Carrier ad blocking company Shine is making a surprising pivot into ... ad tech

friends pivot scene


The "Pivot!" scene from "Friends."

Shine, the Israel-based company that has been antagonizing the advertising industry with technology it claims to be the "nuclear weapon" option to block mobile ads at a network level, is making a surprising pivot.

It's chartering out a move into ad tech.

On Thursday, Shine announced it plans to launch an "ad verification platform," which will roll out from October.

It puts Shine in direct competition with the likes of DoubleVerify, Integral Ad Science, Moat, Forensiq, and Adometry. 

Broadly speaking, ad verification services offer technology to ensure that online ads appear on the sites the advertiser intended them to appear on in front of the audience they wanted to serve the ads in front of.

Online ad fraud is a huge issue that ad verification helps tackle. Every year, billions of dollars of ad spend is wasted as ads are served to bots rather than humans, with fraudsters using complex webs of networked computers to siphon off legitimate marketing budgets for themselves. Ad fraud is expected to become so rampant it will cost advertisers more than $50 billion in lost spend by 2025, according to the World Federation of Advertisers, which said last month the practice is "second only to the drugs trade" as a source of income for organized crime.

So why does Shine, a company that has previously likened online advertising to "consumer abuse", give a hoot about lost ad dollars?

In a conversation with Business Insider in London, Shine's chief marketing officer Roi Carthy and its newly-appointed chief revenue officer James Collier - who was last at Experian-owned device recognition company AdTruth - explained it is in everyone's benefit to remove fraud from the system.

For example, some ad fraud techniques involve hijacking users' mobile devices to run ads in the background, serving hundreds of ads at a rate as high as 20 per minute. That would have an obvious implication on users' data allowances and mobile carriers are having to do the heavy lifting of serving those malicious ads on their networks.

Shine's ad verification service will monitor ads that are served over mobile data services, in app or over the mobile web. It will charge on a cost-per-mille (CPM/cost-per-thousand) basis - a premium advertisers would pay on top of their ad buys to ensure their ads are being served to a quality, human audience.

It remains to be seen whether there will be demand for such a service as Shine will need to get permission from carriers to run its technology in their data centers. So far, the company has only signed up two operators - Digicel in the Caribbean and Three in the UK and Italy - to its ad blocking service. Digicel has about 14 million subscribers, while Three has about 9 million customers in the UK and around the same in Italy.

Collier said Shine is currently testing its technology with other carriers across the globe. The company will need to strike deals quickly in order to ensure its new service is a success. A small audience base would likely put off potential advertising agency and marketer customers who want to serve ads at scale - not least as WiFi accounts for lots of smartphone internet activity, making Shine's potential audience even smaller.

Collier is leading the expansion of Shine's London-based office. His job is to lead talks with stakeholders across advertising agencies, marketers at brands, advertising associations, and carriers in order to get them on board. Carthy said there is "lots of enthusiasm" for the service.

As for ad blocking, Shine hasn't yet turned its back on that either. Its mobile carrier ad blocking solution is currently only live in Digicel's markets. Three UK carried out a 24-hour test of the service in June this year, but the carrier has yet to announce when it will officially roll out the service to customers and in what form it might take.

Shine has not yet made public any further deals with other carriers, but says it is in conversation with more potential customers. However, there is plenty of skepticism out there as to whether the solution will even launch into a market like Europe or the US at all, thanks to legal challenges over net neutrality and the scenario that big advertising players like Google could simply block traffic from Shine's customers if they found they were losing revenue from a network-level ad blocking audience.

Oh, and in case you didn't get the "Friends" reference in the photo above: