AWS Startups Blog

CHEQ Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself: Israeli Startup Guards Advertisers Against Digital Disaster

Digital advertising is a tricky proposition. Online ad campaigns can pinpoint, monitor, and measure target audiences with far greater accuracy than old-school television or print campaigns ever dreamed possible. Yet digital advertisers have also surrendered control over their messaging, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

Case in point: Kraft, Capital One, and Progressive were recently horrified to discover that their ads had appeared embedded in AOL articles about sexual assault. Last year, YouTube ran ads from more than 300 blue-chip companies on channels that promoted violence and hate speech. Suffice to say, the ads’ presence in such revolting contexts posed a threat to the companies’ image and their bottom line. Brand loyalty is hard won and easily lost; consumers don’t want to buy products from companies with shady associations.

To combat such online nightmares, Israeli cybersecurity startup CHEQ offers practical solutions. The company’s proprietary software blocks unauthorized ads before they can damage an advertiser’s reputation or depress its revenues. CHEQ’s clients include advertising agencies and digital media companies whose lifeblood is advertising. Beyond serving clients’ needs, CHEQ positions its work as a boon to everyone who goes online.

“We’re trying to save the Internet,” says CHEQ’s chief strategy officer Daniel Avital. “We started protecting advertisers … from having their ad campaign stolen by bots and from serving their ads on ISIS videos because we realized that if advertising isn’t sustainable online, in a way the free Internet concept isn’t sustainable.” In other words, Avital reminds us that the Internet is not really free to surf. Advertisers effectively subsidize the costs. But if advertisers were to decide that the Internet isn’t a profitable venue, then users might have to bear those costs themselves.

CHEQ also helps clients assess their digital ad campaigns with greater transparency. If you’re paying for online ads per view, you don’t want to blow your budget on fraudulent “impressions” generated by bots. And you certainly don’t want to buy ads that get obscured by screen clutter like malicious pop-up windows. CHEQ uses proprietary algorithms to prevent fraudulent traffic and metrics that ensure an ad only counts as “viewed” if 100% of the pixels are visible on the user’s screen.

Looking ahead, Avital says that CHEQ plans to leverage its technological expertise and expand its services to tame the “untamable beast” of the Internet by addressing persistent and pervasive digital maladies. The strategy makes sense. Fake news and “bots” played an outsized role in the 2016 US presidential election, and experts predict the 2020 election will likely be worse. Accordingly, CHEQ, and anyone in the cyber security business, should have plenty of shots to block. If CHEQ achieves its vision, Avital hopes that “the internet will become a friendlier place for anyone looking to do business, to interact, to advertise.”

Michelle Kung

Michelle Kung

Michelle Kung currently works in startup content at AWS and was previously the head of content at Index Ventures. Prior to joining the corporate world, Michelle was a reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal, the founding Business Editor at the Huffington Post, a correspondent for The Boston Globe, a columnist for Publisher’s Weekly and a writer at Entertainment Weekly.