Troubleshooting ad issues 101

Plus, free tools to use!

Something’s wrong.

The page is not loading because of…something. A hangup on an ad call. Or a phantom sound playing from somewhere. What’s happening on your site, and what can you do to fix it?

First things first, can you easily spot the problem?

This easy troubleshoot would be akin to hearing uninitiated audio from a hotel commercial and seeing the corresponding video ad playing in view or tucked down the right rail. Or maybe, instead of a banner ad displaying, there’s only a broken image link or script error showing in the slot.

If this is the case, you should know whom to contact, either internally or the third party product.

At the very least in these situations, you should also identify and include the following to help resolve the issue:

  • Screenshot of problem
  • Browser used
  • Ad source if known

What else can you do to help identify the ad issue? Maybe you can’t even replicate the problem in the first place.

You should be able to run a web debugging proxy. There are a couple free tools available you can use to capture your browsing session and send the recorded session to those troubleshooting your problem.

These proxies are especially helpful because not all ad issues can be recreated easily in different desktop or mobile environments, or by another person helping you troubleshoot who may be located in a different region, thus receiving separate ad calls. Capturing a session yourself where you are experiencing the issue can save a lot of headaches.

Free tools

Charles Web Debugging Proxy

A free version is available and is about all you need in these scenarios. Because you most likely aren’t going to be the one digging into these recorded sessions, here’s the main thing you should know.

  1. Charles should be recording before you experience the issue. That means if you experience an issue, you should open up a Charles session, begin recording and then refresh the page to recreate the issue.
  2. Keep sessions as short as possible. Don’t leave one session running while you refresh your browser trying to recreate the issue. Before you refresh a page, start a new session. That way you will have the cleanest session for your support.

Here’s a basic walkthrough of how to download, install and use Charles:

Here’s some great tutorials on Charles from Ad Ops Insider:

Charles Proxy Tutorial; Advanced Charles Proxy Tutorial; Charles Proxy Tutorial on cellular networks

Fiddler Web Dubugging Proxy

Operates very similarly to Charles. Be familiar with Charles and Fiddler as they are used interchangeably. Both serve the same purpose and the preference is yours (or your support team’s). Most will take a recorded session by either product.


When fixing an issue it’s incredibly important to keep a tight communication loop with all parties that have a hand in serving or creating that particular ad. Fewer email threads means quicker issue resolution.

As an ad ops professional, you’ve got to knock down doors to resolve ad issues quickly. Don’t be shy. Be persistent with an organized message, whether it’s with a programmatic partner or an agency. Here’s an example of a concise email to quarterback an ad issue:

This can make all the difference for the campaign and/or the user experience on the site. Whether you’re in the right or not, as a publisher you’re responsible for the user experience of your site and ads.

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