A digital fad or valuable ads?

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 haven’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 though-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 have 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 are on the look out 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

Stop forcing your ad agency to buy fraud

Agencies and marketers are taking the reins of their ad spending and campaign monitoring, but there is still a lot of confusion over what KPIs best capture how well a digital campaign has performed.

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 metrics and benchmarks marketers set can indirectly encourage ad buyers to turn to fraudulent options as a means of hitting unrealistic targets. Marketers and Advertisers soon find themselves trapped in the number-chasing 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 whether an ad is 100% in view. 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 amount of impressions may compromise the ad’s placement online.

  • Ad buyers may turn to ad servers and/or players that partake 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, by dropping lots of cookies onto a page with the idea that at least a small percentage will convert.

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

Transparent Reporting

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

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 Forensic, the IAB’s approved cybersecurity service and manual vetting, we are able detect the most sophisticated patterns of fraudulent behaviour & 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 due to the fact that some of their ad metrics have yet to be verified by third-parties. The UK Business Insider has likened this to “marking their own homework”.

Realistic Targets

Marketers & 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”.


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

Apple and Google giveth and the IAB taketh away

Auto play mobile video is evolving but who will have the final say?

Apple and Google want to give adtech companies an alternative way to auto play video ads on the mobile web, one that avoids the use of nasty hacks to enable autoplay functionality. While this sounds like a step forward, the IAB is far more concerned with the user experience and wants to limit autoplay mobile video to Wi-Fi connected devices.

In reality both of these options have the same goal, to reduce the burden on the user’s device. The result – improved user experience. We’re going to dig a little deeper to uncover the merits of each so you can decide which is more valuable.

Let’s talk about mobile auto play video ads

Video ads that auto play in your phone browser use up a lot of data over time. Despite this fairly obvious negative implication, the format is growing in popularity because it can drive 10x the revenue of standard image ads.

Until now, getting a mobile video ad to autoplay has required reliance on a hack,  especially on iOS where a video had to load in the full screen native player. The new iOS & Chrome updates change all that. It’s time to say goodbye to the hacks and the problems associated.

The good, the bad and the ugly

You can look at mobile video auto play on a spectrum of polished, to pathetic.

At one end you have the best example of the ad format in all its glory – on Facebook. Auto playing muted ads are implemented in a controlled environment within the user’s feed.

Technically speaking, there is only one ad call, and because Facebook control the ad unit and ad server it can be lightweight code and compressed video – both easy on the device. The user decide to disable autoplay, or choose to only accept it on Wi-Fi. Despite this choice you will find that no one chooses to limit it because the settings affect all video – not just the ads. It’s in-banner video, but in it’s most considerate format.

On the other end we find the pathetic versions of the format.  Arbitrageurs buy cheap ad slots intended to image ads and load a video player into the user’s browser, then making requests for ads to every ad source they can find. This is incredibly taxing for the phone, running JavaScript that hangs the page, and a never ending sequence loading resources behind the scenes.

If and when an ad is returned, the adtech used by the arbitrager exploits a browser hack via the HTML5 <canvas>, not the <video> as intended. This is slower, and doesn’t provide any playback or volume controls – less than ideal.

Apple with iOS 10, and Google with the latest Chrome update 53 have taken a pragmatic approach. They’ve looked at the data and seen how much this shoehorned method has slowed webpages, especially heavily arbitraged ones like NYPost.com & Wikia.

The updates they’ve implemented go a long way to improving the mobile experience, but have they considered the user enough?



The IAB goes in to bat for the user

The new draft proposal (page 9) for should be shown Ads in 2017 has some big changes for Outstream players like Teads, and also the arbitrageurs mentioned above (pretty much every video ad network).

This guidance addresses video ads in non-video environments. Video guidance applies to in banner videos and ‘outstream’ ads that are placed in between non video content, e.g. in article or in lists or any video ads in non-video content experiences.

1. Video MUST be user initiated.

2. Video controls to Mute/Unmute audio and Pause/Play video MUST be available when video is playing

3. The RECOMMENDED maximum length for in banner video is 15 seconds and 1.1 MB file size

4. MINIMUM 24 fps

5. Video download MUST NOT start until user initiation


Video MAY be played by the ad without user initiation when it does not significantly impact the user’s cost of consuming content. It may be used under the following guidance:

1. When a user is on Wi-Fi or broadband internet connections. This is to respect user’s cost of consuming content.

2. Audio MUST be muted when video is played without user initiation.

3. Auto play MUST begin after ad is at least 50% in view

4. Auto play MUST provide pause/play and mute/unmute controls from the start of video play

Even in draft, it’s a clear message from the industry’s own trade body that more respect should be shown to the user, and to stop pushing them to install ad blockers with obnoxious execution.

Where to now?

Google and Facebook have made a commendable move to provide a much better mobile video auto play experience than would be achieved via a hack, however the IAB’s assertion is that auto play is interruptive, cumbersome and a financial burden to the user as are some other ad formats identified in their latest guidance. You can bet there will be lots more to come from them in the near future and it will be interesting to see how Google and Facebook respond.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment

Five ways to improve digital advertising now

It’s no secret advertising creative needs to improve. The conundrum we face is that brands also need the security of premium inventory availability. Brands are understandably deterred from spending budgets on inventory when they have no guarantee what they’re buying. Forget comparing apples to oranges. This is more akin to going to the grocery store, paying for your weekly shopping and then going home with empty bags. So what can we do now to ensure a transparent digital advertising experience for buyers and sellers? Here are five areas where the industry can, and needs to improve right now:

Tackle ad fraud

A massive tidy up is required. Bot traffic can’t always be easily detected, but there is a lot of traffic that can be shunned from the industry very simply and blacklisting is just one method of doing this. We’re slowly making progress but industry bodies need to throw everything they have behind making our market transparent for buyers. This means working with ad fraud specialists to minimize damage and create solutions. It also means implementing clear (I’m sorry I said CLEAR) standards for measuring impressions and performance. These are simple standards yet they’re still in limbo and it is time decisions were made to put a stop to the guesswork.

Be inventive and innovative when it comes to creative

That’s why it’s called creative after all. Advertising should be memorable and evocative, not intrusive and irritating. It’s not rocket science, invest in the message and the experience by creating high definition, interactive ads and digital advertising as currency may stand a chance yet.

Think about the device your campaign is being delivered on and build creative according to that experience. A high definition interactive video pre-roll might be great for desktop, but on mobile, it might perform very differently and end up using data, bandwidth and battery. Be responsible rather than apathetic and audiences will be more likely to enable ads.

There are many ad formats to utilize and each can serve campaigns successfully if the effort goes in. There’s no shortage of Don Draper analogies in this industry. And while the hope we’ve moved ahead since those times, perhaps in some respects we need to wind back our approach at least a little and think about the creative that goes into every ad unit, and every sale.

Improve the use of data – analyse and apply insights

Viewability and brand safety have been the nemesis of the ad industry for some time now. Everybody knows we need to get this right just as much as we do ad fraud if the industry has any chance of flourishing. Data is often seen as the answer to our prayers, but if not used effectively – data is dormant – it doesn’t do a damn thing. We need to understand the skills applicable to the emerging landscape and use data scientists to interpret data and recommend an actionable strategy.

Demand higher standards and better competition from media giants like Facebook and Google

Facebook has just announced it will sell 100% viewable video inventory for an increased price and they’re not the only ones. But why are advertisers forced to pay extra for a standard that should be available to everyone anyway. Where is the integrity in only offering value to advertisers willing to pay over and above the norm just to get a decent chance of their ad being seen? The increase for this service doesn’t make sense. It’s seems unfair that given the technology is there to improve the viewability issue for everyone, it’s not made available for all.

Maintain a level playing field that doesn’t discriminate

Google, Microsoft and Amazon pay to be whitelisted with ad blockers and yet I really don’t see the difference between this and Facebook charging brands for more for viewable impressions. If the industry can be better for audiences, more efficient, sustainable and measurable, then it should be, for everyone – right now!

By providing a level playing field everyone becomes accountable for their own performance. This is the only way independent media companies will stand a fighting chance. Retaining balance and giving everyone the opportunity to operate fairly may seem like a pipe-dream when really it’s the easiest way to ensure quality, sustainability and accountability across the industry.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment