Ad fraud

Introducing…our Ad Ops intern

Introducing…our Ad Ops intern

On the best of days, advertising is not the easiest industry to navigate. But someone who is prepared for the challenge is our newest team member, Mark. He’s currently studying at university and has joined us for a summer internship to learn all things ad tech and ad ops! I caught up with Mark in his first week at Coull...

First of all, where are you from?

That’s always a difficult question to answer because I’ve spent my life growing up in various countries like China, America, Australia and the UK. But you could say that I take a piece of those countries with me wherever I go.

So, what are you studying?

I’m mid-way through my Business degree at the University of the West of England. It’s great because I’ve been able to explore the areas of business that I’m most interested in, such as entrepreneurship, marketing, accounting and business finance. I have known for a while that I wanted to be involved in business development and my degree is helping me achieve that.

Studying in Bristol was a natural choice for me because it’s the creative hub of the UK and there’s a big network of business connections. Not only this, but it’s close enough to the beach so I can continue my passion for surfing.

My aim throughout university is to get the most out of the whole experience. So far I’ve attended extra-curricular seminars, become a student leader, represented the university as a student mentor around the world, and I’m being sent on a trip to China to study Mandarin and learn about business in East Asia.

An important part of my uni experience is to further my knowledge of various industries and gain firsthand experience, hence, leading me to an internship at Coull. After speaking with the Coull team, I soon realised that this opportunity would provide me with great experience and open my eyes to the world of digital advertising.

How would you describe your role at Coull so far?

My role is to dive deep into compliance and ensure Coull is eliminating online ad fraud, all whilst providing the best possible service to our partners.

So far, I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the industry (which hasn’t been easy!), learning how Coull operates, identifying elements of ad fraud and studying the processes to prevent it.

As a digital advertising newbie, the technical aspects (not to mention, the countless acronyms) can become overwhelming, but fortunately, there’s a great team supporting and teaching me.

Although my role is focused on ad ops at the moment, I’m also keen to expand my knowledge of other areas of the business such as finance, marketing and production.

It sounds like it’s been a busy first week for you! What ambitions have you got for the future?

A goal of mine is to follow in my father’s entrepreneurial footsteps, and so, with support from university, I’ve managed to build the foundations for my own enterprise, a surf business called ‘Wavved’. The business aims to provide the products and services to help people take up surfing.

My hope is to use all of the knowledge I gain at Coull to positively influence my future business ventures, such as to increase effectiveness in the marketplace and become more profitable.

Already, my time at Coull has made me realise the level of commitment I want to provide to my future customers and the responsibility I’d have in relation to advertising online.

Coull is a new and exciting challenge for me and one I hope to learn a lot from.

Posted by Naomi Sandercock in Coull news
Press release: Coull earns JICWEBS Brand Safety seal of approval

Press release: Coull earns JICWEBS Brand Safety seal of approval

Coull has been verified to the JICWEBS Brand Safety Good Practice Principles by independent industry body ABC. The aim of the Good Practice Principles is to inject greater transparency into the UK digital ad market, ultimately giving brands greater confidence that their advertising will reach the right audience and will not be associated with content that could jeopardise brand reputation.

They have invested in, and improved, their proprietary technology to ensure anti-fraud and brand safety. Coull’s dedicated compliance team and partnerships with industry-leading verification vendors ensure a very comprehensive compliance process.

As a JICWEBS approved Verification Provider, ABC supplies the online media industry with a trusted and robust currency on which media space can be bought and sold. For more information on ABC’s Verification Service please go to www.abc.org.uk/verification/brand-safety

Dan Ginns, Managing Director at Coull, comments: "At Coull, we recognise the importance of transparency in the digital ad industry, and this means in all aspects of the digital chain. We are truly invested in the compliance process, which is why we’ve decided to go through the JICWEBS Brand Safety audit process as official recognition of this. We’re proud to say we’ve now achieved their seal of approval, so when companies partner with us, they can partner in confidence."

Simon Redlich, Chief Executive at ABC, said: “We are delighted to have verified Coull to the JICWEBS Digital Trading Standards Group (DTSG) Good Practice Principles. ABC’s verification service gives our industry confidence about compliance with JICWEBS industry-agreed standards and raises the bar in the important area of brand safety, a key milestone in the evolution of digital display advertising.”

Read more about how we ensure brand safety.

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About Coull

Coull is an advertising technology company that specialises in video overlay advertising. Coull was founded in Bristol in 2008 and now has teams in Bristol, London and the US.

Coull is a unique advertising format provider for the open web with a proprietary programmatic platform. The Coull Platform consists of the Coull SSP, Coull Exchange and distinct Coull advertising formats - The OverStream Suite.

With nearly a decade of industry experience and a wealth of technological knowledge, Coull has become the video overlay advertising specialists and experts in the online video world.

About ABC

ABC delivers a stamp of trust for the media industry. We are owned and developed jointly by media owners, advertisers and agencies to set industry-agreed standards for media brand measurement across print, digital and events.

ABC is also a trusted verification provider. We audit media brand measurement data and the adoption of good practice and process to industry-agreed standards.

Established in 1931, ABC was the first UK Joint Industry Currency (JIC) and is a founder member of the International Federation of ABCs.

For more information please visit www.abc.org.uk

About JICWEBS

JICWEBS is the UK's Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards and is made up of the following trade bodies: Association of Online Publishers (AOP), Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) UK, News Media Association, ISBA – the voice of British advertisers – and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA).

For more information please visit www.jicwebs.org

Posted by Naomi Sandercock in Coull news, Press releases
Ads.txt: the best thing you can adopt this festive season

Ads.txt: the best thing you can adopt this festive season

A kitten? No. And it’s not a puppy either (although, that would be nice). The best thing you can adopt this year is Ads.txt. Unfortunately, it’s not as fluffy as a kitten and it won’t go for walkies. But, it can soon become a man’s (or woman’s) best friend.

This year, P&G’s Marc Pritchard called the digital advertising industry out on its lack of transparency, claiming it’s “murky at best, and fraudulent at worst”. But the IAB (the Internet Advertising Bureau) has developed a tool (released in May earlier this year) to help clear the murky waters.

What is Ads.txt?

It’s an IAB-approved tool that can be used to authenticate websites and prevent unauthorised inventory sales.

Why should you care?

This tool removes fraud from the sell side by preventing domain spoofing.

Domain spoofing is when a site is made to resemble a real and established website. This practice allows publishers to misrepresent low-quality inventory as coming from high-quality sources.

The Financial Times recently investigated domain spoofing against their site and found shockingly high levels: “They estimated the value of the fraudulent inventory to be £1 million a month.” However, this won’t affect their revenue anymore as they’ve recently started using Ads.txt and their inventory can be authorised by buyers.

Also, as you’re probably more than aware, we’re on the cusp of the busiest time of year, so there’s no better time than now to get friendly with Ads.txt.

What are the advantages?

  • Ads.txt is free to use (and who doesn’t love a freebie?)

  • This is a step further towards a fraud-free web

  • Increases transparency in the whole industry

  • Opens up communication between all companies along the chain

  • Publishers: maintain your revenue

  • Advertisers: know exactly what inventory you’re buying

What are the disadvantages?

Apart from taking a small amount of time to set up…none!

Great! So how can you adopt Ads.txt?

You need to add an Ads.txt file to your site by adding “/ads.txt” on your root domain. It’s essentially adding an extra page on your website.

For example:

http://example.org/ads.txt

This page will contain the information that the ads.txt crawler will use to verify authentication.

This set of data is a list of advertising systems, such as DSPs, Exchanges etc. that are allowed to buy inventory on that site. This will include their domain names, a unique publisher account number and the type of account (direct/reseller).

For example:

coull.com, 12345, DIRECT #banner

google.com, 23456, DIRECT #banner

appnexus.com, 34567, RESELLER #native

Why do we love Ads.txt at Coull?

Ads.txt fits in with our company ad fraud ethos:

We think that implementing Ads.txt throughout the whole industry will bring more transparency and teamwork and will help fight the battle against those nasty fraudsters.

So, what’s next?

The IAB is looking to make Ads.txt mandatory soon, so the earlier you can implement it, the better. Companies all along the chain are already saying they only want to work with Ads.txt publishers. Don’t lose out on your revenue for something that is free and so simple.

For more information on Ads.txt, visit the IAB Tech Lab.

Posted by Naomi Sandercock in Coull comment
One idea, countless battles: Coull’s journey against ad fraud

One idea, countless battles: Coull’s journey against ad fraud

Coull's journey against ad fraudCreativity at the heart

Born out of the vibrant streets of Bristol, Coull has always had creativity at the heart of the business. Coull’s founders had a vision of making online video advertising an engaging and interactive experience. The idea was brewing away in the background since 2005, but the online video world was still growing and adapting. High-speed internet hadn’t appeared and many different video formats made things more complicated.

Skip forward a few years to 2007, YouTube had grown to over 50 million users and high-speed internet had arrived. Families were able to watch a cat play the piano, a dog surfing and someone biting Charlie’s finger, from the comfort of their own homes. It was revolutionary and people couldn’t get enough. The popularity of video content shot up and the creators wanted a way to profit from it.

Cue Coull. 2008 was our founding year and although we’ve come a long way since then, it was always about our love affair with video.

Introducing…programmatic

Programmatic arrived like a whirlwind in 2013. By connecting everyone and allowing quicker, more efficient sales, it sounded like a dream. Caught up in the vortex of the programmatic online world, Coull started out with an ad network model. We were integrating with leading programmatic platforms to enable delivery of interest-based, targeted advertising at a global scale.

One problem: ad fraud

All of the innovations emerging from the humble office in Bristol were exciting, but there was one big problem with the online ad industry: fraud. The regulation of crime, particularly ad fraud, couldn’t keep up with the digital world.

But Coull was prepared. We were producing our own in-house anti-fraud technology in the background for some time. Such as domain and IP filters, URL detection and implementing the IAB’s VPAID specification.

As anticipated, the talk about fraud in the media increased and some shocking figures flagged up. Behind the scenes, fraudsters had been on a crime shopping spree and cost the industry billions each year.

We quickly realised that, although ad networks were great for connecting us, the business model was a doomed one. It was undifferentiated and arbitraged inventory, combined with a justifiable loss of trust from buyers resulting in an inevitable race to the bottom. More importantly, it didn’t represent our original vision to be unique and think outside the box.

Dedicated team

First and foremost, at Coull, we pride ourselves on being a technology company. We have a dedicated team, many of whom are developers, and a fresh minded approach. This has lead to building and launching the Coull Platform. Our Platform consists of the Coull SSP, Coull Exchange and distinct Coull advertising formats, which are all self-built to fit Coull’s vision.

With us, publishers can earn revenue without spamming their content, advertisers can benefit from effective formats and users don’t get overloaded by ads. Not only this, we have a very comprehensive compliance process paired with a strong company ethos in combatting fraud.

We’ve invested in and improved our proprietary technology to ensure anti-fraud and brand safety. Applying our technology, we have a dedicated compliance team and partnerships with industry-leading verification vendors. Using their audit results, our true URL detection product and IP filters, we can effectively fight domain spoofing, bot fraud and build trust among our partners.

Viewability

But we aren’t stopping there. Viewability is of paramount importance. We currently measure viewability through our partners, but we have additional plans to improve our business. Using our technology expertise, in combination with our measurement partners, we expect to build our own viewable inventory marketplaces.

Regulation and transparency

Unfortunately, the internet won’t ever be fraud-free. Even recently, the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) estimate that ad fraud is likely to exceed $50 billion by 2025. Much like a game of whack-a-mole, as soon as one source of fraud is stamped out, another three pop up. But by having our own technology and platform, regulation is a lot simpler for us and being transparent with partners is easier.

After nine years of a bumpy rollercoaster ride in the online advertising industry, we’re now proud to say we’ve come a long way, keeping our founder’s vision alive and continuing to aspire. We have a strong ethos on ad fraud and are always trying to be transparent, educate and work with partners to tackle ad fraud together.

Find out more about fighting ad fraud by reading our last blog post: “Combatting ad fraud on the wild, wild, web“.

Posted by Naomi Sandercock in Coull news
Combatting ad fraud on the wild wild web

Combatting ad fraud on the wild wild web

ad fraud infographicFilms are made about drug cartels and stories are told of famous bank heists. But why aren’t we talking about one of the biggest organised crimes in the world: online ad fraud? It’s not as dramatic as other crime stories, but the elusiveness of digital fraud is one of the many reasons it’s not stopping. And we think it’s worth talking about.

By 2025, the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) estimate that ad fraud is likely to exceed $50 billion, making it second only to the drugs trade in terms of income. The web is turning into the wild west; every advertiser, publisher and adtech company for themselves. Ad fraud is relentless and jeopardising free online content.

But not to worry, there’s a new sheriff in town.

Coull has come a long way since our humble beginnings, we quickly realised how huge ad fraud was and we had to change this. Since then, we have been trying to tackle fraud in the wild wild web.

First of all, what should we all be looking for?

Automated traffic: Otherwise known as non-human traffic (NHT), it is the most common form of ad fraud. These bots can come from software applications which run automated tasks over the internet to simulate human activity.

Invalid traffic: 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.

Ghost sites: Ghost sites are made to resemble real websites, but have no value and instead host a multitude of advertisements.

Proxy traffic: A proxy allows anonymous access to the internet and can browse the internet without leaving a 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.

Spoofing: A malicious party impersonates another device (or user) on a network in order to show ad requests from more reputable sources.

Ad injection: The ad is loaded by ad injection software, often bundled with other software like games and toolbars. This artificially inflates the number of ads on a page and can lead to a negative user experience.

With a free and open internet dependant on ad revenues, it’s important that the entire chain works together to ultimately strike out the risk of ad fraud.

Here’s Coull’s advice and ethos:

Transparency

Being able to be completely open and honest with everyone in the industry means that, things like invalid traffic and ghost sites are easier to detect. Without transparency, it’s like finding a needle in a haystack…in the dark.

Coull strives to be a transparent and trusted company to work with. Which is why we’ve put a huge amount of time, effort and investment into eradicating invalid traffic from our platform.

Teamwork

We don’t have to tackle this crime alone, using the best third-party vendors to verify traffic is much more effective. At Coull, we work with MRC accredited third-party verification tools to track all inventory and act accordingly.

Also, we have our very own fraud detecting hero, Nicola, Coull’s compliance manager. Every day, Nicola manually scans traffic and domains to cut out the pesky bots and *inappropriate* websites. This enables us to have a multi-level process targeting ad fraud and eliminating it from our platform.

We have introduced our Traffic Quality Assurance program. This helps publisher partners reach the required quality and to help our advertisers buy media with confidence.

No double standards

Much like the wild west, online advertising doesn’t have many set rules, turning the internet into a western shootout – fraudulent traffic coming from every direction. One way to stop fraud is by measuring genuine ad impressions and true viewability.

Although industry bodies like the International Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) are setting guidelines, not everyone follows them. There are a huge number of ad tech vendors running their own measurement of these standards. This means each vendor’s results will be different, affecting expected CPMs, creating a lack of expected inventory and mistrust.

Coull has been working on pre-bid viewability technology. We can detect where the ad unit is on the page before it’s served. This enables advertisers to decide what inventory to purchase based on whether their ad would likely be in view. The biggest advantage is that this minimizes wasted ad spend, giving demand partners real-time data to help them make the best buying decision.

Educate

Coull’s queen of compliance, Nicola says, “Educating people about the different types of fraud is one of the most important things at the moment. Unfortunately, law enforcement is still behind on tackling ad fraud, so we need to learn how to defend ourselves.” So that means, helping publishers recognise any fraudulent traffic and the different forms it comes in. Also, helping buyers achieve an efficient and valuable return on campaigns by evading traps and not buying blind.

Direct partnerships

With the hundreds of partners, networks and exchanges out there it makes it easier for fraud to creep in. Whereas, having direct partnerships can eliminate the risk. According to Integral Ad Science, nearly 9% of digital ads delivered via programmatic channels are fraudulent, compared with only 2% of ads delivered through direct deals with publishers.

Coull cut out the middlemen by hosting our own exchange, connecting demand partners directly to publishers’ ad servers. And our formats, OverStream and DoubleUp are direct publisher integrations, for a simpler environment.

What now?Coull ad fraud checklist

Many companies are working on anti-fraud techniques, particularly the buy side. However, this year will hopefully see more supply side and exchange take the lead.

Publishers: Fraudulent activity can compromise your business model and can damage the brand’s reputation. You need to be able to identify the different forms of invalid traffic and be transparent about inventory.

Advertisers: Fake views on your online campaign is wasting money and creates inaccurate data about the ad’s performance. Make sure you know exactly what inventory you’re buying to protect brand image and have a more valuable return on campaigns.

Ad tech suppliers: If fraud is being hosted by your technology, you’ll be liable for refunds to your advertisers and their agencies – and may even be removed from media plans. Work on keeping up standards and abiding by guidelines. Also, direct relationships with partners result in more trust and transparency.  

It’s all about teamwork and education to banish the fraud cowboys from the wild wild web, for good.

Posted by Naomi Sandercock in Coull news
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

Coull Quickie October – The one about ad fraud

We’ve spoken about ad fraud before – it’s making headlines. Lots of platforms and vendors are saying they’re doing something about ad fraud. But the proof shouldn’t be about expensive marketing campaigns claiming miracles, it’s in the investment by tech companies to make a real change to the way digital media is bought.

Let’s break this down, discard the sugar coating and get real.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull video
Mastering the metrics: stop forcing your ad agency to buy fraud

Mastering the metrics: stop forcing your ad agency to buy fraud

Agencies and marketers are taking the reins of their ad spending and campaign monitoring. But there’s still confusion over which metrics are best to capture a campaign’s performance.

But does it really matter?

The short answer, yes.

Marketers’ choice of KPI’s can actually be having a massive impact on the overall success of a digital campaign.

Often, the benchmarks marketers set can indirectly encourage ad buyers to turn to fraudulent options to try and hit unrealistic targets. Marketers and advertisers soon find themselves trapped in the number-chasing cycle.

mastering the metrics - ad buying cycle

So, how can we break the cycle?

Mastering the metrics: Viewability

Marketers and advertisers need to understand ad metrics and read between the numbers. As Digiday reports, GroupM doesn’t care about the time spent on an ad, but rather the viewability of an ad. Metrics such as viewability rate, fill rate and impression rate can offer detailed information on this. But aiming for an unrealistically high % can pose an array of risks:

  • Pushing for a large number of impressions may compromise the ad’s placement online. mastering the metrics: viewability

  • Ad buyers may turn to ad servers and/or players that take part in malpractice such as:

    • counting an impression before the ad has loaded.

    • rotating multiple ads in a player to count multiple impressions with no ad being properly served.

    • placing an ad on a range of fraudulent websites.

  • Ad buyers may be encouraged to ‘cookie bomb’ a page. This is when lots of cookies are dropped onto a page, trying to convert at least a small percentage.

  • Highly-viewable traffic is not always viewed by humans. Unusually high viewability rates can be an indicator of fraudulent activity.

Transparent Reporting

Marketers, advertisers and publishers need access to impartial campaign performance measurement.

mastering the metrics: transparent reporting

Here at Coull, we recognise the industry’s need for a third party fraud-free “enforcer”. By using an array of fraud detection tools, such as the IAB’s approved cybersecurity service and manual vetting, we’re able to detect sophisticated patterns of fraud. We then work closely with both the publishers and advertisers to relay this information back and (most importantly) take action across our marketplace.

The duopoly, Google and Facebook, have often been accused of having a much less objective approach to reports as some of their ad metrics have yet to be verified by third-parties. Unilever’s Keith Weed has likened this to “marking their own homework”.

Realistic Targets

Marketers and advertisers need to be realistic with their KPI benchmarks. As Venture Beat reports, new video formats such as click-to-play pre-roll, native and out-stream, and video within social content are much more fraud-resistant. However, “ad-buyers continued to expect the high completion rates the overall industry had been promising”.

       mastering the metrics: realistic targets

Many have suggested that the need for a new reporting metric is the real answer to the dilemma. But the reality is, numbers will always be subject to potential manipulation. The responsibility lies with the marketers to tackle digital ad metrics head on, without turning a blind eye to the potential risks. Numbers on fill, viewability and completion on high-quality fraud-free websites are undoubtedly going to be lower than those generated in the realm of bots, dodgy players and fake websites.

Ultimately, elevated completion rates like those projected by both Facebook and Google in recent months are simply unrealistic for in-feed ads. Both marketers and advertisers need to agree that a potential dip in the graph is a small price to pay for real human views on high-quality sites.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment
Tackling video ad fraud

Tackling video ad fraud

Digital advertising has had its fair share of issues over the years, some have been overcome, some remain bugbears and others are critically problematic in our industry today. Video ad fraud is, without a doubt, the latter. In 2015 we saw the rise of bots and in 2016 the advertising industry is set to attribute losses of approximately $7.2 billion globally to the nasty things.

What is ad fraud?

Video ad fraud covers a range of deceitful techniques administered by fraudsters with the object of making money. One of the reasons video ad fraud is the plague of programmatic advertising is that it can appear in so many forms, therefore, making it difficult for the industry to identify and deal with it. Here are some of the types of desktop fraud we come across at Coull:

Automated traffic

Automatic traffic finds botnet activity flagged on the user level through real-time traffic pattern analysis.

Proxy

The IP address is a known proxy.

Spoofing

The user’s device and browser were manipulated to resemble a different device or browser. This technique is commonly used to produce a real-life distribution of traffic and simulate traffic from multiple visitors.

Ad injection

The ad was locked by ad injection software, often bundled with other software like games and toolbars. This practice artificially inflates the number of ads on a page and can lead to a negative user experience.

Cloaked domains

There’s an imbalance between the domain where the ad appeared and the referring domain. This practice enables undesirable properties such as pirate and adult sites to sell inventory under a high-CPM category such as cars or travel.

Domain spoofing

The publisher reports an inaccurate domain to the exchange. The ad never appeared on the publisher-reported domain. This practice allows publishers to misrepresent low-quality inventory as coming from high-quality sources. In some cases, ghost sites can use this technique.

Video ad fraud bots aren't as cute as Wall-e

What are bots?

Unfortunately, I’m not talking about WALL-E. The bots I’m referring to represent non-human traffic, the most common form of ad fraud today. Fraud exists to make money illegally and as digital advertising grows, fraudsters are able to take advantage of the system. Bots can come from software that runs automated tasks over the internet to simulate human activity. It’s been estimated by Videology that 8%-23% of online video ad inventory is consumed by bot impressions. This is a significant problem for video advertisers to contend with.

Solution?

At Coull, we utilise industry-leading cybersecurity services to filter and detect inappropriate content coming through the system. Our Compliance team use strategies to identify and rate any invalid traffic. This enables us to have a multi-level process targeting ad fraud and eliminating it from our platform. Manual detection is a key part in removing certain types of domain fraud, including the aforementioned ghost sites, that haunt the web.

Who you gonna call?…

So what are ‘ghost’ sites? Well, they’re spooks! Ghost sites may look like ordinary websites at first glance, however, if you dig a little deeper you will uncover their dark secrets. These sinister pages exist to bypass tech filters and, because they look clean and safe, tech vendors let them off the hook.

We’re doing everything we can to identify ghost sites and ensure the culprits don’t get past our compliance. But there are things you can do too, and they don’t involve bringing in an exorcist. Follow the simple tips below and you’ll be able to spot a ghost site a mile away.

How to spot a ghost (site)

WordPress templates

Ghost sites typically look very similar as their templates often originate from WordPress. The templates will all have the same layout with different skins for each.

No contact or web hosting information

Ghost sites will, more often than not, have links to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. However, if you click on the links they’ll lead to nothing or old accounts. Something else to look out for is cheap website solutions such as ‘Garden Pages’ and a hidden presence on the internet with services like DomainsByProxy. Do you want to contact the owner? No chance. They won’t have any contact information or the information will be false.

Strange growth patterns

Ghost sites don’t pay for their traffic growth and will buy from Click Farms.

Hardcoded banner ads

Banner ads on a ghost site will have a URL destination which will lead straight back to the same ghost site. The banner ads are mostly static images making them seem like genuine ads, however, they’re most probably fake.

Will there be a future without video ad fraud?

Ad fraud detection is a very tricky business. Every day is like the wild west with fraudsters stealing impressions left, right and centre. There’s no superhero to lock them up and put an end to their tyranny. But we’re working hard to change that.

Our compliance team is leading the way and guarding our marketplace against fraudulent activity. Coull has a zero-tolerance policy and we take all forms of video ad fraud very seriously. We’re raising awareness and working with leading fraud detection vendors to make the industry a fraud-free place for our partners. We can weed the industry garden of video ad fraud, we’re just asking for your help to replant it.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment