What is Ad Recovery?

The challenge of ad blockers

The ubiquity of online advertising on social media and publisher websites over the recent decade or more has caused many internet users to become disgruntled. Online ads walk a fine line of being obtrusive and annoying – and many cross well over that line. This has led to the development of ad blocking software that can remove or alter advertising content from a webpage, website, or a mobile app.

The use of ad blockers in web browsers continues to rise dramatically, with general rates of use at 15-30%. In some cases, it is as high as 40-50%. What’s more alarming is that adoption rates are accelerating, growing every month as more mainstream non-technical users become aware of ad blockers.

To date, web publishers have had limited options to curb the erosion of their advertising revenue streams caused by ad blocking. Existing attempts at asking users to disable ad blockers or provide revenue via alternative means (such as subscriptions) have suffered from low conversion rates and, worse, can provoke strong negative user reactions when they are confronted about their use of ad blockers.

A solution

Instart's Ad Recovery solution enables web publishers to monetize visits to their sites from users that have ad blockers installed without complex integrations and enables the continued use of their existing ad technology stack. Premium web publishers already using this technology in production are finding that by delivering non-invasive advertising experiences to these users, they can unlock new revenue without negative reactions from end users.

Instart's Ad Recovery solution is a hassle-free cloud-based service. There is no hardware or software to deploy nor code changes required, so customers can easily start using the solution with a simple update to their web sites' or applications' DNS records.

How it works

Updating DNS records routes traffic through the Instart platform. This allows our system to inject a small piece of JavaScript, the Nanovisor, that can detect the presence of ad blockers.  When an ad blocker is detected, the Nanovisor, together with our intelligent cloud-based, machine learning platform, encrypts and delivers all the elements of the page using the customer’s existing delivery services.

As a result, each resource on the page, and any signals and actions such as measurement beacons or user clicks, will have its URL encrypted and obscured. This renders ad blockers ineffective, as they can no longer search for patterns which would indicate a resource is related to advertising.

The service preserves end user uniqueness by reflecting unique client information, including cookies, headers, and client IP address, in X-Forwarded-For headers to both first-party and third-party backend systems. The Nanovisor intercepts and obfuscates the calls from the client side before the ad blocker can block them. The calls are sent to our cloud service, which then un-encrypts the requests and sends them to the original source, reflecting the original cookies and headers. Our service can also add X-Forwarded-For headers to send the client IP address to the back end.

The solution has no impact on SEO, as search bots such as Googlebot and Bingbot continue to receive the same content they always received. The Ad Recovery technology is only applied to end users running ad blockers on supported browsers.

We can control on which pages or for which situations the technology is applied. For instance, we can enable it for specific sections of the site, or only for unregistered or logged-out users. In addition, Ad Recovery can signal ad servers, enabling customers to control which, if any, ads are sent to ad block users.

We use a mix of network-based and local browser tests to determine if ad blocking is impacting the session. We use a scoring system and thresholds to ensure accurate detection of users impacted by both locally installed ad blockers (browser extensions) and network-deployed ad blocking (enterprise internet security devices). The system also uses two types of tests. The first is a fast test at the start of the page load. This allows us to protect the very first page view on a site if a user has an ad blocker. We also run a second slower test after the page fully loads to catch a smaller set of cases that can’t be detected with fast detection. In this scenario the system will protect the next page view on the site to ensure a good user experience.

While the overwhelming majority of ad blockers are browser extensions installed on the end users' systems, our detection and unblocking approach will also work with network-based blocking systems that are deployed within carrier networks or in enterprise networks.

Customers can use our solution out of the box, but we typically recommend that they make a few minor modifications to their tracking systems to more easily review recovered impressions.