Mobile Video Ad Lies CONTINUE

iOS Means Unseen Videos and Huge File Downloads

Rob Leathern
3 min readNov 9, 2015


I wrote an article called “The Mobile Video Ad Lie” that prompted several outlets including the New York Times to take a closer look at mobile advertising and how battery, bandwidth and user time were being wasted there — problems that prompted many using iPhones to take steps to figure out how to use “content blockers” on iOS.


I’ve tried some of these tools and think they are very useful, BUT so that I don’t miss some of the shenanigans that continue on mobile, I don’t run any of them. I recently launched a company called that will seek to address some of the issues consumers have with making advertising work better for them in time (provide your email to get updates when we launch).

I really do like Mashable, but every other time I visit their mobile website I notice another problem. I spent a couple of minutes staring at a blank black video box on the site as you can see from these next two pictures (look at the time stamps) but I saw a lot of feverish downloading activity in the background:

I took a look and here’s a summary of what was going on behind the scenes:

  • 1180 URL calls
  • 44.9 million bytes of information exchanged
  • 84 calls from mobile video server LiveRail (owned by Facebook) without a single thing being shown — presumably meaning that advertiser(s) are getting charged for these fake impressions
  • 181 calls from the anonymously-registered domain “” totaling 34.9 million bytes, without a single video or image being shown to me

Keep in mind — that amount of information delivered to my phone in less than two minutes is about the size of a 1991 hard disk drive that was standard equipment in any new PC you might buy:


Here’s a partial summary of the URLs and IP addresses serving to my computer. Plenty of ad providers doing their little identity-swapping-dance here (nexac, adnxs, etc.) Note also how heavy the “” URLs are:

I took a look and found the images that was (attempting to?) serving on my phone, all in sequentially numbered files like this:

Who is responsible for this positvid domain? And why do we allow advertising companies to serve from anonymously-registered domains anyway?

FWIW It appears the advertiser getting screwed in this particular case is Noble Energy Colorado, a natural gas company and “proud sponsor of the Denver Broncos”.

But really, this kind of stuff hurts everyone involved in mobile advertising, publisher, adtech company and advertiser alike. The decentralized nature of web publishing with thousands of URLs from hundreds of companies makes this all far more difficult to handle. But not impossible. The education and motivation just needs to be there to force change, from consumers as well as industry participants.

There will be ways for us all to help solve this problem together. Visit our site and sign up to learn more when we launch, or contact me directly via twitter.

I’ll keep trying. I hope others will join me.



Rob Leathern

Entrepreneur and product leader, prev at Google and Facebook: security, privacy, ads & integrity