Digital advertising

Coull is IAB Gold Standard certified

Coull is IAB Gold Standard certified

Launched at the end of last year, the IAB Gold Standard was put in place to reduce ad fraud, improve user experience and increase brand safety. Now, over 50 companies are certified including Facebook, Instagram and GroupM.

Now, Coull can be added to the Gold Standard list! Over the last year, we’ve built positive user experiences using our technology, implemented ads.txt and earned our JICWEBS Brand Safety seal. This fulfils all of the IAB Gold Standard’s criteria of:

  1. Reducing ad fraud by implementing ads.txt.
  2. Improving digital advertising experiences by following the Coalition for Better Ads principles and the ‘Better Ads Standards’.
  3. Increasing brand safety by working with JICWEBS.

All with the main aim: to build a sustainable future for digital advertising.

Dan Ginns, Coull’s Managing Director, said “We’re very pleased to receive the IAB Gold Standard certification. This further highlights our commitment to building a better future for digital advertising. Such dedication to transparency and brand safety is exactly what our clients should expect from all of their adtech partners.”

The IAB Gold Standard is an industry-wide effort

This certification isn’t only about individual companies, it’s an industry-wide effort to re-establish trust. The IAB Gold Standard isn’t a ‘nice to have’, it should become a priority for anyone trading in digital advertising – publishers, agencies and adtech businesses alike.

The subject of regulation and trust is particularly relevant after GDPR and last year’s brand safety concerns. Not only this, we need to address ad blocking. The increased use of ad blockers should be a wake-up call for the advertising industry. We need to be building a sustainable future for digital advertising. And how do we do that? By creating online ad experiences that work for everyone, especially the audience.

We welcome all self-regulation that brings improvements to the industry. The question is, will you join the combined effort too?

Posted by Naomi Sandercock in Coull news, Press releases
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
How to make programmatic advertising work in a post-GDPR world

How to make programmatic advertising work in a post-GDPR world

If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, you’ve probably been bombarded with news about privacy, data and our favourite 4-letter acronym: GDPR. One of the biggest stories was the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, where over 50 million Facebook profiles were harvested to target political adverts. This shook the world and ever since people have been questioning how their personal data is actually being used.

Though, the issue of personal privacy has been cropping up for years. Although the internet has made it easier to collect personal data, there’s been controversy surrounding the invasion of privacy long before the wide use of the internet. For example, at one point, a bill was put forward in the state of California to ban caller ID because they felt it was a breach of privacy for the caller to have their information displayed.

But it’s only now that substantial steps are being taken to protect personal data, hence the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was born.

GDPR: one month on

If you haven’t heard about GDPR (though, how could you avoid it?), it’s a law that aims to protect all EU citizens from privacy and data breaches. This regulation was enforced a month ago, on 25th May 2018.

So, what’s happened since? Businesses within Europe that handle personal data are facing more legal obligation for how they collect, process and store this data. Within the digital advertising world, personal data is collected for audience targeting, but this strategy is changing – big time. As a result, we predict other marketing and targeting techniques will flourish and ad tech will play a dominant role in this change.

How is GDPR affecting Coull?

Data privacy is affecting most businesses, but some more than others. At Coull, we’ve always taken our user’s data and their privacy seriously and so we haven’t had to change our business processes or behaviours. Though we have updated our policies and contracts to reflect our adherence to the GDPR guidelines and we will continue working closely with our partners to ensure compliance.

Ultimately, GDPR is an opportunity for responsible businesses to add value in an open and transparent way. We hope this is the start of a new era of transparent data processing across our industry.

How is it affecting the digital advertising industry as a whole?

Many digital advertising strategies rely on collecting a person’s information through browser cookies – which stores information such as age, gender, location and general interests. Whereas GDPR means that people now need to ‘opt-in’ to having their information collected. This poses a problem for advertisers who want to target audiences this way.

However, changes are already happening, such as a push towards more sponsored, social media and influencer marketing. For example, Adidas has quickly capitalised on the World Cup, by working with footballers and celebrities for social media content, directly targeting their followers.

Does this mean programmatic advertising is dead? No! Of course not. There are still successful and ‘GDPR safe’ ways to use digital advertising…

All in context

Contextual advertising is one way to avoid using personal data. It uses information on the content itself to make assumptions and then target the audience with a relevant advert. This is ‘GDPR safe’ because it doesn’t need to use personal data.

Contextual targeting has many different levels, depending on the technical and analytical capabilities, such as targeting by domain, keywords or location. For example, Land Rover may want to contextually target their audience at a domain level with an advert on a car review website.

contextual programmatic advertising, OverStream OnPause format

An example of Coull’s OnPause format displaying a Land Rover ad in a contextually targeted environment.

Retarget without using cookies

Cookie monster eating cookies

Source: Giphy

Advertisers can be real cookie monsters, collecting as many cookies as possible to target a particular campaign to the same person, again and again. However, without consent to collect their data, it can make retargeting hard. So let’s forget about the non-edible cookies, shall we?

This is where ad tech can really make a difference. For example, our format, DoubleUp, delivers a ‘two-part’ retargeting campaign in the video player. First of all, a pre-roll ad is shown, then the video plays and the second part of the campaign, a display creative, is presented in one of our OverStream formats.

As an example, Emirates might want to advertise to and retarget international travellers. They decide to put a pre-roll ad before a video about Dubai on a travel tourism website:

Contextual programmatic advertising, pre-roll DoubleUp

Emirate pre-roll (first part of a DoubleUp campaign).

Then as the video content starts playing, they can use the OverStream Banner format to retarget the same person using a CTA banner from the same campaign:

contextual programmatic advertising, OverStream Banner DoubleUp

An example of Coull’s OverStream Banner in a DoubleUp campaign for Emirates.

This feature:

  • Retargets someone in a ‘GDPR safe’ way
  • Gives people a direct ‘Call To Action’ for the pre-roll
  • Shortens the customer journey by immediately retargeting whilst you still have the customer’s attention

Aside from using different targeting techniques, education and transparency are now more important than ever. If advertisers want to continue collecting data in a post-GDPR world, they’re going to have to win back the trust of the people, through respect and complete transparency. This involves, being open about their policies and making both opt-in and opt-out options clear and easy to follow. But unfortunately, many organisations are simply using confusing wordplay to give consumers no other option other than to simply ‘accept and close’ to approve the collection of their data. This is misleading and isn’t an effective way to earn trust.

Website GDPR privacy data consent

An example of how some organisations mislead their audience and are able to gain consent to collect data

But, there’s still hope. The digital advertising industry can be incredibly creative, so it’s a matter of ‘innovate to survive’ in the world of GDPR. Perhaps this will not only encourage transparency but also give the industry an opportunity to rethink ways to deliver great advertising without invading people’s privacy. We will have to wait and see…

Posted by Mark Lee in Coull comment
PubNative – native mobile advertising

PubNative – native mobile advertising

As part of our blog series on mobile advertising, we spoke with Ionut Ciobotaru, Co-founder and Managing Director of PubNative. Ionut tells us more about this native SSP and how native mobile advertising – specifically video, is evolving.

PubNative - native mobile advertising platform

We know mobile is exploding in regards to advertising, especially video. Can you explain what role PubNative plays in mobile advertising?

PubNative is a global mobile supply-side platform (SSP) that’s fully focused on native advertising. We work directly with mobile publishers to understand their needs and provide monetisation solutions.

We have a huge range of demand in order to create good competition within the PubNative marketplace and maximise the eCPMs for our publishers. Our business model is based on a revenue share with publishers, they can receive up to 90% of the revenue generated through our platform.

In terms of video, we’re working on some native and in-feed video ad placements. This is a really interesting area and it’s something we’re working hard on. It’s changing pretty fast but definitely offers an exciting future.

Tell us about the ‘native’ side of the business. How you differentiate native mobile from other mobile ads?

At PubNative, we see native advertising as a framework. Adverts should fit the form of the context (i.e. the UX), but also the content. Through this combination, native ads should actually enhance rather than disrupt the user experience.

Firstly, in terms of UX, the ad should fit in with the app and not look out of place. If we look at Instagram, the native ads fit seamlessly in the feed and therefore don’t interrupt users when scrolling.

Instagram native mobile advertising

Source: PubNative

In terms of context, it’s about delivering relevant adverts according to the user profile. To take the example of Instagram again, they use information about a user – for example, an early 20s woman from San Francisco who follows fashion accounts. With this information, they’re able to use adverts that fit the context of that user’s Instagram feed. For example, with adverts for related fashion products.

How do you best work ads around UX for gaming apps?

This is actually something I covered relatively recently in our blog, looking at several examples of in-game advertising. Overall, the issue is about following the principles of fitting the advert to the content and context of the games. In real terms, this means a consideration of the way a game is built, amongst others.

For example, users are likely to be more to download a similar game when they’ve just completed a level rather than halfway through. By considering factors like this, we can boost UX and improve installs.

What is the biggest challenge for mobile advertisers at the moment?

One of the biggest challenges is educating mobile advertisers. Since mobile native is still new, it’s really important to spread the word to advertisers and publishers. Many marketers like to stick to what they know, so this is about showcasing why native is a future option and illustrating its qualities in comparison to more traditional formats.

To what extent do you think mobile publishers are being affected by ad blocking? How do you approach this problem?

I’d say that mobile is being marginally affected by ad-blocking. There are two cases to consider: mobile in-app, which can’t be blocked so easily so the impact is minimal. And mobile web, where all the ad blockers can function, but its impact is actually pretty limited. In addition, Google recently removed Samsung’s ad-blocking tool, showing the influence of major players in the market.

With movements like the Acceptable Ads Manifesto, the industry is evolving in a way that both advertisers and users can live happily ever after. For those of us working in the native sector, this is about making sure our adverts work with the form and the function.

With this kind of combination, we should increasingly see adverts deliver value to the user and in turn, remove factors that cause the use of ad blocking in the first place.

You have global offices, what is the scale of PubNative and are you seeing any particular trends based on geography?

Our HQ is based in Berlin and we also have offices in San Francisco, Beijing and Seoul to serve all of our major markets. We’re expanding fast and Berlin gives us the ideal location for working between the two time zones.

APAC is one of the fastest growing markets for us. Smartphone penetration is particularly high there and some of the emerging markets are mobile first. Still, because of its maturity, the US remains the highest revenue generating market.

In-app and mobile web are significantly different when it comes to ad serving. Do you service both mobile formats or do you deal purely with apps?

Most of our clients are mobile app publishers, but we also work with mobile web publishers. With so much search being conducted through mobile web, it’s still a significant source of traffic for advertisers.

Mobile web can be seen as falling somewhere between desktop and mobile app. Whilst it often employs resized ad formats used on desktop, it has to be optimised for the smaller screen and provide good UX.

If you work with both is there a particular advantage one has over the other?

It really depends on the user base of mobile web and apps. At the moment, I’d say that there are more native formats for in-app native rather than for the mobile web.

Mobile web is an application of the desktop meaning the content is being consumed in similar ways. Such as using news websites, blogs, portals, etc. This means that native on mobile web is a direct replica of native on desktop, so it follows the IAB Native Advertising Playbook guidelines.

Another factor is simply mobile optimization. Some companies fail to adequately optimize their sites for mobile, and so, ads on these sites are unlikely to provide good UX or ROI for advertisers.

Mobile apps, on the other hand, have specific functionalities, such as games, and the UX is very particular to each function or app. In turn, this means that in-app native advertising has to be much more flexible in terms of format.

Do you encounter any issues with transparency and how do you tackle viewability, brand safety and fraud issues within mobile?

Ad tech is a fast-moving space that has evolved incredibly quickly. So, it can be difficult to ensure that everyone follows best practices and plays by the rules.

The issue of fraud, in particular, has certainly been a topic of conversation lately. In fact, there are a number of different fraudulent activities that have taken place, one of which is the issue of click spamming. We need to come together as an industry to ensure that we reduce the frequency and impact of issues like ad fraud.

As well as fraud, there a number of other issues that affect the industry. In terms of viewability, the MRC has actually just released a paper on the viewability of native ads, so this part is already happening. Increasing transparency on both the publisher and advertiser side would also help tackle issues like fraud.

What is your mobile advertising prediction for 2016? Is this finally the year of mobile (at least when it comes to advertising)?

As the mobile native advertising ecosystem continues to rapidly evolve, 2016 is going to see technology advancements that support an increasing demand for control and transparency.

While mobile advertisers are requesting more guarantees over their native programmatic campaigns (viewability, fraud), mobile publishers are rightfully demanding more transparency in pricing.

In this context, we should inevitably see the emergence of independent, third-party technology solutions – unified platforms. These platforms will aggregate all mobile native demand, enabling publishers to price their inventory and maximise their revenue in a transparent way for advertisers.

About the author:

Ionut Ciobotaru - PubNative, native mobile advertising platform.

Ionut Ciobotaru (Co-founder & Managing Director of PubNative) started his career with a web development company and several technology-related blogs. After years of entrepreneurial work in fields like eCommerce and digital marketing, Ionut sought a new challenge in the mobile space. He joined AppLift where he successfully developed company’s product suite for publishers and media partners. In order to fully focus on improving solutions for mobile publishers, he founded PubNative, a native mobile publisher platform.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment
Tis the season for programmatic advertising

Tis the season for programmatic advertising

Programmatic advertising has had a turbulent year. Advertising budgets started to swing away from traditional channels. But budgets didn’t fully swing to digital because of a lack of trust in programmatic.

Programmatic advertising in 2016

Many issues rose to the top of the programmatic advertising cons pile in 2015. The good news is, these problems can be addressed and even put to rest in 2016. This is largely thanks to the work being done behind the scenes by ad tech companies.

We must, however, learn from the problems we’ve faced this year if we’re to avoid the havoc and scrutiny we experienced in 2015.

Stop adapting and start innovating

In this fresh industry, many companies have attempted to cash in while cutting corners. You just need to take a look at the digital ‘lumascapes’ to see how crowded the industry is. It’s tricky for anyone to navigate the maze of choice, let alone settle on the right partner.

Lumascape of video programmatic advertising

Media is consumed very differently today. People communicate, entertain and learn from many new sources. Expecting a seamless experience for everyone, with no one trying to take advantage, is pretty ludicrous. In this crowded world, there’s a real need for specialists who can identify and build responses to programmatic advertising pitfalls. These specialists will improve performance and revenues in 2016, so don’t count them out.

Premium standards

In April 2015, the IAB reported 68% of marketers anticipated increasing their digital video ad spend over the next year.

Marketers will want to know what they’re buying and see ROI from their digital ad spend. And so, the same questions always arise:

  • Is it viewable?

  • Can brand safety be guaranteed?

  • Is it human?

Measuring quality

We can break down these areas into segments for a better overview of the quality of inventory. This comes down to how much we know about the inventory and where it comes from. This is often limited by how much the publisher is willing to give away about their own data. The data segments we look for:

  • Player size

  • True URL (the inventory’s original source)

  • Device

  • Geography

  • Relevance

It’s no secret programmatic advertising has endured a year of inefficiency. However, according to eMarketer, ad spend in programmatic video is set to jump 84.5% in 2016’. Proprietary tech, such as that built to drive Coull’s video ad exchange, is stepping up to implement solutions. We’ve built a new breed of ad exchange, and so we have specific standards for programmatic advertising and quality inventory expectations.

Quality inventory on demand

Video on demand (VOD) is now a huge part of our lives and so, subscription services like Netflix, NowTV and BBC iPlayer are competing for your dollars every month. Therefore, there are huge opportunities for highly competitive places, like America, to make revenue from advertiser based video on demand (AVOD).

As more VOD services become available, we predict that video will become increasingly popular on mobile devices. More mobile video content could mean huge opportunities for mobile advertising.

Mobile video optimisationMobile video programmatic advertising

It’s clear that mobile video is still not being fully-optimized. But hopefully, this will encourage better ad creatives and more user control. This will not be another ‘year of mobile’. It will be a year of programmatic advertising tech and the growth of mobile advertising.

This year will see mobile video grabbing advertising budgets, but networks will have their work cut out before any real improvements.

For mobile advertising to succeed, video publishers and platforms need to allocate budget to make video compliant and standardised. Also, mobile advertising needs agencies with creative gusto, willing to drive better ad formats and better stories. Perhaps more importantly, we need to make a better user experience, otherwise, ad blockers will win.

For any of this to happen, industry bodies need to step up and ensure video inventory is held to higher standards. This means ensuring VPAID compliancy and video players are up to spec.

It’s time publishers work with their video and tech partners to ensure standards and metrics can be met. This is really the only way we’re going to start seeing consistent reporting and better user experiences.

Love planted a garden. But then they put the walls up

Walled gardens surfaced in 2015 but not without publishers becoming much more self-aware. In order to go around these walls, publishers began using header bidding and took back control from Google DFP. As Google and Facebook work to keep content and data inside their own bubble, it’s up to publishers and advertisers to review the value exchange. It’s also up to ad exchanges and technology platforms to provide better options for media companies.

Ad blocking, viewability, fraud and data security was at the centre in 2015. But better ad experiences, mobile video and better measurement standards will hopefully be the industry saviours in 2016.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment