Will Proxy Browsers Kill Digital Advertising?

IMAGE: Bright yellow WARNING sign against storm clouds.

The recent news of Opera’s deal with Microsoft to launch Opera Mini as the default browser on all Nokia handsets could spell trouble for digital advertising. Already overwhelmingly popular, the proxy browser is set for further growth… and proxy browsers are infamous for the difficulties they create for tracking, an essential aspect to online campaigns for advertisers.

Opera CEO Lars Boileson did an interview with the Wall Street Journal at the beginning of the week where he announced Opera’s latest deal with tech giant Microsoft. The deal will see Opera Mini, the company’s proxy browser, become the default browser for all Nokia handsets. The deal will see an estimated 100 million new clients for the browser, a majority of which will be in India; 25 per cent of all Nokia handsets are sold in India.

This is great news for emerging markets, where slow internet connections and lack of broadband access means that a default proxy browser will ensure fast browsing speeds and low data charges.

For digital advertising in these markets, it’s not good.

Proxy browsers are the bane of any advertiser; they make tracking almost impossible and risk gross inaccuracies for many campaigns. This is down to how proxy browsers control content. In a normal browser, the user’s device connects directly to the site’s server and they exchange information. In proxy browsing, the user device and site server exchange information via what is known as a proxy server. This third-party server is owned by the browser manufacturer; it collects the page request from the user’s device, collects the data from the site’s server, and then sends a static version of the page back to the user.

IMAGE: Diagram comparing proxy browsing and normal browsing.

This means that any advertisements served on the page are processed in the server first. This is where the damage is done; pre-loading an advert adversely affects tracking and interactivity, both of which are valuable to digital advertisers.

The loading of the page on the proxy server means that tracking is nullified. Instead of tracking the user and their device, the advert tracks the third-party server. The result? Incorrect data at best, no data at worst. Unless special steps are taken, there is no way to track the user; the commonly used industry standard VAST can’t bring results.

This means many advertisers will be unable to tell if an advert has been seen, let alone if video adverts have met their viewing criteria.

With a proxy browser masking the client viewing the content, advertising campaigns that rely on targeting information like device type, location and demographic data become useless at this point. It’s tremendously difficult to serve a targeted advert if a proxy is acting as an intermediate. The advert can be served but there’s no assurance that it will be to the correct audience. This means that money and time can be wasted advertising to a consumer that the advert is not relevant to. It also means that the advertiser will be unable to gather any data from the client when the advert is served.

Outside of targeting and research, proxy browsers can kill an advert’s interactivity for most ad networks, too. A proxy browser means rich media formats will load either as static images or in an external player. In advertisements where dynamic content is crucial to sending out the desired message, this can mean that a well-designed, effective advert is killed before it has a chance to display.

This isn’t an issue for feature-phone-heavy markets like India only. Proxy browsers are seeing an uptake in usage globally, as smartphone users strive to reduce data usage.

Is there anyway to save advertising from proxies? Yes, but it requires extra steps to be taken. AdSpruce, the dedicated mobile ad network, has developed its own technology for delivering and tracking adverts on proxy browsers. AdSpruce’s unique advertising platform provides tracking information even from proxy browser users, allowing advertisers on their network to follow the effectiveness of their campaigns.

What do you think on the rise of the proxy browser? Is it a blessing or a curse? Have you encountered the difficulties we’ve talked about in this post? Have you found a way to incorporate the proxy audience into your advertising? Let us know by commenting below or contact us via Google+, Facebook or Twitter. You can find out more about AdSpruce’s solution on our website.

Ryan Davies

Author Ryan Davies

Marketing guy and coffee addict. I help brands reach consumers and help content owners monetise their mobile websites at AdSpruce. To chat about AdSpruce, Marketing, Mobile Video Advertising or any other topic you can find Ryan on Google+ or get in touch via Twitter (@ryan_adspruce)

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