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The beginning of better advertising and less screen time

The beginning of better advertising and less screen time

Screens are everywhere, laptops, TVs, smartphones – they’ve become an ingrained part of our lives. So it’s no surprise that nearly a quarter of the UK population spend over 10 hours a day looking at a screen.

However, people are becoming more aware of the addictive nature of the digital world and their own screen usage. In fact, a Deloitte survey found that 38% of people believe they’re using their phones too much. This new self-awareness is prompting a change in behaviour and many smartphone users are aiming to decrease their screen time.

Even Apple is addressing this trend by rolling out a new iPhone feature that encourages people to limit their app usage. This feature is a built-in ‘App Timer’ that can set limits on certain apps, reminding the user to move on after 30 minutes or an hour.

But how does this affect digital advertising?

It’s no secret that advertising follows eyeballs, it’s estimated that we’re exposed to 4,000 to 10,000 advertising messages every day. So of course, digital advertising has become the most prominent strategy for the modern marketer. And the numbers don’t lie, over £11 billion was spent on UK digital advertising last year.

As people are deciding to use screens less, many advertisers are fighting for their attention more. Unfortunately, this has resulted in a shouting match, seeing which brand can shout the loudest. This isn’t a great user experience, nor is it working for advertisers. The solution is not adding to the noise, but instead, to provide value where it’s relevant and useful.

Advertising needs to change alongside the trend, not against it. People are utilising their screen time for more useful and enriching experiences and ads should follow suit.

Publishers should work on improving the user experience

Advertising is a value exchange, it supports valuable content, news sources and social platforms. However, some ads don’t always contribute to a positive user experience by disrupting content or dominating the page.

The Coalition for Better Ads (CBA) aim to set new global standards for better online advertising. Using consumer insights and industry expertise, the CBA has developed initial ‘Better Ads Standards’ for desktop and mobile web:

Coalition for better advertising standards

This demonstrates the ad types that are unacceptable and are now blocked by Google Chrome’s Ad Blocker. But what ad types are acceptable? Well, the IAB has released the ‘LEAN Principles’, a set of principles that outlines ad standards that will deliver a better user experience.

LEAN stands for:
Light – Limited file size with strict data call guidelines.
Encrypted – Assure user privacy with ads delivered over HTTPS. Protect server-to-server communication.
Ad Choice Supported – All ads should feature the Adchoices icon and support DAA’s consumer privacy programs.
Non-invasive/Non-disruptive – Ads that supplement the user experience and don’t disrupt it by covering content and enabling sound by default.

By working with reputable ad tech companies, publishers can help brands show non-intrusive ads and make a better experience for their users.

At Coull, we work closely to these standards to make sure we produce ad formats that promote a positive user experience. We think of innovative ways to utilise unused and non-intrusive spaces, such as our OnPause format that only display an advert when a video is paused.

OnPause video ad format

 

Advertisers should provide value and quality through the right format and bespoke creative

Yes, advertising is a value exchange, but advertising itself should also provide value.

Instead of bombarding people with advertising, more thought should be put into the messaging and creative itself. As comic Steve Martin says,

“be so good they can’t ignore you.”

The IAB’s ‘Fit for Purpose’ research showed that 78% of UK adults are annoyed by ads that aren’t tailored to their smartphone device. But when mobile-optimised ads were made, there was a 56% uplift in brand consideration.

Only by working solely with reputable ad tech companies and web publishers can we truly improve digital advertising.

How can you find out which companies can be trusted? The IAB aims to do just that with their new Gold Standard.

Gold is advertising’s best friend

IAB Gold Standard Registered logo

We’re committed to making a better online advertising experience which is why we’re now registered for the IAB’s Gold Standard. The Gold Standard initiative aims to reduce ad fraud, improve the digital advertising experience and increase brand safety.

We’re really excited by the positive changes happening in the industry, so let’s all raise a glass to a future filled with better advertising and enriching online experiences for everyone.

Posted by Naomi Sandercock in Coull comment
Why Coull is putting brand safety first (and why you should too)

Why Coull is putting brand safety first (and why you should too)

What do they say to you before you hop on to a rollercoaster? Safety first! Now, it’s also a phrase that can be applied to digital advertising and brand safety - and what a rollercoaster ride the ad industry has been on recently.

Only last year, people were questioning big fish like YouTube about the safety of brands when advertising on their platforms. It was discovered that some ads were being placed next to unsafe content, such as terrorist or extremist content. This led to multiple brands, such as Pepsi and Walmart pulling their ads from YouTube, as it was not only harming their brand image, but it also meant their ads were possibly funding unsafe videos.

Hence, why the main focus from 2018 onwards should be about putting brand safety first.

So, what can be done to improve brand safety in the digital ad industry?


Industry standards are the key that opens up the doors to trust

The most important thing is working with completely transparent and trusted partners. The vital building block in any relationship is trust. So why would a business partnership be any different?

Companies should be seeking industry body accreditation to give their partners peace of mind. The IAB have launched their Gold Standard initiative, with the aim to reduce ad fraud, improve the digital advertising experience and increase brand safety.

A part of the Gold Standard is becoming a JICWEBS signatory and adhering to the DTSG brand safety principles. The aim of the Good Practice Principles is to improve transparency in the UK digital advertising market, giving brands more confidence that their advertising will reach the right audience in a brand safe way.

On our journey to gaining the IAB Gold Standard and showing our own dedication to brand safety, we’ve partnered with JICWEBS and have recently been awarded our brand safety seal of compliance!


What does this mean?

  • Industry standards body, ABC have verified our compliance with JICWEBS DTSG Good Practice Principles.
  • We’re proactively delivering on the industry demand for more transparency in digital media.
  • We’re making sure that when you partner with us, you can partner with confidence.
  • We’re supporting JICWEBS, made up of the trade bodies, the IAB, AOP, IPA, ISBA and News Media Association.

We earnt this through our transparency in the digital ad industry and our dedication to our compliance process. We have invested in and improved our proprietary technology to ensure anti-fraud and brand safety. Our dedicated compliance team and partnerships with industry-leading verification vendors ensure a very comprehensive compliance process.

Check before you buy

There are certain things you can check out before partnering with a company, such as, if they are a reputable company, what their domains and content is like, if they have their own brand safety policy and if they have official accreditation.

Pre-boarding checks are an important part of Coull’s compliance process. Prior to signing contracts, all inventory is human vetted by Coull’s dedicated compliance team and verified as safe, or rejected – at which point further talks with the supply partner will be terminated. The example of what we look for when we filter are: ghost sites, illegal content, graphic violence, the IP reputation, botnets, the viewability of inventory and lots more.

If we are happy with the company and their domains, we can then think about partnering. At this point, the company must agree to comply with our policies, including our brand safety policy.

Whitelists

Keeping up with the countless sites out there and filtering between the brand safe and the unsavoury, all whilst fast-moving fraudsters wait in the sidelines, can become a bit of a ‘cat and mouse’ game. However, whitelists are an effective way to navigate in the wild web. A whitelist is a list of approved and acceptable sites to run campaigns on.

As well as our pre-boarding checks, we analyse and categorise supply inventory that is human-verified. This creates a whitelisted inventory pool that demand partners may opt to buy from. This double verification provides a deeper level of invalid domain detection.

The human element

In a highly technologically world, digital advertising needs some element of human judgement. No matter how much you try to automate a process with technology, it’s unlikely a machine will ever truly know what ‘brand safety’ is because it’s a subjective term and the meaning will change with the times.

Coull employs both human and technological approaches to identify and prevent ads being delivered into content environments that may pose a risk to brand image. Bringing technology and human elements in at the right points in the compliance process means we can all bask in the brand safety glory.

___________________________________

Brand safety is at the forefront of our minds so that all of our partners have full trust in us and we hope that it encourages the rest of the industry to follow suit.

Let’s make 2018 the year we all put brand safety first.

Posted by Naomi Sandercock in Coull comment, 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
We’re crowdfunding! Become a part of the Coull story

We’re crowdfunding! Become a part of the Coull story

EDIT (16/7/18): fundraising has now ended.

We are crowdfunding! But, hang on...what exactly is crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is a way of raising finance that makes it easy for anyone to invest in a growing business, from as little as £10. We’re raising funds on Crowdcube, Europe’s leading equity crowdfunding platform.

What do we do and why are we raising funds?

We’re the advertising technology company that aims to make better online advertising experiences for everyone, and we need your help to do this

We are raising funds to:

  • Increase our sales team
  • Build upon our targeted marketing strategy
  • Continue with product development in line with client requirements

As a result, we can grow as a business in the £12bn UK digital ad market and most importantly, make online advertising a better experience for everyone.

So, how do we make advertising better?

Our innovative advertising formats give creative freedom to advertisers while ensuring the user viewing experience is enhanced rather than damaged. Importantly, our technology ensures that website publishers still get paid, thus keeping the internet free for us all.

How to get involved…

We’re raising investment through Crowdcube, a leading UK crowdfunding platform. Crowdfunding allows you to invest in Coull from as little as £10.

For the next 30 days, you can invest in Coull on Crowdcube and become a part of the Coull story.

If you have any questions, please get in contact.

Please remember, investments of this nature carry risks to your capital. Please Invest Aware.

Posted by Naomi Sandercock in Coull news
The Power of Video

The Power of Video

Online video has been around ever since I can remember, I grew up with it - even if it was through a dodgy dial-up connection. But video advertising has also been around since I can remember, and it’s not all been as positive. Don’t get me wrong, when advertisers get video right, they really get it right, like this famous ad from Cadburys. But why are high-quality, memorable and relevant video adverts so few and far between?

Gone are the days when advertisers could spend weeks and months planning the perfect advertising campaign for a billboard or magazine page. We’re now living in a fast-moving, rapid-consuming world, we want video and we want it now. There’s a panic amongst advertisers, millions of videos are being watched every day and adverts need to follow that audience. And so, rushed, ineffective and non-engaging video ads are born, in an attempt to get something - anything - into the video space, ignoring quality and only focusing on the quantity.

And that’s just where the advertising industry has gone wrong. There’s such a rush to get into the video space, in front of an audience, that the most important thing has been forgotten...the people watching. There’s no use putting a message out there, if it isn’t high-quality content, if it doesn’t engage and if it’s not relevant.

Videos can be powerful, but we need to learn to harness that power to win over audiences once again.

The Power of Video

Last week, we hosted a breakfast event all about digital video, called The Power of Video. The aim of this event was to discuss the current state of the online video advertising industry and how to unlock the power of online video.


The IAB’s Senior Industry Initiatives Manager, Mike Reynolds, presented first, focusing on video trends and creative research. He shared some research to emphasise the huge growth of the video market.

Video is driving market growth

X3 | The time spent watching short video clips online has tripled in the last three years.

Source: IAB / YouGov consumer insights, October 2017

£699m | Online video has overtaken banners as the largest display format.

Source: IAB / PWC Digital Adspend Study H1 2017

But he also touched on how mobile is such a big influence on advertising spend.

Mobile video is also driving growth

68% | Mobile video is up 68% year on year, making it the fastest growing format.

Source: IAB / PWC Digital Adspend Study H1 2017

Lastly, he spoke about the IAB’s research, ‘Fit for Purpose’. This research looks at how advertisers tailor creative video ads for mobiles. If you would like to find out more about ‘Fit for Purpose’, the IAB is hosting the official research launch on 20th March 2018.

Next up was Coull’s very own Director of Agency Sales, Alex Wright.

Alex asked the question, why are videos so powerful? The answer: it’s part of our DNA. Paying attention to motion and avoiding cognitive strain are just a few reasons why we are hard-wired to favour video over any other format.

Perhaps more importantly for brands, is that videos can generate far more emotional cues than a photo can, with the ability to tell an extensive story and appeal to a wider range of senses.

It's ideas that evoke specific emotional responses: joy, sadness, anger, laughter etc. These emotions fuel passion and drive human behaviour while building a brand relationship with an audience.

Emotions form brand connections

But, as Alex went on to say, that power is being diluted through poorly made videos that don’t take their audience - or the device they’re watching on - into account. However, here are the 4 action points from Alex on how to get the most out of your video advertising:

how to unlock the power of video advertising infographic

Follow these steps and we can say goodbye to videos that make little to no impact and say hello to engaging, high-quality videos that connect brands and audiences.

Are you unsure of the best way to follow-up a pre-roll? This is where we can help.

We enhance the impact of your pre-roll by giving it an immediate follow-up within the video player. We can offer a variety of follow-up options from within our OverStream Suite. When you pair our OverStream formats with pre-roll, we call this DoubleUp.

Our OverStream Suite formats:

OverStream Banner - video advertising format

Banner

Our simplest format that delivers results from inside the video stream.

The Banner appears for 30 seconds, offering brand engagement opportunities. The user can choose to dismiss the advert at any time with a clearly distinguished close button.

 


 

Minimising MPU

Grabs attention and encourages action, with your audience in mind.

The Minimising MPU format appears in the corner of the video player for 5 seconds before minimising to a small ‘ad-expand’ icon that re-expands on user interaction. The user may then engage with, or close, the advert at their discretion.

OverStream Minimising MPU - video advertising format

 


 

OverStream OnPause - video advertising format

OnPause

An intelligent ad format, shown when the audience clicks pause.

OnPause delivers an ad on the video player each time it is paused by the user. This is easily dismissable via the ‘dismiss’ button or automatically when content is resumed.

 


 

 

However, we see the value of both high-quality pre-roll and high-quality video content. Our aim is to add value to any video. So, if you would prefer to not use pre-roll, you can still reach video audiences solely through any OverStream format, so you can still make use of a valuable and viewable online space.

If you’re interested in how Coull can help you harness the power of video advertising, check out The OverStream suite or contact us.

 

Take a look at the photos from The Power of Video...

Posted by Naomi Sandercock in Coull news
Christmas is coming…and so are the adverts!

Christmas is coming…and so are the adverts!

Meet Daisy, a 14-year-old junior intern. She visited the Bristol office last week for work experience and to learn all about Coull.

This is her first taste of marketing! Check out Daisy’s favourite Christmas adverts and our festive advertising top tips…

1. John Lewis – Monty the Penguin

What is it about?

This advert is about a boy who has a toy penguin, represented in life form. The boy decides to give the penguin a companion for Christmas, to keep him company. This advert may not have any words, but it still shows emotion in a playful and powerful way.

Why do we like it?

  • John Lewis talks beyond their brand and conveys an emotive message, for example, “Christmas is for sharing”.

  • They use memorable, impactful music.

2.  Coca-Cola – A Coke for Christmas

What is it about?

Coca-Cola has become quite iconic in the Christmas advertising world and are allegedly responsible for Santa being dressed in red. They’ve managed to market a product, that’s arguably not very healthy for you, and make themselves a worldwide brand. This advert depicts a family Christmas and everyone sharing and celebrating with a coke. ‘Family time’ and ‘sharing’ are common themes in Christmas ads.

Why do we like it?

  • Coca-cola has created a worldwide tradition by dressing Santa in red, in a clever way to reinforce their branding.

  • They show a family Christmas, really speaking to their audience on a personal level.

3. M&S – Mrs Claus

What is it about?

Marks and Spencers made a comeback in 2016 when they released their Mrs Claus advert. This is a heartwarming and funny advert, targeting their audience with the main character (Mrs Claus). As well as all this, there’s a theme of feminism throughout, empowering Mrs Claus as a more important part of Christmas.

Why do we like it?

  • It shows a different side to Christmas, a ‘behind the scenes’ look.

  • This advert speaks directly to their target market.

  • This is an empowering message for women.

4.  Sainsbury’s – 1914

What is it about?

2014 marked 100 years since that start of World War 1, and Sainsbury’s decided to mark this pivotal point in history with this ad. This advert shows soldiers in the trenches, creating a strong sense of patriotism as well as showing the importance of kindness and friendship.

 

Why do we like it?

  • This advert speaks to British audiences, making them feel proud of their country and heritage.

  • It also reminds us of the core values about Christmas: sharing and kindness – a running theme in these Christmas ads.

5. John Lewis – The Long Wait

What is it about?

This 2011 advert shows a little boy, waiting patiently for Christmas and it ends in a heartfelt moment of present giving. What this advert does well is it takes a different point of view, taking it back to our own childhood memories.

Why do we like it?

  • This ad tells a very emotive message to the viewers, similar to the other adverts.

  • There’s no speech, only a well-chosen song, this makes more of an impact and makes the advert visually compelling.

Top tips for a successful Christmas advert

  • Emotional imagery speaks louder than words.

  • Use impactful/memorable music – sometimes speech isn’t needed at all.

  • It can be fun or serious but think outside the box to help it stand out. For example, take a different point of view like the Mrs Claus character.

  • Know and speak to your audience.

  • Use events from the past that convey a strong message, like the Sainsbury’s ‘1914’ advert.

  • Think beyond the business or the product, viewers react more to emotional, relatable messages.

 

What are your favourite Christmas adverts?

Tweet us @Coull

Posted by Naomi Sandercock in Coull comment
Snapchat: a digital fad or valuable ads?

Snapchat: a digital fad or valuable ads?

Ten-second selfies took the world by storm five years ago, in the form of Snapchat. Millennials flocked to the app like bees to a hive, and now, 166 million users send snaps daily.

Amongst features such as ‘Filters’, ‘Stories’ and ‘Discover’, a new addition arrived last month: the ‘Snap Map’. This enables Snapchatters to see their friends locations and popular local stories all over the globe. As you can imagine, this feature didn’t come without controversy.

But the point is, Snapchat is feeling the pressure to innovate. Although the app’s popularity has had steady growth over the years, one social media platform has been stealing the limelight: Instagram.

Instagram hasn’t hidden the fact that they’ve replicated many of Snapchat’s features, such as ‘stories’. They tapped into the care-free approach of Snapchat, allowing quick sharing without leaving a footprint. Originally, Instagram started out by offering users a way of posting well thought-out and edited posts. But now, Instagram has both options and as a result, the appeal of the app has skyrocketed.

How can Snapchat win back users?

  • Make it easier for people to find brands on Snapchat

Discovering a brand on Snapchat is difficult because the exact username is needed to add someone. Brands are struggling to see the benefits of using Snapchat and are either changing their tactics or switching to a different platform altogether. If Snapchat is able to change this, it’s likely that many brands would return and the users would follow.

  • Focus on creativity and functionality

Snapchat’s main message at Cannes this year was, “Bigger isn’t better” (Although their huge Ferris Wheel conveyed a slightly different message). They’re clearly aware of their growth levelling out and are putting the focus on the app’s creativity and functionality. This makes sense because, no matter how exciting an app’s features are, the duplication of these concepts will inevitably appear on competing platforms.

If Snapchat can concentrate on keeping their users happy with fun new technology and simple functionality of the app, users are more likely to stay loyal.

  • Involve influencers more

Multiple influencers are finding it harder and harder to get the support they need from SnapchatSallia Goldstein has a large Snapchat following but was recently forced to make the move to Instagram due to technical issues on Android. She told Buzzfeed, “It’s not because I want to move everything over to Instagram. It’s because I have to.”

Also, a Snapchat executive reportedly told another influencerSarah Peretz, “Snapchat is an app for friends, not creators.” when she told them she was leaving the platform.

By limiting their app this way, they’ll lose both influencers and their audiences. Some dedicated support to influencers could change all of that.

  • More monetising options

Publishers prefer Instagram because they present more monetising options. For example, Instagram allows creators to link to external sites. And the increased length of videos has enticed many publishers.

Whereas, at the moment, Snapchat’s ‘Discover’ page is one of the only places to advertise — and the access to this is limited.

Snapchat is in a very powerful position, if they can appeal to advertisers and publishers on a larger scale, it could put them ahead of the game.

Coming back to the Snap Map, this could become a valuable opportunity for brands. It could potentially offer location-based mobile advertising, leading to a more targeted reach and increased engagement. This could be the way to surpass the social media war and could provide some healthy competition against the Google/Facebook duopoly in the mobile advertising world.

Changes on the horizon?

Snapchat is on the lookout for ad tech companies in an attempt to increase the efficiency of their ads and in turn, appeal to more marketers. There have been acquisition talks with AdRoll, the programmatic advertising platform, but no offers have been taken up yet.

Only time will tell if Snapchat will survive the social platform wars or merely become just another digital fad.


At Coull, we recognise the value of video content on the web and see the importance of keeping fun and exciting content accessible. We provide technology to monetise videos that effectively tell a brand’s message and keep content creators happy. Want to know more about what we do? Talk to one of our team.

Posted by Naomi Sandercock in Coull comment
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!

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