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Women in tech – it’s about balance

This is the last post in our women in tech series, but it’s just the beginning of the conversation.

In this post I speak to Coull’s compliance manager, Nicola Woodford, and demand side account manager, Laura Matthews.

We’ve already covered the issue of education, to an extent, and the steps that need to be taken to encourage more women to get into tech. This time, we’re going to talk about the work/life balance, because it’s a realistic concern for many women and something companies need to understand and support.

Both Nicola and Laura have made a significant contribution to Coull’s business strengths. They both have very specialist skills, unique to the industry and unique to Coull. I was eager to find out how the work/family balance is managed in an industry filled predominantly with men and if they’ve gained career confidence, working in a relatively new industry, where their experience and knowledge is in such high demand.

Nicola Woodford – Coull Compliance Manager

Nicola is Coull’s compliance manager, a role created specifically around her skill set, something the industry is in need of. She helps ensure Coull’s inventory is comprised of valid and viewable traffic, that’s brand safe, human and trustworthy. Whilst cyber security vendors use machine learning and algorithms to detect fraudulent traffic or traffic that’s not viewable, Nicola combines the methods of using specific technologies, and her own eyes, to spot invalid traffic before it has a chance to enter the market.

How did you get started working in programmatic ad tech?

Before working at Coull, programmatic ad tech was not something that I even really knew existed. I always noticed the ads on the websites I viewed, but it wasn’t something I really even considered. After university, I gained an internship at Coull, which really opened my eyes to online advertising and programmatics. Throughout my time at Coull, and with help from the people here, I have gained extensive knowledge in the industry.

Do you think there is enough emphasis on developing the kind of skills needed to keep digital advertising clean – and therefore, content free?

Over the last year in particular, there have been some really positive moves forward pushing the digital advertising industry to be more clean. With the increased use of ad-blockers, I think the importance of ensuring clean, good, non-intrusive advertising is becoming ever more apparent.

Do you feel there is a gender bias when it comes to women in ad tech, or just that there aren’t enough women out there applying for these roles?

There does seem to be a gender bias, especially in that there are more males in senior roles within the industry than women, I am finding that over recent years, that is slowly changing. It is only fairly recently that women have been slightly more encouraged to pursue these types of roles and I really think that starts with education. For example, I remember my teachers trying to discourage me from taking electronics as a GCSE as it was seen as more of a boys subject (luckily, I am extremely stubborn so I completely ignored them). I am 28 and those attitudes haven’t changed since I was at school, it will take some time but I like to think the balance is changing.

You have a young family, do you feel there is good enough support for you to keep a work/family balance?

I am very lucky that Coull allow me flexibility. I know many friends who aren’t so lucky in that respect. With the rising cost of childcare and living expenses, for some women it is just not possible to return to work after maternity – whether they would like to or not. Unfortunately, this means we are losing many skilled women from the workplace. My hope is that women have more support and encouragement to return to work.

Do you think working in tech allows you to manage work and family life – could this be a positive drawcard, especially for mums?

As mentioned, I am very lucky to have flexible working and I would say that is something which is much more prevalent in the tech and emerging media industries. Working from home (and other flexible working) is possible due the nature of the industry being online.

Compliance teams in programmatic are a fairly new idea, do you find partners value your input and what you’re doing to ensure the industry works better for everyone?

Most partners value the input. Many are not aware that certain inventory is invalid and there could be differences in the third party verification used, or simply not having the third party verification in the first place. Often, it is possible tell the validity of a partner by how they react to the compliance emails. I aim to educate partners in understanding and spotting invalid traffic rather than being accusatory. That way we can work more efficiently as partners and I hope, make the industry cleaner and more transparent.

How do you explain your job to your family?

I have sort of given up explaining/trying to explain it to them. After extensive explanations people usually come to the conclusion that I work in IT. Though, I was at a family get together the other week and I heard my partner explaining to his brother that my job was to look at porn sites! (That is not what I do!)

Laura Matthews – Senior Account Manager (Demand)

Laura is one of the youngest in Coull’s adops team, yet, also one of the most experienced in managing demand relationships.

What is the most enjoyable part of your day to day work?

I would have to say the people I work with make my job very enjoyable. Coull have a great team here and I can honestly say that they are all my friends. We’re able to get all the work done but also be able to laugh throughout the day and help each other out. I also get to speak to a wide range of people in the industry, which is really great. I tend to be able to talk for England, so being able to use that skill is awesome.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most difficult part of my job is when you find yourself spending a lot of time getting an account or campaign up and running and it doesn’t quite pan out to create the results you were expecting.

In your experience as an account manager, do you find you often speak with a mixture of men and women or that it’s skewed one way?

I would say, from the past four years I have worked at Coull, there has definitely been an increase of women working in the industry. The balance is still not 50/50, however, I do find I am being introduced to more women account managers every month so it is great to see that number growing.

What sort of skills have you learned from working in tech that you didn’t have before you started?

I studied a degree in History and Politics so my technical knowledge was very limited. My strength when I joined Coull, was my people skills, rather than technical ones. However I have picked up so many technical skills over the past couple of years including creating VAST/VPAID tags, production releases within our SSP and putting demand campaigns live. Don’t get me wrong, I often don’t understand what our dev team are talking about when it comes to coding but I will hopefully get there.

Do you find any clients are surprised to find their account manager for programmatic optimization is a woman?

No, I don’t think I have found this with any of the accounts I’ve worked with.

Working regular office hours in an industry where some of your clients are waking up when you’d normally be winding down must be difficult, is it hard not to take work home with you?

Absolutely. I went through a period of being online from 7am in the morning to 11pm at night and checking my emails throughout the night, which makes it very difficult to have time to yourself. I’ve learned through experience that most emails you receive after you leave work can be dealt with in the morning.

Do you feel there is enough support for young women in tech roles or do you think more could be done in terms of training, groups, conferences to build more interest and educate on emerging programmatic trends?

The digital industry is changing constantly so we often have to be quick on our feet to pick new things up. I do believe it would benefit a lot of people if there was more training groups for these emerging trends in order to keep up with the pace of things.

Would you normally describe yourself as a techie or is this something that’s really just developed because of the nature of the work you do for Coull?

I wouldn’t describe myself as a techie, that part of my personality has definitely grown throughout my time at Coull. Luckily my role as an account manager mainly focuses on relationship building, speaking to different people on a daily basis and spending time analysing reports, which are my favourite things to do. I’m lucky enough to have a great tech/dev team and Coull who are able to assist with any technical setups.

This brings our women in tech series to a close, but we hope these insights into real women, in developer, senior management, marketing, programmatic compliance and programmatic account management will encourage more discussion, and more interest in employment.

The gender gap is wide and women in tech roles often find they’re not taken as seriously as their male counterparts. The trend is slowly changing, this has been reflected by all the women I’ve spoken with, and in the work being done by industry bodies to put more women front and centre in tech and to encourage young women and girls, to adopt an interest, and a passion for tech industries.

#womenintech

If you enjoyed this blog, read the stories from our women in tech series here:

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment
Women in tech are pretty awesome

Women in tech are pretty awesome

Last week we spoke about the lack of women in tech roles and introduced Liv Franzen, Developer at Coull. We wanted to open a dialogue and help encourage more women to join the industry, and be confident to apply for senior roles.

We’re continuing the #womenintech series this week and are lucky to have 3 inspiring ladies featured in this blog.

Michelle Bommer, head of adops at Coull tells us how a sweet American girl from Southern California, found herself waking up at the crack of dawn to work on innovative video ad campaigns with her colleagues across the ocean, in the UK.

We’ll also find out from Alex Kolzoff and Sophia Amin of the IAB UK, what they’re doing to encourage and promote equality and professional growth for women within the technology space.

Let’s kick things off with Coull’s queen of adops – Michelle Bommer.

Michelle grew up in the High Desert of Southern California, after attending UCSB she moved to LA and found herself in the world of adtech. Five years later, she moved to San Francisco, and joined Coull. Since then she’s earned her place as head of adops, leading a talented team of technical campaign account managers. Michelle is respected by colleagues and clients and always has a positive, upbeat attitude, ensuring her team feel motivated and our partners enjoy the benefits.

Despite these personal achievements, when we scan the adtech horizon for examples of similar stories, we find them few and far between. The fact is, Michelle is in the company of predominantly male peers, it’s not something that particularly bothers her, but from an industry perspective – it’s a trend we need to change.

Women have every chance to be successful and make a difference to the trajectory of digital advertising and technology.  The skills, technical knowledge, application and determination to be leaders is becoming more apparent but that’s not necessarily translating into more women, with leadership roles.

I spoke to Michelle about how she sees her role in ad tech and her perception of the industry.

Michelle and Coull’s favourite dog – Gaucho.

Tell us a bit about your role as head of Ad Ops at Coull?

I head up a great team of people who work to coordinate the daily operations of our supply and demand accounts.  Through the technical onboarding, to monitoring of traffic quality and brand safety, to the daily management of partners, we ensure that everything is running as smoothly as possible, and at the end of the day our partners are happy.

How did you get into adtech? I’m assuming you didn’t always dream of running digital ad campaigns as a child lol?

I started out as an intern at a small company in Hermosa Beach that generated financial leads through affiliate and performance based marketing. I joined full time and worked there for several years managing affiliates and network relationships. I ran CPC campaigns and monetized our internal data, among other things.  It’s funny when you think back because the industry really didn’t exist when I was a kid – I would have really been before my time if I was dreaming of running digital ad campaigns.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Working with people in a space that is exciting and always changing.  I’ve always been a social person and someone who enjoys a good challenge, having a job in the dynamic tech space that allows me to interact with people every day, is wonderful.

What are your biggest challenges?

Starting my work day at 6 a.m. – just kidding.  Really, I am very fortunate to work with such a great group of people, they make my challenges few and far between – which is key since I am 8 times zones away from the rest of the company.

Is the gender gap in ad tech something you notice?

Having been in the adtech space for nearly a decade, it’s hard to not notice the imbalance.  I remember going to my first trade show and being one of very few women there, besides the “booth babes” hired to lure people in.  I have seen that change over the last few years though, as organizations move to address the issue and those behind the events are making a point of having more diverse panels.

Why do you think it is that there’s a lack of women in tech?

I can’t help but think early education is partially to blame, STEM programs (science, technology, engineering, and math) did not exist when I was in school and similar programs weren’t exactly encouraging girls to join.  I’m hopeful though as we are seeing more of an outreach to girls today with great programs, like Girls Who Code.  I think the future generations are going to blow us out of the water.

From: Girls Who Code

Have you noticed more women being represented in either the USA or the UK?

I can’t say I have noticed a difference between the US and the UK, I think a lot of parallels can be drawn between us as more women are joining tech, and awareness around equality is made.

How can the industry help improve the ratio of men to women in ad tech/martech?

I think they have taken the first step in becoming aware of the issue and vocalizing it, and now it’s really just a matter of making it possible for women to step into these roles and succeed.  I believe organizations, tech or otherwise have a lot to gain by having more women, particularly in more senior positions.

Who inspires you?

Where do I begin?  Honestly, there are so many people out there, true trailblazers, who are doing really cool things, and you can’t forget all those who came before us. At the end of the day I’m inspired most by the people around me, my close girlfriends, who are kicking butt in life and in their respected fields, and are always there to lend support and guidance.

Women kicking butt in life is probably a great segway to move us on to talk about the IAB UK.

I spoke with the IAB UK’s Director of PR and Communications Sophia Amin (left), and Director of Marketing and Industry Engagement, Alex Kolzoff (right) to learn how they see they future.

From the IABs perspective, how do you see the future of women in ad tech? What does that future look like and what will it achieve?

Sophia:

The future of women could be utterly shattered right now with crazy politics further afield, which is a tragedy of economic proportion. Our industry is definitely not the most progressive for female representation but it is (or should be) acutely aware of what needs to be done, and a great swathe of industry have been doing a great deal about it for some time. Whether it’s tuning into adas list or helping to promote coding and tech opportunities to young women, the future of tech will only be better for the balance of gender. We know men and women hire, work and process things differently (not to say we all work the same way if we’re women) and if boards continue to be all male, there’s a very real danger that our industry will slip behind and never reach its potential.

Alex:

It’s great that diversity is such a hot topic at the moment in our industry. Being aware, and having conversations about women in ad tech can only help the long term opportunities for women in what has traditionally been a male dominated industry. I’m already noticing changes, for example six years ago at Mobile World Congress there might have been 1-5% women, but last year looking around the halls it seems more like 20-30% now. Fantastic to see such rapid change, which I hope continues long into the future.

What are you doing at the IAB right now to encourage more women to step up into senior positions in tech companies and to speak at conferences etc?

Sophia:

Alex has already touched on the focus of balancing the speakers at our conference – more on this here https://iabuk.net/blog/striking-a-balance-engage-2016 .

At the IAB, we are also just as keen to get thought leadership in any form for our industry wide comms, as we want to represent an evolving and balanced industry.

I would also hope that somehow the fact that at the IAB we employ more men than women and have myself and Alex as directors, helps to celebrate that. For me, with two young children, having taken some time out, this has only been made possible by an employer who understands my need for flexibility and having a bit of support from time to time. For me, it’s largely been senior men who have supported this, they also happen to be dads, and so they ‘get it’. So it’s not just about having women at the top to pave the way, men are equally able to make this work.

Alex:

We aim to have at least a third female speakers at our conferences. To be totally honest, this can often be challenging, but it’s really important and our members are really supportive of this initiative.

What was your experience like coming up through the ranks to be Directors at the IAB and how do we ensure the next generation of ladies start to fill dev, tech and martech positions?

Sophia:

I started my career in creative agency world – over a decade of account managing various blue chip brands in their digital marketing. I was lucky to have many brilliant, supportive women bosses, role models I guess. I vividly remember one of my worst people management experiences when I was in my mid-twenties, line managing someone who was 8 years my senior. Didn’t listen, didn’t respect me, he didn’t last long in the end but it really made me think about how you treat your boss. Whoever they are, wherever they come from, and whatever gender you both are, you need to respect them or you might as well pack up. And that’s the advice I’d give to industry. Don’t just employ and empower women, your culture needs to reshape to support this much overdue change, and defiants should be goners.

Alex:

I started my career at a media agency, followed by a few years at (was then called) Orange before I started at the IAB six years ago. At the IAB I’ve had a few different roles, starting in the Mobile department, then moving through to Marketing & Communications to now looking after Marketing & Industry Engagement. The IAB has a really unique and flexible culture that allows both women and men to grow and try new things which has been really important for my career. I think this flexibility is key for the next generation in the workforce, and should help to help female talent (and men too hopefully!) progress.

Some powerful messages from 3 successful, intelligent and truly inspiring women. If you can, take second to pass this on, let’s make sure we nurture this change and amplify the voices of women in tech.

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The importance of targeting

Targeting in your platform is usually a fairly simple operation – it’s easy to setup and you expect it to work based on the rules you implemented. However…

  • How many of you audit your targeting – do your publishers send you the correct information?

  • How many of you are speaking to your demand side to ensure that your targeting is matching their targeting?

  • Are you seeing misaligned CPM’s and wondering why?

The chances are that your targeting rules are misaligned. Most of the tags that we send out are price matched against either domain lists, player sizes and/or geos. I personally do not see much misalignment against domain lists or geos, but I do when it comes to player sizes. The publisher is expected to send a certain size via a particular tag. And due to the strict targeting we apply on our demand side, you’re probably losing revenue and decreasing your fill rate.

Audit

Recently,  I completed an internal audit across our supply chain – I wanted to know the amount of requests we received, where we were unable to detect/receive the following:

  • page_url

  • player_width

  • player_height

In a 24-hour period we received 180k requests where we were unable to pass required information to our exchange. It’s a small percentage of our overall traffic, but add that to misaligned pricing channels and it starts to add up – especially when you sit in a chain of other ad servers.

At Coull, we’re happy to audit your traffic and let you know where sales are going amiss. Equally, we have another amazing option – it’s called multi-price floor targeting. We are not the first to use it. But it does make sense!

We only need to supply you with one tag:

  • Tell us what CPMs you expect and we’ll handle all the necessary targeting.

  • Use subID’s only to identify sub-publishers rather than price points.

  • We will never undersell your inventory.

  • All targeting criteria is immediately lined up with our demand stack, ensuring the best connections.

We care about the quality of our traffic and continue to develop technologies and communications that improve the transparency of inventory. If you would like your traffic to be audited, please reach out to your account manager. We are more than happy to help!

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment
Women in tech are a problem

Women in tech are a problem

Women in tech are a real problem. They’re a problem because they’re not there, not in the same numbers as their male counterparts. They’ve been absent from the conversation. But this is changing – we’re seeing and hearing from talented women in tech roles who are reaching out, starting conversations and shining their beacon on an industry that can, and needs to do better at facilitating equality. We’re seeing more women represented on ad tech panels and their insights are both meaningful and challenging.

It’s time to not only open the doors of technical roles to women, but to encourage them to step through. We need more women in tech, to give them the opportunity to influence a new generation of creative, skilled and driven tech leaders, with disparate experiences, ideas and opinions.

Slowly we’re starting to see an emergence of female driven content, and startups being chaired by women. And, we’re beginning to hear a dialogue between women who are supporting each other, rather than taking a purely competitive stance in the workplace.

All that said – when we take a look at the number of women in tech roles globally – we start to worry considerably.

According to Forbes ‘Apple has 20% of women employees  in technology; Google has 17% of women in its workforce, while Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter have 16.6%, 15% and 10% respectively.

I encourage you to read the full Forbes article which goes on to provide a long list of disheartening stats about women in tech companies, especially those in leadership positions.

The technology sector has become such a huge growth machine and it will impact future generations in such a powerful way. We need women to be part of that influence, we need their ideas, their leadership, their skills and their communication. We need women in tech to be seen and heard to inspire the next generation of female techies – and we need tech giants like Google and Apple to lead the charge by changing the way they recruit.

At Coull, we’re very proud of having the best people in development and we are keen to grow our female to male ratio of employees. Liv Franzén is currently representing women in tech as a developer at Coull – so who better to fill in some of the gaps in our understanding of why so few women are in her position. I spoke to her to find out exactly what her experience has been:

 What made you get into tech in the first place, what was so appealing about it?

I was fascinated by computers as a child and had a natural talent for math, logic & problem-solving. I also knew I wanted to do something creative and development is all about making things. I didn’t have much exposure to tech in school – the computer programming classes were truly dreadful, perfectly uninspiring.

What was the process like for becoming a developer?

After some Film Studies, I did a Graphic Design / New Media course, where I got hands on with coding, which sparked the geek inside me, and I decided that I wanted to take computer programming further.  So I went on to study a Computer Science major with Digital Arts minor degree, after which I went straight into a job developing multimedia science software.

Did you find there were many females studying with you and do you know many other women who are developers?

There were many women on my university course, but strangely hardly any in the workspace. I’ve seen a pattern that women with tech background take on more administrative / project management type jobs. I know some lady developers socially, but my work colleagues throughout my career have been almost exclusively male. It’s a shame that women techies are so scarce, but then the general lack of diversity – not just the gender polarisation – is a limitation for this industry.

What are your biggest challenges?

The speed of innovation and rapid change in the development world, I think most [front end] developers struggle with this to some degree. It’s been specifically noticeable after taking time out after having kids – it is a quite a mountain to climb to get back after taking a year or so out.

 For those playing at home that do know a bit about dev work and are pondering the different areas they might get into – what sort of work do you find the most interesting?

I enjoy the visual side of front-end programming – 3D / WebGL, generative art and data visualisation. There are loads of inspiring projects out there – much of which is open source.

Do you ever feel the pressure of being outnumbered by men in your industry or do you see it more of an opportunity?

I honestly never felt that being a female in the tech industry has been a problem. People in generally are positively surprised if anything.

Why do you think men dominate this industry to the extent they currently do?

Not sure. It’s possible that young girls don’t get inspired to explore if they have the aptitude for this industry. Maybe it is cooler for boys to be geeky than for girls? There is definitely a perception problem with tech not being a woman’s domain…

What advice do you have for women who want to get into tech, as you have?

It’s not all that easy to figure out what you should do with your life, regardless of gender. If anything, I would advise any young person to not be afraid to go against the grain, if that’s what’s needed to follow your path.

You have two lovely daughters; would you encourage them into a profession as a techie if they showed an interest or aptitude for it?

Yes, absolutely. They should follow their interests whatever they may be. Right now, the older wants to be an artist and the younger one wants to be a ladybird.

Do you find your colleagues and peers in development supportive of you and has this always been the case?

Yes, I find people that work in the digital industry and the wider tech community to be a friendly, supportive and progressive lot.

We want to actively encourage more women to join the tech sector. The success of women in tech roles at Coull has directly impacted the successes of our business and providing opportunities for women to take on senior roles is something we strive to provide.

‘“If companies start early with diversity and inclusion, they don’t have to bolt it on later, which is much harder,” Erica Baker, Build and Release Engineer at Slack Technologies via The Times.

If all the women’s demonstration marches in the US and around the world this week haven’t got you feeling inspired to get behind them and provide those opportunities, maybe the success stories of women in ad tech will.

Next week we chat to Michelle Bommer, head of ad ops at Coull and hear from two female directors at the IAB UK. Then we’ll be interviewing Coull Compliance manager Nicola Woodford and demand side account manager Laura Matthews.

Be want you want to be – if that’s a ladybird, then be that ladybird!

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The looming video adtech apocalypse of 2017

The video advertising industry has experienced rapid growth over the last 5-10 years, spawned from the increasing popularity of the format. During this time, it’s become awash with intermediaries, all trying to claim their slice of the cake. Many of these middle men have taken that slice without contributing to the publisher, advertiser, or viewer in any valuable, tangible or measurable way.

When we look back the video ad-network arbitrage model circa 2011, we see a simple model for programmatic advertising that’s done a job, but that’s lacked the necessary measurement and invalid traffic detection required today.

It now seems we’ve gone from one extreme to another, with a plethora of intermediaries filling every possible space, and yet the solution for quality video advertising has not yet been achieved. We’ve reached a point of reckoning. The middle men who aren’t contributing or performing will be vanquished in 2017, leaving a trail of destruction.

The ad tech apocalypse is upon us, here’s how we got there and who will survive it.

The background

The video ad-network arbitrage model

2011

This is the year video advertising started becoming popular. The biggest problem was that there wasn’t enough pre-roll (an ad before the content). This stunted the growth of early video ad platforms. So with display advertising getting cheaper and cheaper, brands and agencies bought ad slots on web pages originally designed for display banner ads. As these slots are inherently smaller, generally muted and not as obvious to a user, they were far less effective than pre-roll. Thus, in-banner video was born, bringing with it a multitude of problems that Tubemogul called out at the time.

The video exchanges didn’t do any dynamic analysis or fraud protection at the time, so buyers didn’t know if they were buying real pre-roll or in-banner. This Adexchanger article on the subject divulges more.

Video ad networks soon followed, white labelling these same platforms to create in-banner video ads, and then selling it back to platforms. These platforms like Liverail loved it, as it gave the plausible deniability as to where the inventory came from, and made them grow enormously.

In 2012, some video Ad networks were making 300% margin.

Cut to 2017:

Let’s jump to the present, and take a look at what has happened since:

video-lumascape-1-1024.jpg

 

  • There are now hundreds of companies arbitraging, all buying and selling to each other – just take a look at any of the many lumascapes of the ad industry that further illustrate this point.

  • All the 1st generation video SSPs have been bought, and cleaned up their acts (in Liverail’s case completely closed), so there’s nowhere easy to sell it.

  • 3rd party vendors now exist to show what is in-banner from real pre-roll, creating transparency.

  • Facebook is the king of in-banner, and can demonstrate a clear ROI. If you want to buy it, you go there.

  • Ghost sites and fraud paid-for traffic are easier to detect.

  • Advertisers are demanding clawbacks on media buys that are flagged as fraudulent by the vendors.

  • Average 90 day payment terms means that they carry large liabilities

  • The CPM prices have dropped now advertisers know what they’re buying

  • Zero-sum game. All the growth in ad spend is going to Facebook & Google -AKA the walled garden – not to the open web.

  • Disintermediation, with advertisers going direct to publishers for the best inventory.

Having spoken to many publishers, their average margin in 2016 was 20%!

All this adds up to a rough 2017 for the all the middlemen, who are now scrabbling to rebrand themselves video SSPs with a “proprietary exchanges” and “patented algorithms”.

  • If you are a publisher with quality inventory then don’t mess around, get on one of the big video SSPs, and do PMP deals directly with brands & agencies.

  • The only tech that publishers should be using, is that which creates more of, or adds value to their existing supply. It’s never been easier to sell it yourself.

  • If you are a middleman, then create something of real value. Solve a real problem for publishers, not just an inefficiency.

 

If you’ve been watching the market for the last few years you’ll have noticed the lay offs, the acquisitions and the negative media attention aimed at programmatic. And the reasons won’t come as a shock:

  • Commoditization

  • Arbitrage / less inefficiencies in the market to exploit.

  • The wrong approach to mobile

  • Old display exchanges missing the boat on video

  • Lack of unique data

  • Innovating in the auction not the format – actually solve a problem, not an inefficiency.

 

Companies to watch in 2017 will be those that can keep steady growth, get a grip on their spend

Threats

Whilst we have made incredible inroads to detecting fraud, viewability and creating transparency on the buy side, there are still unknown factors across emerging formats that need to be addressed, and there is threat posed by those still haggling their way in, without the required expertise.

Old display exchanges providing liquidity

  • The old display exchanges coming into video advertising but without the experience, or understanding its nuances and how to guard against fraud. Video is a shared & embedded around the web. With limited experience in how to deal with this, these old display SSP/Exchanges are already responsible for far more fraud than dedicated video platforms like SpotX.

Mobile web

  • It’s still a real wild west out there, the verification vendors haven’t yet developed adequate solutions. There are plenty of hacks to make ads autoplay on mobile browsers, and plenty of obnoxious unclosable ad units coming out to clog users screens with obnoxious unskippable ads.

Who will survive?

Surviving the ad tech apocalypse will come down to being unique, contributing value to publishers, advertisers and users, and having the conviction to offer proof. If you’ve got a strong business that’s presenting something unique, and innovating the formats and channels rather than how they are sold and you’re able to differentiate yourself in a commoditised market – you’re in with a real chance.

How?

  • Tick the basics: highly quality, highly viewable, fraud free.

  • Have defensible tech & direct partnerships

  • Cut through the noise with clear buzzword free messaging.

Transparency is a must. Advertisers are sick of being lied to, they’re sick of fraud and sick of inefficiencies. Publishers need viable ad formats that ad value for their audience and as for the viewers – they just want better experiences.

We’re seeing a move to buying based on audience targeting and engaging metrics. We’re also starting to see mobile video ascend the ad revenue rankings. But to survive in ad tech in 2017, you’ll need to:

  • facilitate measurement
  • develop and or enable appropriate and creative ad formats
  • target audiences

If you can’t add value and help enable a sustainable ecosystem, your spot in the food chain will become obsolete.

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RTB 2.5 – new features that affect video advertising

DPS2-880x495.jpg

With the release of the draft spec for RTB 2.5 there are some super interesting new ideas around how to describe video adverts. Here we’ll take you through a few and how we see them being used.

1 video.placement

This addition allows publishers and SSPs to describe the type of placement that an ad is being requested for. We’ve all seen 300×250 ad placements come through, and we all know they are in banner requests – now we have a way of saying that explicitly.

2 Data Encoding

You can now specify a data encoding header that should be handled by the bidder. A good example of this would be specifying gzip encoding of the bid request – this simply compresses the traffic over the wire from exchange to bidder and back, saving on bandwidth and ultimately money.

3 Bid Changes

There are a few changes to the bid object. A bidder now has the ability to provide a Billing Notice URL (burl) and a Loss Notice URL (lurl).

For Coull, this added layer of transparency is something we’ve been passing to bidders for a while now, albeit relying on our own tech to make that possible. It’s an important inclusion as 2017 will be the year brands and agencies demand more clarity about what they’re bidding on and the result of the auction in real time. We allow the bidder to see if they’ve won or lost, and what the winning price was, which only helps optimise the whole process.

The addition of these 2 features introduces a subtle but important change to the data a DSP can get from an auction. The win notification can now be thought of as just that – the price you offered was enough to win the auction but it doesn’t guarantee anything.

The burl is a great addition, as it’s stage further on from the current win notification. The burl will provide a more accurate way of tracking spend based on delivered impressions, as it’s connected to the impression – it’s saying this impression cost $x.  Splitting these 2 things up enables DSPs to track things like failed impressions and possibly partners that may have issues with their player.

The loss notification adds another dimension to this information. It enables the DSP to immediately know that the spend that they had assigned to the auction is now free – there will be no impression. Coull has been offering loss notifications since the introduction of its Exchange and we’re pleased to see this finally make it into the RTB specification

4 Source

The new Source object lets the exchange pass on some data about whether or not there will be a decision made upstream from the exchange. Header Bidding is the obvious example here, but more and more Ad Managers are holding client side auctions to increase the amount of demand an opportunity sees, and it’s normal now to see sideways connections from exchange to exchange, again to increase the amount of demand available in an efficient way.

There are some more changes, little and big, to the spec but I’ll leave it there for now. The above represents what we believe to be the most interesting ideas in the new spec. It’s great to see some positive changes have been made in the is latest update, and again we’ll look for yet for improvements come version 2.6.

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Coull CEOs martech and adtech predictions 2017

Aden Forshaw helped found Coull back in 2008 but this year has been his big leap, being appointed CEO and taking the reins. Aden has been integral in bringing some exciting developments to fruition, including the launch of our proprietary ad format OverStream and placing a big focus on eradicating invalid traffic from the marketplace, starting with the Coull Platform.

Aden made his predictions about the ad tech industry at the end of 2015 and unsurprisingly to us, proved the spirit of Yoda really does thrive within him.

In this post Aden, CEO and Yoda of Coull –  gives his predictions for what the programmatic ad industry is going to look like in 2017.

Top predictions

1.The adtech bloodbath

The tools now exist to highlight any middlemen representing poor inventory or adding no value. As a result of the adoption of these tools, there will be a bloodbath of inadequate adtech middlemen. Ad networks will continue going out of business in 2017 as the demand side goes around them with programmatic direct. This is good news for quality publishers, who will see their CPMs rise, and for adtech players creating real value to cut through the noise.

2. Sweating the asset

Brands are paying top dollar for the right spot, within the right inventory, and are also paying the mass of vendors to validate the quality of the spot they’re buying.  2017 will see brands demand more ROI from their investment and more from their agencies. As for the ad units itself, real-time creative backed by deep-learning AI will take us back to a time when advertising was fun and engaging.

3. Artificial Intelligence

Look forward to buzzword bingo at every conference with a lot of people not understanding what AI means. We’re referring to the deep-learning variant, the same that Google has been using so successfully with Quickdraw. This will create real magic and new ways of interacting with an audience, and finding niche audiences that once relied on manual targeting.

4. Measuring the garden – accountability for all the big players

Measurement standards will finally be applied inside walled gardens. YouTube is already moving that way, as is Facebook with its continued ‘mea-culpas’ – buyers are demanding more. This will be the draw of more TV money into online, but it’ll mainly go to Facebook rather than the open web.

5. Civilising Mobile Video

2016 was the year that all the verification vendors to help clean up desktop video, 2017 will be mobile. Sophisticated vendors like White Ops are already raising large amounts to dedicate themselves to the task but it’s time to apply them to mobile. It’s still a wild west of VAST inventory, but app makers are finally coalescing around a small number of Ad SDKs, meaning mobile VPAID will soon be the norm.

6. Another acronym joins the team – hello H-2-H – goodbye B-2-C

2016 saw the direct to consumer revolution take hold, led by players like Dollarshave club. Big Brands have taken note, and are following suit. This will see them try new creative approaches to reaching an audience, with heavy experimentation on Chatbots and personalised Video campaigns. It’s about human to human communications, brand stories, and ideas.

7. Widening cracks in the looking glass

Viewability has become a widespread proxy for ad-quality during 2016 but the cracks have already been clear to see with ample evidence of its fallibility and potential for gaming. Industry experts and savvy advertisers are already calling for an exercise in caution within our peer group when putting viewability on a pedestal. Underlying fraud and the drudging pursuit of unattainable standardisation in viewability measurement, will become more of a theme as 2017 progresses. Expect publishers and advertisers to put their support behind ad formats that are more viewable by design, engage audiences in more tangible ways and offer a safer bet for ROI than a flawed measure of viewability.

 Some of the other changes we expect to take hold:

EU Data

The EU General Data Protection Regulation won’t hit until 2018, but by the end of 2017 we’ll see it shake out for implementation. It is a seismic shift in how data is handled not just for Advertising, but all PII and metadata about users.

Expect more Hacks

In technology terms some adtech platforms have been around for eons. There are legacy security models, and antiquated tech stacks, especially those built by third parties and not maintained. With adtech providing easy way to touch so many people expect a few big hacks in 2017.

Google’s open source video player

It’s long been doing the rounds of the rumor mill but this year could very well see the launch of Google’s open source video player. Once launched the player, will inevitably compete with VideoJS, and take market share from established players like JWPlayer, and potentially Brightcove. Of course it will plug into Google’s adtech stack, straight out of the box.

Commoditisation means old display adtech will take a beating

Header bidding has commoditised what was once locked in relationships. Expect to see the old guard struggle, especially those that haven’t successfully added Video and Mobile to their offering. The shelves stacked with out of date ad units will collect dust as new creative, engaging and data driven formats fly off, attracting the attention of agencies and trading desks.

We are hoping to see big changes in 2017, with the momentum toward cleaning up programmatic swinging in the right direction already, its transition across platforms will be a game changer. The adoption of AI and more targetable ad tech will become normal as quality, trusted inventory with highly engaging ad formats takes centre stage, finally allowing digital publishers to earn their keep.

The final word:

2016 delivered transparency, in 2017 we’ll see action emerge from insight.

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How to identify and avoid invalid traffic fraud

Recent reports from the IAB show that digital ad fraud is second only to the opium and cocaine trade in terms of crime rates and revenue. That’s a pretty devastating stat for anyone working in the ad tech industry, and anyone buying media.

But it’s not end of days, in fact programmatic is lifting its game and those who can’t or won’t comply to providing better will find themselves ousted come 2017. The most important thing we need to do right now is help publishers understand what forms invalid traffic takes and how to recognise it. And to help buyers ensure efficient and valuable return on campaigns by evading traps and buying blind.

There are many players in the programmatic ad world, many pipes connecting many different suppliers to advertisers, agencies and brands. At the end of that supply pipe exists many different forms of fraud. Understanding what types of fraud exist is important, and we are taking steps to educate our partners about exactly what they are.

Here are some of the most common types of invalid traffic fraud and how to catch them out:

Ghost sites

We can prove that ghosts exist because we have an abundance of evidence – here’s how to spot a cyber spook:

Ghost sites are made to resemble real web sites that host a multitude of advertisements but when scrutinised further it’s easy to tell a real site from a false one.

Ghost sites will usually use a standard blog template, meaning that they often look exactly the same as each other and appear to be legitimate sites.. The domain name of a ‘ghost site’ will nearly always describe a contextual category (e.g. food, automotive, fashion) that appeals to advertisers.

Some basic signs of a ghost site are:

  • Ghost sites referral traffic often comes from an unsafe location such as a porn site but will be camouflaged with another url – usually one that doesn’t link to anything because it’s not real.

  • Links within content don’t work

  • Social media links don’t work or direct you to a page that’s pretty much empty

  • Videos within the content will take an age to load because the player is requesting as many ads as it can. Ads can appear behind the page itself, be hidden in the page or start to load  a ridiculous amount – often that you’ll never see.

  • About us and contact pages will have content that is scraped from other sites

  • Try emailing the support or sales team – the email will invariably bounce

  • The page will have incredibly high bounce rates

  • Real, quality site domains will be copied and the same url with a different path such as .tv will be purchased.The site will look very much the same as the .com version but the content won’t change much. Company addresses will be false and you will often find the layout of ghost sites have many similarities or are exactly the same template.

  • Copy is scraped from other sites so if you search for it, you’ll it appearing in other places and will eventually find the source.

Got time for a quick test your ad fraud knowledge activity?

Both these sites are blacklisted by Coull  – can you identify any of the above ghost site tell tales?

Gardengirly.com

http://fashionitch.com/

Domain Fraud

Domain fraud relates to a issue with the actual domain being sent through to us, this will often require a supply partner to block said domain. Domain fraud can come in many different forms, there could be a mismatch between the domain declared and where the ad is actually placed for example.

Domain spoofing can be one of the most difficult to detect as well as prevent and can therefore be the most lucrative form of invalid domains. Those spoofing domains declare inaccurate domains in order to make advertisers believe that invalid, or low quality domains, are reputable and often highly sort after.

Watch-Movies-Online.cc → Changed to show → usatoday.com

IVT (Invalid Traffic)

Invalid traffic relates to the traffic running through a domain being undesirable, this does not mean the domain itself is bad and therefore would not require blocking. However the source of the traffic needs to be found and removed. Here are types of invalid traffic:

Proxy Traffic

A proxy allows access to the internet anonymously and can browse the internet without leaving any kind of footprint. This means all ad requests will go through a proxy, so for those monitoring the requests, the only thing visible is the proxy – there’s no way to know who’s behind it.

No proxy: User → Domain

Proxy used: User → Proxy → Domain

People using proxies are usually trying to hide themselves – although there can be a few legitimate reasons to use proxies they are more often used to hide malicious activity.

IP Reputation

IP reputation means that the detected IP has historically been shown to be high risk due to being associated with characteristics of fraudulent activity.

Automated Traffic

Automated traffic refers to malicious bots or non-human traffic, designed to generate false ad impressions, or serve hidden, unseen ads, all while avoiding detection. Often they take over a user’s computer, running in the background whilst the user is unaware of the issue.

Spoofing

Spoofing is a practise where a user’s browser and/or device are manipulated to resemble a different browser and/or device. The malicious party impersonates another device (or user) on a network in order to show ad requests from more reputable sources. This is often used to simulate traffic from multiple visitors and therefore increases the amount of potential impressions running through an exchange.

Transparency is key to fighting cyber crime

We’ve put a huge amount of time, effort and investment into eradicating invalid traffic from our platform and have added new features to our publisher dashboard to enable our publisher partners to see when we detect any invalid traffic coming from them. We alert them to any problems and help them to clean it up so the value of their inventory and relationships with agencies, brand and advertisers is always credible, and buyers transact with confidence.

Having an ethos of transparency is key to fighting cyber crime in all its formats and we believe in providing unique creative offered at programmatic scale, that’s trusted and efficient.

We have introduced our Traffic Quality Assurance program to help publisher partners reach the quality required to partner with Coull and to help our advertisers buy media with confidence, making the most efficient use of their budgets. We’ve developed a stringent program in line with the MRC’s Invalid Traffic Detection and Filtration Guidelines and we detect and block against (GIVT) and (SIVT) as defined  by the IAB, MMA and MRC.

Our platform gives publishers the opportunity to see when they are sending us invalid traffic and work with us to ensure it stops. This strategy has been enforced to ensure we don’t allow invalid media to exist in our platform, helping our publishers increase the value of their inventory and providing a trusted market for brands and agencies to buy valid opportunity to reach their audience.

To find out more about the benefits of working with the Coull Platform, get in touch or visit our OverSteam page to see our video as formats in action.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment
How to avoid the digital ad grinch this silly season

How to avoid the digital ad grinch this silly season

Don’t suffer at the mercy of the Christmas Grinch of the ad world this season. We’ve got some tips for avoiding invalid traffic, making your campaigns stand out and ensuring your audience is reached through the clutter of sparkling tinsel and the ho, ho, ho of the big fat man.

Sad and frustrating as it may be, Christmas time is prime time for fraudsters trying to make money from your end of year media budget. Make the boss happy by ensuring you only pay for valid, viewable traffic that’s exactly what it says it is.

When it comes to unwrapping presents on Christmas day, one of the biggest excitements is not knowing what you’re going to find under all that wrapping paper. The same cannot be said for the media buying world.

When you purchase inventory for your brand, it’s pretty darn important you know exactly what you’re getting.

  1. Make sure you work with a compliant and transparent platform or ad network with rules in place about what inventory is sold and what is accepted as valid, in view and brand safe. We have our own invalid traffic score that’s applied to each individual publisher partner and we work with them on a one to one basis to ensure their inventory is compliant. Buy safely and efficiently.

  1. Talk to your account manager about what inventory is available and at what price to ensure you get the best match possible.

  2. Don’t just buy on one metric – although you may be buying inventory based on a viewability percentage, that’s no good at all if the inventory is fraudulent. Cutting corners is not the way to get that Christmas bonus. Frame you KPIs around what matters in programmatic now and ditch historic measurement models.

Make your ad campaigns count

  1. Be as relevant as you can this season by running PMP deals. Talk to your account manager about the best option for your campaigns rather than diving blind into a pool that’s lacking in what you need, or flooded with traffic that’s not validated. Again, work with partners you trust.

  2. Choose ad formats that will be seen by your audience and that have a track record of high CTR like Coull OverStream which performs 10x  better than a standard display ad.

  3. Engage your audience on the move with mobile friendly campaigns

  4. Engage your audience across their favourite content format – video. The IAB and PWC’s latest report shows massive growth in video ad revenue, especially on mobile so be where your audience are.

  5. Let us know what you want – communicate what you want to your platform so they can find the right inventory for you.

Formats

  1. Work with your agency or creative team to make your ad unit do the work for you. Choose the right ad format for your audience. Annoying and interruptive advertising is not the way to get your audience’s attention. You want to engage them when they’re thinking about purchasing, but you don’t want to offend them so be discerning when choosing creative.

  2. Talk to your SSP or Ad Network and find out what formats are the most engaging and efficient for the content you’re buying. Not all ads are born equal, running multiple formats that compliment each other and give you the best chance of being seen will help your media budget work harder.

Check out our OverStream Suite of advertising formats.

Target

  1. Tis the season for re-targeting – with so many purchase decisions being made on specific days, run a re-targeting campaign a few days before black friday to coincide with black friday purchase decisions. Get in early to get that customer.

  2. Target specific devices and locations you know your audience will be buying across. Don’t limit yourself to chance.

  3. Buy across specific categories – knowing what video inventory you’re buying is important when it comes to conversion so ask what’s available.

Keep these tips in mind when planning your upcoming campaigns and get the most from your spend (and keep that mean, green critter away).

Merry end of year ad campaigning to all of you!

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment