Nobody likes ads, right? Well, almost nobody. This is why ad-blocking tools are so popular among internet users — it gives them access to their usual services, sans the hassle of viewing pesky promotions.
But like them or not, advertisements are what pay for many things you enjoy online, be it Facebook or a newspaper. And this discrepancy between “nobody likes ads” and “ads fund things that people like” is where companies such as Israel’s Shine have been pushing to monetize in recent years.
In a nutshell, Shine has been partnering with mobile networks to block website displays ads and native app ads at the network level. Why? Well, this puts control back in the hands of the networks and strives to strong-arm ad-serving companies such as Google and Facebook into sharing their digital ad revenues with the communication infrastructure companies they rely on for delivery. It also empowers networks to control what kind of ads are served to mobile users — many are irrelevant, intrusive, extract user data without consent, or cost the customer money in terms of bandwidth consumption.
Shine originally introduced its technology to Digicel in the Caribbean back in 2015, before announcing a deal with Three in Europe last February, followed by one with Africa’s Econet in August. But now Shine is taking a different approach to the mobile advertising conundrum — it’s pivoting and rebranding under a completely different name.
Shine > Rainbow
Moving forward, Shine will be known as Rainbow, and rather than blocking all ads at the network level with no granular control afforded to the consumer, Rainbow will serve to verify ads against established industry standards such as LEAN (Light, Encrypted, Ad choice supported, Non-invasive). Ads that make the grade are then “digitally stamped,” and consumers who opt into Rainbow through their network operator will only see Rainbow-verified ads.
Rainbow maintains that it isn’t selling ad-blocking — a term that has, admittedly, become tainted with negative connotations — and that it is now a “consumer experience company.” But in reality, it is still technically selling ad-blocking, albeit a sort of curated “acceptable” version of it.
One of the reasons for this pivot, perhaps, is that Rainbow needs the support of as many organizations as possible — it says it has been working with various industry bodies for the past six months, joined the Mobile Marketing Association, and is in the process of hooking up with other similar entities. But when pressed by VentureBeat as to the exact reasons for the pivot, James Collier, Rainbow’s chief revenue officer, simply said: “Our objective was, and remains, to bring consumers a better ad experience — we believe the best way to do so is by working with the advertising industry on removing bad practices and bad actors.”
The company has been designing its new setup alongside mobile carrier Three, as well as a “top 3 global advertising agency” and a “global media / content group.” In terms of what kind of technology Rainbow equips networks with, well, what we’re talking about here is deep packet networking (DPI) machines that run on Rainbow’s technology. These machines spot Rainbow-verified ads, and consumers who have opted in with their network will see only these ads.
Rainbow is being careful about how it pitches itself to the public and industry bodies, skirting the idea of “adtech” to focus on the consumer experience aspect. It’s also keen to point out that it is not responsible for determining what constitutes a “good” or “bad” ad, which will be for the advertising industry to determine.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), alongside the Coalition for Better Ads — a collaborative body that was set up last year and counts Facebook and Google as members — has yet to decide the final criteria for what constitutes a “bad” ad. But, according to Rainbow, it will include things like size, weight, pre-load, and the number of calls made to ad servers.
Rainbow is offering its wares completely for free to brands and agencies seeking verification, but any party seeking data and insights into campaign performance will be charged an (as yet undisclosed) fee.
Rainbow, much like its Shine predecessor, hasn’t divulged exactly how much money it’s received, but we do know that its lead investor is Horizons Ventures, and the company has recently raised new money to the tune of “several millions.”
Rainbow is headquartered in Israel, though all of its commercial activity is channeled through its office in London.