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Women in tech series: it’s about a balance

Women in tech series: it’s about a 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 and the steps that need to be taken to encourage more women in tech. This time, we’re going to talk about the work/life balance. This is a real concern for many women and something companies need to 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 a male-dominated industry.

Nicola Woodford – Coull Compliance Manager

Nicola, Coull compliance manager - Women in tech

Nicola is Coull’s compliance manager, a role created specifically around her skill set. She helps ensure Coull’s inventory is valid and viewable traffic, that’s brand safe, human and trustworthy. Some cybersecurity vendors use machine learning and algorithms to detect fraudulent or non-viewable traffic. Whereas Nicola combines specific technologies and her own eyes to spot invalid traffic before it even enters the market.

How did you get started working in programmatic ad tech?

Before working at Coull, programmatic ad tech wasn’t something I knew existed. I noticed the ads on the websites, but it wasn’t something I’d really considered. After university, I gained an internship at Coull, which really opened my eyes to online advertising. Throughout my time at Coull, and with help from the people here, I’ve 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?

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

Do you think there’s a gender bias when it comes to women in ad tech?

There does seem to be a gender bias. There are more males in senior roles within the industry than women, however, in recent years that’s slowly changing. It’s only fairly recently that women have been encouraged to pursue these types of roles and that starts with education. For example, I was discouraged from taking electronics as a GCSE as it was seen as a boy’s subject (luckily, I’m extremely stubborn so I completely ignored them). I’m now 28 and those attitudes haven’t changed much. It will take some time, but I like to think the bias is changing.

You have a young family, do you feel there’s a good level of support for you to keep a work/family balance?

I’m very lucky that Coull allows 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’s just not possible to return to work after maternity – whether they’d like to or not. Unfortunately, this means we’re 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? This could be a positive drawcard, especially for mums.

As mentioned, I’m very lucky to have flexible working and this seems to be something that’s more prevalent in the tech and emerging media industries. Flexible working is possible due to 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 don’t see the importance of using third-party verification. Often, it’s possible to 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 trying to explain it to them. After extensive explanations, people usually come to the conclusion that I work in IT. Though recently, I was at a family get together 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, Coull account manager - Women in tech

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’d have to say the people I work with make my job very enjoyable. Coull has a great team and I can honestly say that they’re all my friends. We’re able to get all the work done but also have a laugh and help each other out. I also get to speak to a wide range of people in the industry, which is really great. I can 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 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 is it skewed one way?

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

What sort of skills have you learned from working in tech?

I studied for a history and politics degree so my technical knowledge was very limited. My strength when I joined Coull was my people skills, rather than technical ones. However, I’ve 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’m hoping I’ll get there one day.

Are any clients surprised to find their account manager is a female?

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

Working regular office hours when some of your clients are in different time zones must be difficult. Is it hard not to take work home with you?

Absolutely. I went through a period of being online from 7 am in the morning to 11 pm at night, which makes it very difficult to have time to yourself. I’ve learned 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?

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.

Would you normally describe yourself as a techie or is this something that’s developed because of the nature of your job?

I wouldn’t describe myself as a techie, that part of me has definitely grown during my time at Coull. Luckily my role mainly focuses on relationship building, speaking to different people each day and analysing reports, which are my favourite things to do. I’m lucky enough to have a great technical team around me who can assist with any setups.


This brings our women in tech series to a close. We hope these insights into real women, in a variety of tech roles, will encourage more discussion and more interest in employment.

The gender gap is wide and women in tech sometimes find they’re not taken as seriously as their male counterparts. However, the trend is slowly changing, as reflected by the women I’ve spoken with. And hopefully, putting more women in the centre of tech will encourage young women to adopt an interest and a passion for tech industries.

#womenintech

If you enjoyed this blog, read the rest of our women in tech series here:

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Women in tech are pretty awesome

Women in tech are pretty awesome

Last week we spoke about the lack of women in tech and introduced Liv Franzen, a developer at Coull. We want to open a dialogue and help encourage more women to join the industry.

We’re continuing the #womenintech series this week, featuring three inspiring ladies.

Michelle Bommer, Head of ad ops at Coull, tells us how she found herself waking up at the crack of dawn to work on video ad campaigns with her UK colleagues.

We’ll also find out from Alex Kolzoff and Sophia Amin from IAB UK, what they do to promote equality and professional growth for women in tech.

Let’s kick things off with Coull’s queen of ad ops – 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 ad tech. Five years later, she moved to San Francisco and joined Coull. Since then she’s earned her place as Head of ad ops, leading a talented team of account managers. Michelle is respected by colleagues and clients and always has a positive, upbeat attitude, ensuring her team feel motivated.

Despite these personal achievements, when we scan the ad tech 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. This is 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 in 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 in senior roles.

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

Michelle, Coull's Head of Adops - Women in tech

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 coordinate the daily operations of our supply and demand accounts. From the technical onboarding to monitoring traffic quality and daily management of partners, we ensure that everything is running smoothly.

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

I started out as an intern at a small company 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 monetised 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’m a social person who enjoys a challenge, so having a job in the dynamic tech space with daily interactions with different people is wonderful.

What are your biggest challenges?

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

Is the gender gap in ad tech something you notice?

Having been in the ad tech 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 the very few women there. I’ve seen that change over the last few years and organizations are starting to address the issues. For example, events are trying to have 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) didn’t exist when I was in school and similar programs weren’t exactly encouraging girls to join. Though, I’m still hopeful as there’s 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.

girls who code - Women in tech

From: Girls Who Code

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

I can’t say I’ve 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’ve taken the first step in becoming aware of the issue and vocalizing it. Now it’s a matter of making it possible for women to step into senior roles and succeed. I believe organizations, tech or otherwise, have a lot to gain by having more women in 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. I’m inspired most by the people around me especially my close girlfriends, who are kicking butt in life and are always there to support me.

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

Alex and Sophia, IAB UK - Women in tech

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 the future.

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

Sophia:

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. Whether it’s tuning into Ada’s list or helping to promote 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, so if boards continue to be male-dominated, there’s a real danger that our industry will 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 this 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 seemed more like 20-30%. It’s fantastic to see such a rapid change, which I hope continues long into the future.

What are you doing at the IAB right now to encourage more women in tech to step up?

Sophia:

At the IAB, we’re keen to get female thought leadership for our industry-wide comms, as we want to represent an evolving and balanced industry.

The fact that the IAB employs more men than women and have me and Alex as directors, helps to celebrate women in tech. I have two young children and have taken some time out, yet this has only been made possible by an employer who understands my need for flexibility and support from time to time. For me, it’s largely been senior men who have supported this, they’re also parents so they ‘get it’. 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 becoming 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 the creative agency world – over a decade of account managing blue-chip brands. I was lucky to have many brilliant, supportive female bosses – role models, I guess. I vividly remember one of my worst people management experiences when I was in my mid-twenties, I had to manage someone who was 8 years my senior. He didn’t listen or 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.

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. 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, which has been important for my career. This flexibility is key for the next generation in the workforce and should help female talent (and men too hopefully!) progress.


There you have it! Some powerful messages from three 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.

If you enjoyed this blog, read the rest of our women in tech series here:

Women in tech are a problem

Women in tech series: it’s about a balance

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The importance of targeting

The importance of targeting

Targeting in your platform is usually a fairly simple operation – it’s easy to set up 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 don’t 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.

Targeting test: traffic audit

Recently, I completed an internal audit across our supply chain. I wanted to know the number 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 the 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 under-sell your inventory.

  • All targeting criteria are 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!

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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 starting to see talented women in tech starting conversations and shining their beacon on this issue. 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.

Women in tech around the world

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.

Meet Liv, a developer at Coull

Liz, developer at Coull - Women in tech

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 and problem-solving. Also, I 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. This is when 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 a 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? Do you know many other women who are developers?

There were many women on my university course, but hardly any in the workplace. I’ve seen a pattern that women with tech background take on more administrative or 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’s quite a mountain to climb to get back after taking a year or so out.

What sort of dev 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 as more of an opportunity?

I honestly never felt that being a female in the tech industry has been a problem. People, in general, 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’s cooler for boys to be geeky rather than for girls? There’s 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?

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?

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 with 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!

ladybird-women-in-tech-blog

Read the rest of the women in tech series here:

Women in tech are pretty awesome

Women in tech series: it’s about a balance

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The looming video ad tech apocalypse of 2017

The looming video ad tech apocalypse of 2017

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

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 middlemen 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.

The ad tech apocalypse

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 middlemen who aren’t contributing or performing will be vanquished in 2017, leaving a trail of destruction.

The background

The video ad network arbitrage model

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 ad tech apocalypse

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

  • All the first 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.

  • Third-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 mean 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 and Google – aka the walled garden – not to the open web.

  • Disintermediation, with advertisers going directly 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 scrambling 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 and 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 layoffs, the acquisitions and the negative media attention aimed at programmatic. And the reasons won’t come as a shock:

  • Commoditization

  • Arbitrage/fewer 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 and 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.

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 shared and 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 unskippable ads.

Who will survive?

Surviving the ad tech apocalypse will come down to being unique, contributing value and having the conviction to offer proof. If you’ve got a strong business that’s presenting something unique 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 and 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 engagement 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

RTB 2.5 – new features that affect video advertising

The IAB has released the new RTB 2.5 spec and there are some interesting new changes around video advertising. Here are a few of the changes…

1 video.placement

This 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’re in banner requests. Now we have a way of explicitly saying that.

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 already, albeit relying on our own tech to make that possible. It’s an important inclusion as brands and agencies are demanding more clarity about what they’re bidding on and the results. We optimise the process by allowing the bidder to see if they’ve won or lost and what the winning price was.

The addition of these two 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 burl is a great addition, it’s a stage further on from the current win notification. The burl will provide a more accurate way of tracking spend based on delivered impressions, it tells you that the 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 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. It’s now normal to see sideways connections from exchange to exchange, again to increase the amount of demand available in an efficient way.


RTB 2.5 onwards…

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 the RTB 2.5 update. We’ll look for yet more improvements in version 2.6.


If you liked this post, we recommend reading:

ODV spells good news for publishers

Our impressions of the IAB OpenRTB 2.4

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment
Coull CEOs martech and adtech predictions 2017

Coull CEOs martech and adtech predictions 2017

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.

Aden Forshaw co-founded Coull back in 2008 but this year has been his big leap, being appointed CEO and taking the reins. He has been integral in bringing some exciting developments to fruition. For example, the launch of the OverStream Suite and eradicating invalid traffic from the marketplace, starting with the Coull Platform.

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 ad tech 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 ad tech 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 ad tech 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 new ways of interacting with an audience and find niche audiences that once relied on manual targeting.

ad tech predictions - Artificial Intelligence

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 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.

ad tech predictions - mobile video

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 Dollar Shave 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 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 and engage audiences in more tangible ways.

Some of the other predictions we expect…

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’s 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 ad tech platforms have been around for aeons. There are legacy security models, and antiquated tech stacks, especially those built by third parties and not maintained. With ad tech providing an 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 rumour 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 ad tech stack, straight out of the box.

Commoditisation means old display ad tech 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’re 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.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment
How to identify and avoid invalid traffic fraud

How to identify and avoid invalid traffic fraud

Recent reports from the IAB show that digital ad fraud, particularly invalid traffic fraud, is second only to the drug trade in terms of crime rates and revenue. That’s a pretty devastating stat for anyone working in the advertising industry.

But it’s not the end of days, in fact, programmatic is lifting its game and those who won’t comply to providing better will find themselves ousted. There are many players in the programmatic ad world, many pipes connecting different suppliers to advertisers. 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 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 websites that host a multitude of adverts. 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 the content that don’t work.

  • Social media links that don’t work or direct you to an empty page.

  • 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.

  • The copy is scraped from other sites so if you search for it.

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

Both these sites are blacklisted by Coull  – can you identify any of the above fraud indicators?

Gardengirly.com

Gardengirly.com ghost site - avoiding invalid traffic fraud

http://fashionitch.com/

fashionitch.com ghost site - avoiding invalid traffic fraud

Domain Fraud

This is when there’s a problem with the actual domain being sent through to us. Domain fraud can come in many different forms, for example, there could be a mismatch between the domain declared and where the ad is actually placed.

Domain spoofing can difficult to detect and prevent, making it one of the most lucrative forms of domain fraud. Those spoofing domains declare inaccurate domains in order to make advertisers believe that invalid or low-quality domains are reputable.

Example:

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 doesn’t mean the domain itself is bad and therefore wouldn’t require blocking. However, the source of the traffic needs to be found and removed. Here are types of invalid traffic fraud:

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

Using a proxy: User → Proxy → Domain

People using proxies are usually trying to hide. There can be a few legitimate reasons for using proxies but most proxies are used to hide malicious activity.

IP Reputation

IP reputation means that the detected IP has historically been shown to be high risk. This is usually due to it 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 ads. They often take over a user’s computer, running in the background and unknown to the user.

Spoofing

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

Transparency is key to fighting invalid traffic fraud

We’ve put a huge amount of time and effort into eradicating invalid traffic from our platform. We’ve added new features to our publisher dashboard to enable our partners to see when we detect any invalid traffic coming from them. If we identify any problems, we alert our partners and help them clean it up. This maintains the quality of their inventory and relationships with advertisers.

We’ve also introduced our Traffic Quality Assurance program. This aims to help publishers reach the quality required to partner with Coull and help advertisers buy media with confidence. 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.

This strategy has been enforced to ensure we don’t allow invalid traffic fraud to exist in our platform. We ultimately want to help our publishers increase the value of their inventory and provide a trusted market for advertisers.

To find out more about the benefits of working with the Coull Platform, get in touch. Or visit our Products page to see our ad formats in action.

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

How to avoid the digital ad fraud 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 digital ad fraud, making great campaigns and ensuring you reach audiences through the clutter of 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 profit from your end of year media budget. Make the boss happy by ensuring you only pay for valid, viewable traffic.

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.

Avoid digital ad fraud: know what you’re buying

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

  • Make sure you work with a compliant platform or ad network with rules in place. They should be transparent about what inventory is sold and what is accepted as valid, in-view and brand-safe. We have our own invalid traffic score that we apply to each publisher partner. We work with our partners on a one to one basis to ensure their inventory is compliant. It’s simple, avoid digital ad fraud and buy safely and efficiently.

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

  • Don’t just buy on one metric. Although you may be buying inventory based on viewability, 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 and ditch historic measurement models.

Make your ad campaigns count

  • Be as relevant as you can this season by running PMP (Private Marketplace) deals. Talk to your account manager about the best option for your campaigns rather than diving blind into a pool that could be flooded with invalid traffic. Again, work with partners you trust.

  • Choose ad formats that will be seen by your audience. This means they should have a track record of high CTR. For example, our OverStream formats perform 10x  better than a standard display ad.

  • Engage your audience on the move with mobile-friendly campaigns.

  • 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.

  • Communicate what you want to your platform so they can find the right inventory for you.

Get the format right

  • 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 isn’t the way to get noticed. Engage your audience when they’re thinking about purchasing.

  • Talk to your SSP or ad network and find out which formats are the most engaging and efficient. Not all ads are born equal. Running multiple formats that complement each other will give you the best chance of being seen and will make your media budget work harder.

Coull's OverStream Suite of video advertising formats

Check out our OverStream Suite of advertising formats.

Target

  • Tis the season for re-targeting. We suggest running a re-targeting campaign a few days before Black Friday to coincide with Black Friday purchase decisions. Get in early to get that customer.

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

  • Buy across specific categories. Knowing what video inventory you’re buying is important when it comes to conversion.


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 you all!

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment