u0026adsafe_par\u0026uId=[REDACTED]\u0026impID=",
	"viewing_id": "[REDACTED]",
	"token": "[REDACTED]",
	"non_closable_vast": false,
	"svc_clickthrough": false,
	"is_mraid": "false",
	"enable_custom_webview": true,
	"skip_thank_you": true,
	"browser_family": "Chrome",
	"impression_attempt_complete": "",
	"third_party_tracking_provider": "IAS",
	"page_load_timeout": 8,
	"urls": ["https://younghollywood.com/videos/tvfilm/up-close/high-school-musical-the-musical--the-series-cast-play-truth-or-dare.html?utm_source=jun\u0026utm_medium=cpc\u0026utm_campaign=JUN15\u0026wtu_id_h=[REDACTED]", "https://younghollywood.com/videos/lifestyle/star-secrets/how-to-get-into-the-supercars-club-arabia.html?utm_source=jun\u0026utm_medium=cpc\u0026utm_campaign=JUN15\u0026wtu_id_h=[REDACTED]"],
	"page_load_js": {
		"js": ["function ias() {var po = document.createElement(\"script\"); po.type = \"text/javascript\"; po.async = true;po.src = \"https://pixel.adsafeprotected.com/jload?anId=929070\u0026advId=JunGroup\u0026campId=\u0026pubId=1000214203\u0026chanId=\u0026placementId=175484\u0026adsafe_par\u0026uId=8780771519\u0026impID=\";var s = document.getElementsByTagName(\"script\")[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(po, s);};ias();", ""],
		"map": {
			"0": 0,
			"1": 1
		}
	},
	"visit_length": 15,
	"maximum_page_load_wait_time_in_seconds": 4,
	"webtraffic_proscenium_delay": 0.0,
	"is_boomeo_web_start": "false",
	"short_first_step": false,
	"is_user_choice": "false",
	"short_step_length": 5,
	"hide_referrer_url": "true",
	"reward_id": 0,
	"reward_quantity": 1,
	"reward_text": "1 reward",
	"reward_token": "[REDACTED]",
	"reward_cost": 1.0e-05,
	"bid": "0.009428",
	"max_bid": "0.00952",
	"bid_throttle": 15.0,
	"step_count": 2,
	"reward_timestamp": "1648504312",
	"open_measurement": {
		"partner_name": "Jungroup",
		"client_version": "1.3.15-iab2507",
		"api_version": "android-6.0.1-316"
	},
	"player_application_origin": "https://marketplace-android-b316.hyprmx.com",
	"cec_url": "https://vast-proxy.hyprmx.com/client_error_captures",
	"redirection_url": "https://static.hyprmx.com/static_skins/boomerang_popup_explore/index.html?device_type=android\u0026distributor_id=1000214203\u0026msdkv=316\u0026offer=web_traffic-a22d044466101ca5d63207773802226e\u0026placement_id=32910\u0026trampoline=[REDACTED]",
	"uid": "[REDACTED]",
	"distributor_id": "1000214203",
	"offer": "web_traffic-a22d044466101ca5d63207773802226e",
	"msdkv": 316,
	"device_type": "android",
	"placement_id": 32910
}

There are some interesting things we can see here:

  • This placement is being tracked by IAS, their code plainly viewable in the “ivt_tracking_html” field
  • The urls we will be sent to are in an array called “urls”
    • https://younghollywood.com/videos/tvfilm/up-close/high-school-musical-the-musical--the-series-cast-play-truth-or-dare.html?utm_source=jun\u0026utm_medium=cpc\u0026utm_campaign=JUN15\u0026wtu_id_h=[REDACTED]
    • https://younghollywood.com/videos/lifestyle/star-secrets/how-to-get-into-the-supercars-club-arabia.html?utm_source=jun\u0026utm_medium=cpc\u0026utm_campaign=JUN15\u0026wtu_id_h=[REDACTED]
  • For each page, the “visit_length” will be 15 seconds
  • “hide_referrer_url” is set to “true”; one can imagine what that might signal

Next, the first page loads as you can see in the video. There are many bid requests that go out, from many major SSPs and exchanges, and none of them label the inventory as rewarded or otherwise originating from within an app.

If you are a DSP or SSP, and you’re interested in learning how to identify this traffic within your logs, please do reach out. We can help you enact filters for such traffic using the data you have available.

Audio-Ad Supported Podcast

Loading a full 30+ minute podcast in a rewarded ad placement seems even more egregious than loading a web page. At least with the web page, it’s conceivable a user might accidentally scroll through it in 15 seconds.

In the case of a podcast, the user has no real hope of engaging with the content in 15 seconds; it seems rather blatantly geared towards creating advertising events. Do they really expect people to stop playing a game, and listen to a 30 minute podcast???

In this example, we see the following request to endpoint https://live.hyprmx.com/trackings/offerImpressionAttempt (now using an iPhone):

{
	"placement_id": 34115,
	"offer_identifier": "[REDACTED]",
	"offer_type": "web_traffic",
	"sdk_version": "2.36.0",
	"bundle_id": "com.kiloo.subwaysurfers",
	"ad_id_opted_out": true,
	"msdkv": 225,
	"supported_interface_settings": ["UIInterfaceOrientationPortrait"],
	"pxratio": 2,
	"device_os_version": "15.5",
	"ats_settings": {
		"NSAllowsArbitraryLoads": true,
		"NSAllowsLocalNetworking": true,
		"NSAllowsArbitraryLoadsInWebContent": true,
		"NSAllowsArbitraryLoadsForMedia": true
	},
	"screen_traits": {
		"horizontalSizeClass": "compact",
		"verticalSizeClass": "regular",
		"userInterfaceLayoutDirection": "LTR",
		"accessibilityContrast": "normal",
		"userInterfaceIdiom": "iPhone",
		"userInterfaceStyle": "dark",
		"userInterfaceLevel": "base",
		"displayScale": 2
	},
	"connection_type": "WIFI",
	"maccatalyst": false,
	"identifier_for_vendor": "[REDACTED]",
	"ios_app_on_mac": false,
	"device_width": 750,
	"carrier_data": {
		"0000000100000002": {
			"allows_voip": true
		},
		"0000000100000001": {
			"allows_voip": true,
			"mobile_network_code": "260",
			"mobile_country_code": "310",
			"carrier_name": "T-Mobile",
			"cellular_radio_type": "CTRadioAccessTechnologyLTE"
		}
	},
	"xcode_version": "13A1030d",
	"supports_multiple_scenes": false,
	"uid": "[REDACTED]",
	"hypr_modules": {
		"HYPRPermissions": "5"
	},
	"permissions": ["NSCameraUsageDescription", "NSUserTrackingUsageDescription", "NSMotionUsageDescription", "NSPhotoLibraryAddUsageDescription", "NSCalendarsUsageDescription", "NSPhotoLibraryUsageDescription"],
	"distributor_id": "1000214202",
	"device_model": "iPhone12,8",
	"user_permissions": {
		"microphone_permission": "not_determined",
		"calendar_permission": "not_determined",
		"camera_permission": "not_determined"
	},
	"bundle_version": "2.36.0",
	"framework_type": "core_framework",
	"device_type": "iPhone",
	"persistent_id": "00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000",
	"device_height": 1334,
	"mobile_js_version": "137"
}

We get the following correlated response from the https://live.hyprmx.com/embedded_offers/player endpoint:

{
	"offer_skin_path": "boomerang_popup_explore",
	"tracking_view_html": "",
	"tracking_impression_html": "",
	"quarter_1_tracking_html": "",
	"quarter_2_tracking_html": "",
	"quarter_3_tracking_html": "",
	"quarter_4_tracking_html": "",
	"ivt_tracking_html": "https://pixel.adsafeprotected.com/jload?anId=929070\u0026advId=JunGroup\u0026campId=\u0026pubId=1000214202\u0026chanId=\u0026placementId=191942\u0026adsafe_par\u0026uId=[REDACTED]\u0026impID=",
	"viewing_id": "9249948818",
	"token": "[REDACTED]",
	"coppa": 1,
	"non_closable_vast": false,
	"svc_clickthrough": false,
	"is_mraid": "false",
	"enable_custom_webview": true,
	"skip_thank_you": true,
	"browser_family": "Safari",
	"impression_attempt_complete": "",
	"third_party_tracking_provider": "IAS",
	"page_load_timeout": 8,
	"urls": ["https://www.iheart.com/podcast/256-bloomberg-surveillance-30972795/episode/surveillance-market-timing-with-bitterly-podcast-98773848/?embed=true\u0026sc=widget\u0026pname=JunGroup\u0026campid=Bloomberg\u0026keyid=PageView\u0026cid=1000214202\u0026wtu_id_h=[REDACTED]", "https://www.iheart.com/podcast/256-bloomberg-surveillance-30972795/episode/surveillance-recession-chances-with-hatzius-podcast-98692521/?embed=true\u0026sc=widget\u0026pname=JunGroup\u0026campid=Bloomberg\u0026keyid=PageView\u0026cid=1000214202\u0026wtu_id_h=[REDACTED]"],
	"page_load_js": {
		"js": ["var _jgPlayButton=undefined;var jgPlayButton=function(){var t=document.querySelectorAll(\"button\");if(typeof _jgPlayButton===\"undefined\"){for(var e=0;e\u003ct.length;e++){if(typeof _jgPlayButton===\"undefined\"\u0026\u0026t[e].dataset[\"test\"]===\"play-button\"){_jgPlayButton=t[e];break}}}return _jgPlayButton};var jgIsPodcastPlaying=function(){var t=jgPlayButton();return typeof t!==\"undefined\"\u0026\u0026(t.getAttribute(\"aria-label\")===\"Pause\"||[\"playing\",\"buffering\"].includes(t.dataset[\"testState\"]))};var jgPlayVideo=function(){if(jgIsPodcastPlaying()){clearInterval(jgInterval)}else{var t=jgPlayButton();if(typeof t!==\"undefined\"){t.click()}}};var jgInterval=setInterval(jgPlayVideo,500);function ias() {var po = document.createElement(\"script\"); po.type = \"text/javascript\"; po.async = true;po.src = \"https://pixel.adsafeprotected.com/jload?anId=929070\u0026advId=JunGroup\u0026campId=\u0026pubId=1000214202\u0026chanId=\u0026placementId=191942\u0026adsafe_par\u0026uId=9249948818\u0026impID=\";var s = document.getElementsByTagName(\"script\")[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(po, s);};ias();", "var _jgPlayButton=undefined;var jgPlayButton=function(){var t=document.querySelectorAll(\"button\");if(typeof _jgPlayButton===\"undefined\"){for(var e=0;e\u003ct.length;e++){if(typeof _jgPlayButton===\"undefined\"\u0026\u0026t[e].dataset[\"test\"]===\"play-button\"){_jgPlayButton=t[e];break}}}return _jgPlayButton};var jgIsPodcastPlaying=function(){var t=jgPlayButton();return typeof t!==\"undefined\"\u0026\u0026(t.getAttribute(\"aria-label\")===\"Pause\"||[\"playing\",\"buffering\"].includes(t.dataset[\"testState\"]))};var jgPlayVideo=function(){if(jgIsPodcastPlaying()){clearInterval(jgInterval)}else{var t=jgPlayButton();if(typeof t!==\"undefined\"){t.click()}}};var jgInterval=setInterval(jgPlayVideo,500);"],
		"map": {
			"0": 0,
			"1": 1
		}
	},
	"visit_length": 10,
	"maximum_page_load_wait_time_in_seconds": "4",
	"webtraffic_proscenium_delay": 0.0,
	"is_boomeo_web_start": "false",
	"short_first_step": false,
	"is_user_choice": "false",
	"short_step_length": 5,
	"hide_referrer_url": "true",
	"reward_id": 0,
	"reward_quantity": 1,
	"reward_text": "1 reward",
	"reward_token": "[REDACTED]",
	"reward_cost": 1.0e-05,
	"bid": "0.013518",
	"max_bid": 0.0153,
	"bid_throttle": 1.0,
	"step_count": 2,
	"reward_timestamp": "1656627095",
	"open_measurement": {
		"partner_name": "Jungroup",
		"client_version": "1.3.15-iab2507",
		"api_version": "ios-2.36.0-225"
	},
	"player_application_origin": "https://live.hyprmx.com",
	"cec_url": "https://vast-proxy.hyprmx.com/client_error_captures",
	"redirection_url": "https://static.hyprmx.com/static_skins/boomerang_popup_explore/index.html?device_type=iPhone\u0026distributor_id=1000214202\u0026msdkv=225\u0026offer=web_traffic-d0b3a41964ce379a7b6fd732749d4584\u0026placement_id=34115\u0026trampoline=[REDACTED]",
	"uid": "[REDACTED]",
	"distributor_id": "1000214202",
	"offer": "web_traffic-d0b3a41964ce379a7b6fd732749d4584",
	"msdkv": 225,
	"device_type": "iPhone",
	"placement_id": 34115
}

This time we can see the “urls” array contains podcast embeds from iHeart media.

  • https://www.iheart.com/podcast/256-bloomberg-surveillance-30972795/episode/surveillance-market-timing-with-bitterly-podcast-98773848/?embed=true\u0026sc=widget\u0026pname=JunGroup\u0026campid=Bloomberg\u0026keyid=PageView\u0026cid=1000214202\u0026wtu_id_h=[REDACTED]
  • https://www.iheart.com/podcast/256-bloomberg-surveillance-30972795/episode/surveillance-recession-chances-with-hatzius-podcast-98692521/?embed=true\u0026sc=widget\u0026pname=JunGroup\u0026campid=Bloomberg\u0026keyid=PageView\u0026cid=1000214202\u0026wtu_id_h=[REDACTED]

We can additionally see tracking tech from IAS applied to this transaction.

The experience is plainly visible in the video; the podcast auto plays, and the user is dropped immediately into an advertisement. Audio ads in this case are by Triton Digital, recently acquired by iHeart media.

Conclusion

Rewarded traffic exploits the lack of MRC standards around traffic sourcing, and the lack of policing around Rewarded ad formats in general. As an industry, we need to decide if we want to allow this precedent that an entire ad-monetized webpage is a valid creative. It would be insane to attempt that in any other environment outside of incentivized traffic marketplaces, so why is it accepted for rewarded ads?

Though it may be hard to identify, we have developed several ways to flag such traffic. We had to take multiple approaches given the differences in what certain supply chain participants are able to see in the bidstream.

Are we totally off base? Do you have a success story you’d like to share from your rewarded traffic campaign? A spectacular failure? Reach out to share it with us on Linkedin or Twitter.

Ad fraud is serious business.

Let us help you understand the threat.

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