TL; DR: CHEQ, a military-grade cyber security provider, is taking digital media’s approach to ad verification from sample-based monitoring to real-time prevention. The company’s advanced, tech-driven solutions for display, video, and PPC advertising provide users with peace of mind and a clear return on investment. In the future, CHEQ’s goal is to serve as a complete multichannel fraud-prevention service in every advertiser’s toolkit.
The trust that marketers and advertisers once had in digital media is eroding with every new bot that masquerades as an authentic internet user. And today, armies of them exist, along with other bad actors looking to profit from ad fraud.
That’s why, to protect the $330 billion spent annually on online advertising, ad verification is a must-have in the world of online business. But even this defense system is fraught with problems, such as lack of transparency on the part of providers and inaccurate traffic sampling techniques.
CHEQ, a cyber security provider focused on digital media, is looking to change that with advanced blocking technology designed to ensure its customers pay only for ads consumed by human internet users.
“The core idea that binds everything together is restoring trust in digital media, specifically in digital advertising, to build a trustworthy ecosystem in which advertising can thrive for the greater good of the internet,” said Daniel Avital, CHEQ’s Chief Strategy Officer. “Ultimately, a lack of trust in digital advertising and online media undermines the internet as we know it today.”
In 2018, researchers attributed roughly 20% of web traffic to malicious bots. Daniel told us that CHEQ has clients who spend more than $100 million a year of paid search and social media advertising. And without a long-term solution to ad fraud, like CHEQ, these clients would be forced to divert their advertising budgets elsewhere.
“Our goal is to help people feel comfortable knowing their campaigns are safe, and their money is safe,” Daniel said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Bringing Security Innovation to Digital Media
The CHEQ team, founded by graduates from the cybersecurity intelligence units of the Israel Defense Forces, has a strong background in cybersecurity that serves to differentiate the company from its competitors.
“We are a bit of a curiosity as a cyber security company in the digital media space,” Daniel told us. “Most of our competitors, such as Moat, DoubleVerify, and IAS, come from AdTech backgrounds. When we brought CHEQ to market in 2017, our goal was to solve ad fraud and verification challenges in a much deeper technological way with tools from our cybersecurity background.”
The company’s first product, CHEQ for Display and Video, provides cutting-edge ad fraud deterrence, brand safety enforcement, and viewability control for the programmatic advertising sector — where most of the company’s competitors are active.
“Most ad verification companies depend on IP blacklists, which anyone can purchase from a vendor, and comparing them with your advertiser traffic to identify fraud,” Daniel said. “It’s not a great approach, and I’m being very gentle.”
For example, to deploy 20 million bots as part of a botnet, a malicious actor would need a strong operating system, such as Linux. To avoid detection, that person might make it appear as if they were using a mobile operating system like iOS.
“If someone claims their operating system is iOS 10, we challenge that with a series of tests,” Daniel said. “We can uncover whether that’s true, or if they’re actually using Linux and masking their browser, which is indicative of bot behavior. We perform over a thousand such tests in less than 30 milliseconds, within the programmatic bidding protocol, and examine every single user, every single impression to make real-time decisions.”
Scalable Solutions for Display, Video, and PPC Advertising
For years, CHEQ’s display and video solutions have given customers the opportunity to trade in IP lists and sampling for real-time detection and blocking. Six months ago, the company moved on to the next phase with CHEQ for PPC.
The solution is designed to monitor and detect invalid activity across major pay-per-click buying channels, including Google Search Ads, Bing, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snap, Yahoo, Baidu, Yandex, and VK. “We’re the only large, scalable solution in this space right now for PPC,” Daniel said.
According to the company’s website, CHEQ for PPC is also useful in catching bad traffic without blocking legitimate paying customers:
Ultimately, CHEQ’s anti-fraud products benefit advertisers, publishers, and internet users — because rebuilding trust makes it possible for the system to function again.
“People are now confronted with the reality that publishers are not able to make enough money out of advertising, so they are pushing quality content behind a paywall that not everyone can afford,” Daniel said. “People love to hate on advertising, but that’s what allows us to consume most of the information we find on the internet for free. And that’s a great thing.”
A Clear Return on Investment and Ample Peace of Mind
After passing its initial development stage, CHEQ went through two Series B funding rounds led by Battery Ventures, a technology-focused investment firm.
“Battery Ventures is one of the top venture capitalists (VCs) in Silicon Valley today, and, like many other top-tier VCs, it has not typically invested in AdTech,” Daniel said. “It’s not in their scope — a lot of the business is media-driven, so it’s not recurring revenue, which makes it hard to project a stable growth trajectory. In addition, AdTech has traditionally lagged behind in terms of innovation.”
Daniel said that the most brilliant minds in the industry typically gravitate toward cutting-edge technologies such as autonomous cars, artificial intelligence, and cyber security.
“This is where the innovation is happening, and AdTech is lacking that, and it became this sort of murky, non-transparent, commercially focused area with little technological innovation,” he said. “As a result, it’s been unable to solve its own challenges.”
That’s why entering the industry as an outsider served as a benefit to the CHEQ team, allowing it to enjoy rapid growth. The approach, of course, also benefits the company’s customers — giving them peace of mind that they’re saving money and, most importantly, not becoming the victim of ad fraud.
“When you look at value, first and foremost, there is a hard savings element to what we do,” Daniel said. “The proof of ROI is baked into the system. If you’re running PPC campaigns, you can input your cost per click, and you will see exactly how much money you saved in a month with CHEQ.”
The Goal: To Be in Every Advertisers’ Toolkit
The CHEQ team is excited about the recent launch of CHEQ for PPC and its exponential growth.
“For most advertisers, the bulk of their spend is in PPC and not in programmatic, so they were always really only protecting quite a small portion of the pie,” Daniel said. “We’re very excited about this product because it allows advertisers to enjoy real, full coverage of their advertising spend.”
Ultimately, the company’s goal is to provide a complete omnichannel app solution for ad fraud that covers all emerging channels. Nine months ago, CHEQ launched the first ad verification solution for 3D in-game advertising. The company has also added protection for over-the-top (OTT) advertising through streaming media and content recommendation platforms.
“This is what we’re excited about,” Daniel said. “Our goal is to be at every advertiser’s toolkit so that they know when they have CHEQ, they are covered in every single channel that they buy, not just programmatic, not just search. That’s what the future looks like.”