IAB

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
Our accountant, Eriona, reviews the 2017 IAB Adspend results

Our accountant, Eriona, reviews the 2017 IAB Adspend results

Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure can buy a lot of advertising. Last year, the UK's digital Adspend was estimated to be a whopping £11.55 billion. But what does this mean for Coull and the rest of the advertising industry?

Eriona, Coull accountant, reviews IAB Adspend

Eriona, Management Accountant at Coull

Our new Management Accountant, Eriona, is here to give you the low-down on the IAB’s 2017 Adspend figures and what they mean for this following year.

Plants growing

[source: giphy]

The industry is thriving

It’s clear to see that the UK digital advertising market has healthy growth, there’s year-on-year growth of 14.3%, whereas, TV advertising saw a -3.2% dip in growth. The online advertising industry is now worth £11.55 billion, this is good news for many businesses in the industry, such as ad tech, because it shows the continuing success and money being put into the industry. As for advertisers, digital ads offers much more efficient and flexible options compared to traditional, offline advertising.

 

Man driving

[source: giphy]

Video is in the driving seat

We know that there’s accelerated growth in the industry, but what is driving this? Video! For the first time, online video has become the largest display format, with an impressive 47% year-on-year growth. Not only this, spend on video surpassed the £1 billion mark in the last year. This evidently demonstrates how important video is to advertisers.

 

Phone scrolling gif

[source: giphy]

Smartphones are also driving growth

It’s interesting to see that 2017 was the first year that UK adults spent more time online on smartphones than on computers and tablets combined, with smartphones accounting for 59% of time in the final quarter of 2017. As we can see, advertisers have noticed this change in media consumption because they spent £5.2 billion on smartphone ads last year - a 37.4% increase on 2016. As smartphones are becoming increasingly popular, we're expecting the ad spend on mobile to increase too.

 

What’s next?

Mobile video will rule

One thing’s for sure, video and mobile will be centre stage in the following year - video as the hottest format and mobile as the most popular platform. So we’re expecting these two to continue to be the main drivers of growth.

A more creative focus

There’s been a recent industry focus on improving ad quality, specifically mobile ads. As the IAB’s Fit For Purpose research shows, “a statistically significant percentage increase in several key brand metrics including, brand consideration (+56%), trust (+33%) and perception of premium (+21%) for the smartphone-optimised ads.”

For better mobile ads, the IAB recommends:

  • Thinking about how the ad will be executed on a smartphone from the start of the creative process
  • Including brand messaging upfront from the start of the ad
  • Testing ads on different screen sizes to ensure text and imagery are clear

So no doubt, creativity in the mobile/video space will flourish as more and more advertisers put more thought and more spend on these formats.

Turning the tables on the duopoly

It’s no secret that the Facebook/Google duopoly is dominating the advertising market, but that doesn’t come without its struggles. Both companies have appeared in the news recently, with the Cambridge Analytica scandal and brand safety troubles on YouTube. This has resulted in a surge of people deleting Facebook and advertisers pulling their spend from YouTube.

This is giving smaller businesses an opportunity to compete with viable alternatives or partnerships. There’s already a huge amount of company consolidation taking place and forecasted, such as telco AT&T are in talks to buy ad tech business, AppNexus. Partnerships between independent publishers could also pose a challenge against the duopoly, like the joint advertising platform for News UK, Telegraph and Guardian.

Could this be the beginning of the tables turning?

The future for Coull

It’s especially exciting times for Coull because we centre our business and technology around video. We strive on being at the forefront of innovation in the video space and it’s great to see that video is now the largest display ad format. We’re proud to be part of a thriving industry.

__________________

A little bit about Eriona

Although Eriona has lived in the tech-centred Bristol for the past 19 years, she is originally from Albania. She has 3 years of finance experience in companies such as HSBC and BDO and is now training to become a chartered accountant.

Her role at Coull is varied but it mainly encompasses the managing of accounts, reporting, invoices and banking. Not only this, she is delving into the world of ad tech and learning about the digital advertising landscape.

Eriona was first drawn to digital advertising because of the huge growth in the industry and she was intrigued in seeing the future of online advertising. Then, she came across Coull, “after some research, I found Coull and their exciting technology. The OverStream Suite itself really interests me because of its versatility in the market and its potential to disrupt many segments of the digital ad market, such as video and display.”

Posted by Naomi Sandercock in Coull comment

What the latest PWC and IAB Adspend report means for 2017

The latest PWC and IAB Adspend report has been released, so let’s have a look at what this means for 2017. These figures are based on the first half of 2016 compared with the first half of 2015.

Increased spend

The overall findings show that digital adspend continue to increase and, compared to the same last year, it’s 20% higher. So although Toblerone’s changing shape, at least something in our retail economy is getting bigger: digital adspend.

toblerone - IAB adspend

The report stated that, historically, around 53% of the year’s revenue comes from the second quarter. So we should see further growth when the next report is released. The trajectory is going one way…up!

IAB adspend chart

Domination in mobile revenue growth

IAB adspend - historic mobile video growth

‘Digital video on smartphones and tablets saw strong triple-digit growth, reaching $1.6 billion in HY 2016, an impressive 178% rise from HY 2015.’

We’re seeing strong revenues across the board but, unsurprisingly, the spend has shifted towards the mobile platform.

We know mobile ad formats are doing well, but the IAB has also taken a look at which categories are performing better. It’s no surprise that retail is right there at the top. Mobile-targeted retails ads are only beginning to take-off. So the second half of the year will reveal more about the changing purchase journey.

Whilst desktop search was down from 2015, combined desktop and mobile search is actually up 17%. This just goes to show how the mobile device is taking over. Mobile is definitely an area where more analysis and investment will be focused on in 2017.

IAB adspend - ad revenue by category

Video is really showing its strength across all platforms. As we introduce more relevant and better mobile experiences, mobile video is set to be the main revenue generator for media companies.


Check out The OverStream Suite of advertising formats to see how we’re making better ad experiences that are high performing, yet non-interruptive.

Coull's OverStream Suite of video advertising formats
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Auto-play video: Apple and Google giveth and the IAB taketh away

Auto-play video: Apple and Google giveth and the IAB taketh away

Auto-play video for mobile is evolving. But who will have the final say?

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

Auto-play video ads 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 and 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 auto-play video 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’s only one ad call, and because Facebook controls the ad unit and ad server it can be lightweight code and compressed video – both easy on the device. The user decides to disable auto-play 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 ad tech 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 web pages, especially heavily arbitraged ones like NYPost.com and Wikia.

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

The IAB goes in to bat for the user

The new draft proposal 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 an 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 a 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 the user’s cost of consuming content.

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

3. Auto-play MUST begin after an 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 a 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 auto-play video experience. However, the IAB’s assertion is that auto-play is interruptive, cumbersome and a financial burden to the user. 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.


If you enjoyed reading this, we recommend:

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The IAB’s ad block primer for publishers

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment
ODV (Original Digital Video) spells good news for publishers

ODV (Original Digital Video) spells good news for publishers

Last month, the IAB released the Original Digital Video Consumer Study. This study was based on US audience’s TV viewing, compared with original digital video (ODV) viewing habits. The results aren’t particularly surprising but they do paint an interesting picture.

The study gives an idea of where media consumption is heading and this is something publishers should be taking note of. For advertisers, it’s just as poignant in defining where their spend should be directed. For traditional TV media owners, it’s about being aware of the facts and adapting.

Before we dive in and look at the results, let’s clarify ODV.

What is Original Digital Video – ODV?  

Essentially, it’s originally produced online video. It’s also defined as ‘professionally produced video’ and is made for online distribution and viewing (not TV).

Who creates ODV?

Typically, ODV is created by a range of professional media companies. For example, Wall Street Journal Live News, Glamor DO’s and Don’ts and purely online media such as YouTube Original Channels.

What other digital content owners are competing for audience attention?

TV Online

This is made up of network TV shows like Pretty Little Liars and The Walking Dead or sites on ABC.com and HBO.com.

Amateur Online Video

This is videos created by regular people – homemade videos. These videos are generally short-form content.

The IAB outlined some of its key takeaways:

The growth of the original digital video market continues

The year-on-year growth continues for ODV. However, there’s little to no growth for online TV and amateur video.

Original Digital Video beats regular TV among viewers

ODV is popular among viewers because content can be watched anywhere, at any time – fitting around individual schedules.

Original Digital Video is becoming more ingrained

ODV’s improved quality and accessibility make it more and more of a habitual exercise. This means that not only are more people switching to ODV, they’re watching more of it.

Social media wildfire

ODV is shareable and engaging and so, this is leading to more engagement with the same brand.

If growth is the name of the game, ODV has all the winning moves

The story of ODV is one of growth. Approximately 63 million US adults are now viewing ODV on a monthly basis.

Whilst TV online and amateur video have healthy, respectable viewing numbers, the growth rate isn’t there. This suggests more people are moving to original video, and that’s a trend worth noting, especially where budgeting is concerned. The potential for advertisers to reach audiences with ODV is huge. As ad tech companies develop new ad formats, it’s likely that we’ll see more premium inventory in this area.

TV isn’t dead, we’ve changed the way we use it

Remember when the remote control first came about? Holy batman, that changed lives for the lazy. Not only did it nurture the inner couch potato in us all, but it meant we could enjoy more variety too. Simple but revolutionary.

As with everything, we continue to innovate. The TV is still sitting in the room, it’s just connected to the internet now. Audiences have adopted habits that reflect what they expect of the internet. We have so much choice, and just like ravenous consumers we are, the more choice we have, the more we want.

Whilst laptop/desktop and mobile devices remain the most popular devices for viewing ODV content, connected TV is only marginally behind. This area has had the biggest impact on the reduction of ‘regular’ TV watching. It’s the business model, not the TV set that needs to adapt now.

Social creatures

It’s not surprising that ODV viewers are discovering their content via word of mouth and social media. There’s an interesting gender divide in the way content is discovered. Females are discovering the majority of their content via friends, family, and social media. Whereas their male counterparts tend to follow links, recommendations and search results. This just paints a picture of how much video content is being discovered socially, rather than on a publisher’s own site.

Modern media offers disparate audiences so much variety, it’s astounding. Content is becoming personal, but it’s also incredibly niche so segments are becoming more identifiable. ODV makes it possible for media companies to present quality, highly-engaging and targeted content. Now, advertisers have the technology at their fingertips to engage through connected devices in a way they never have before.

It shouldn’t come as a shock that viewers like the flexibility of ODV. The fact is, we all have different devices we use daily and we have much more choice, control and a completely different way of engaging with content we love. This IAB study shows a significant shift, but this is something we’ve known for some time – just ask any millennial!

Millennials drive the habitual change, the next generation takes it even further

Personally, I don’t have a TV subscription. I didn’t include it in my ‘broadband bundle option’ because I knew I had other options that suited my budget and my viewing preferences.

It’s little wonder that 18 to 34-year-olds are the biggest driver of this significant viewing evolution. What’s also interesting is that the advertising is more memorable in this format, contrary to some popular belief. This is just the tip of what’s happening right now. The ads in the very near future will be dynamic, highly-personable and definitely more interactive.

Millennial audiences have sparked the adoption and growth of connected TV, ODV and amateur video. But this should pave the way for an even more, user-focused digital model. Traditional models of media, including TV, shouldn’t begrudge this change, it should be seen as a real opportunity.

There’s no need to hollow out the old set and put Mr goldfish inside just yet. But you may just find the communal ritual of watching TV becomes more personal, more enjoyable and dare we say, more profitable?


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Coull Quickie – May 2016

The Coull Quickie for May is here and it’s not good news for publishers as 3 Mobile UK sets to trial Shine’s ad blocking tech at network level. The IAB US reveals some interesting stats around new viewing habits, AppNexus launches free viewabiltiy measurement for its partners and the Guardian launches their own native mobile ad formats. Get all the latest programmatic video advertising news right here, every month.

Watch the Coull Quickie – May 2016 right here, right now:

Posted by simonholliday in Coull video
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.

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The IAB’s ad blocking primer for publishers

The IAB’s ad blocking primer for publishers

The IAB Tech Lab Ad Blocking Group has compiled guidance to help publishers manage ad blockers. The Publisher Ad Blocking Primer provides tactics for responding to ad blocking. This is a result of the high adoption rate of ad blockers provided by companies such as AdBlock Plus and Ghostery. These are businesses too, making money by either whitelisting preferred ads (or ads that have been paid to be whitelisted) or collecting and selling data. So while publishers lose out, these companies are thriving.

Ad blocking guidance

In this post, we’re going to break down the guidance so publishers can understand how to approach ad blockers and monetising their videos. The purpose of this post is not to criticise ad blocking but rather, to help publishers take ownership of their revenue and communicate better with their audiences.

Specific tactics are outlined in the IAB Primer, and each is based around a process called DEAL. Each tactic should keep the premise of DEAL in mind.

The DEAL process

D – Detect ad blocking in order to initiate the conversation.

E – Explain the value exchange that advertising enables.

A – Ask for changed behaviour in order to maintain an equitable exchange.

L – Lift restrictions or limit access in response to consumer choices.

Shifting the focus from ad blockers to the consumer is really important. Publishers can then educate their audience on their business models and commitment to providing a better user experience. The IAB’s Primer makes 7 tactical suggestions as listed below.

The IAB Ad Blocker Primer suggestions

  1. Notice
  2. Access Denial
  3. Tiered Experience
  4. Payments from Visitors
  5. Ad Reinsertion
  6. Payment to Ad Blocker Companies
  7. Payment to Visitors

 

Ad blocking

Tactics to encourage disabling ad blockers

Notice – educate and signpost

When an ad blocker is detected, publishers can present the user with a notice. For example, a message in the page header, within video content or on a landing page. This could even be triggered later on, once the user has engaged with the content.

The notice can serve a variety of purposes including:

  • Educating the visitor about ad blockers and the threat they pose to content providers.
  • Requesting the visitor to disable the ad blocker.
  • Request the visitor for payment for access to content.
  • Informing of the consequences of them using ad blockers. Such as limited or completely restricted access to the content.

Educating your audience about the importance of advertising is the first step. However, this could draw attention to ad blocking, raising awareness of the widespread use.

It’s also important to keep in mind that if you do enable notices, some ad blocking has the capabilities to block those too. If you decide to issue a notice, this should not be a standalone tactic but part of a wider strategy.

Access denial – risky business

This tactic is pretty straightforward. If ad blocking is detected, publishers can simply disable access to content. This is, however, a drastic measure and shouldn’t be implemented without explaining how users can regain access.

Access denial invariably leads to a smaller audience and less sharing of content. So this is only appropriate for publishers who already have a loyal audience and don’t depend on new viewers.

Access denial can also lead to a reduced search rank because it can limit search bots ability to crawl the content. But if publishers don’t rely hugely on organic search then this isn’t an issue.

Tiered experience – limited access

This option grants restricted access to visitors with ad blockers. Instead of denying them content, it offers, for example, limited time per session or articles per month. Many publishers use this approach for their subscription service but in this case, we’re talking about its application to ad blocker users.

The risk of the tiered tactic is that some visitors may become accustomed to the limited experience and simply settle without taking any further action. It requires additional work for developers and may make measuring visitors difficult.

The positive of this approach is that it gives your audience more options, leverages the available inventory and is less likely to compromise search rankings.

Payments from visitors – subscription

This is essentially the subscription model. It’s a highly risky model as a way to counter ad blockers because there’s no obligation for audiences with ad blockers to pay for content. It’s their prerogative and you could run the risk of seriously reducing your audience. Payment for content can, however, be lightened by offering voluntary payment options, or tiered payment options.

Subscriptions can increase operational costs and the pricing of your content can become complicated. The desire to share socially is greatly reduced with paid for content, so losing audiences – both direct and via social – is a big risk.

Payment to visitors – the flip side

There have been various reward systems in place for visitors in digital publishing for years, but now the aim is to entice visitors to disable ad blockers. This can be done via a revenue share, rewards, or collaboration with other publishers.

Again, this tactic requires some additional work on the development side but could be a viable solution, especially in the gaming industry. Some publishers already have a system where users are rewarded for watching ads with vouchers, bonuses or hints in a game.

Ad reinsertion – beating the blockers at their own game

The word reinsertion is a little misleading. Whilst technology can place an ad where an ad blocker had previously removed it, it doesn’t mean the same ad will appear. And this doesn’t guarantee what the value of the new ad will be.

Additional tech is required, meaning additional cost. Also, the more ad blocking processes going on in the background, the worse the user experience is (because of latency issues and limited data collection).

There are various methods that can be used to re-insert an ad or block the ad blocker. These include obfuscation, in-browser modification and on-server. This involves serving the ad from the same content side. Each of these requires additional work, but it does provide consistency for visitors and enables the publishers to control their revenue stream.


woman on mobile - ad blocking

Consider, communicate, collaborate – conquer

If you’re a publisher looking to implement one or more of the IAB’s recommended tactics, we suggest that you consider every option. Consider how the tactic applies to your specific business model and how it affects editorial content and your audience. Find guidance in the official IAB ad blocker primer document here.

The IAB should be commended for initiating the conversation around fighting against ad blockers. Ad blockers may have won some judgments in the EU. And they may have managed to bypass some publisher revenue models, but ad blockers are not the future.

Audiences need to understand the value exchange, publishers need to retain control of their own revenue, and users need better experiences. This all comes down to advertisers providing more engaging and creative ad formats, and publishers ensuring the quality of that relationship.


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We want better ads

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment
Our impressions of the IAB OpenRTB 2.4

Our impressions of the IAB OpenRTB 2.4

The IAB’s Advertising Technology Council has recently upgraded the OpenRTB guidelines to version OpenRTB 2.4. We’ll be highlighting some of the positive updates as well as recommending areas we expect to see improvement in version 2.5.

1.    Impression expiry

Open RTB 2.4 goes some way to improving fraudulent impressions caused by ‘Xindi-style’ bot networks. Last year, Pixelate identified how these bots work by subverting frequency caps targeting a highly desired user base. The botnet works when malware infected machines make massive amounts of ad requests within a short space of time, holding on to them without showing them. Those requests are stored for a few hours or even a day, then impression trackers call them simultaneously. This causes them all to fire at the same time, evading fraud filters and making huge amounts of money on false impressions.

OpenRTB 2.4 review - Xindi style bot networks

 

Xindi targetted corporate environments or even universities, allowing it to generate fake viewable impressions from recognised IP addresses at scale. The diagram below shows how this process works.

 

Xindi bot network - OpenRTB 2.4 review

Source: Pixelate

One of the OpenRTB 2.4 updates involves expiring the impression tracker which will stop the botnet being rewarded. The table below shows new impression expiry times guidelines for video ad impressions. Guidelines will be implemented as part of our video ad tech platform and third generation exchange.

“The following expiration times are offered as examples of reasonable delays based on the nature of the impression. These are only provided as rules of thumb. A more data-driven method of determining these times in specific situations is highly recommended. “ (IAB)

For display or video ad formats:

Desktop and mobile web browsers:1 Minute
Mobile app banner or native ads that may be cached:5 Minutes
Mobile and video interstitials:30 Minutes (or even longer)
Audio or video with server-side stitching:Very long or unknown

2.      SSL support – encoding

In version 2.3, SSL was not recommended: “due to the additional processing overhead.” The fact is, hardware has become so cheap that this argument hasn’t been valid for a long time. So, from our perspective, it’s great to see it’s finally recommended.

Legacy exchanges and DSPs may drag their feet when it comes to securing web traffic but the whole industry should embrace this. We’re certainly ensuring our own processes incorporate stringent security. Reflected in current practices, we have an ad tech ecosystem that’s essentially self-policed and DSPs aren’t making targeting segments from bid requests etc. ‘Bad actors’ from outside the industry aren’t bound by that, and can get a view on the browsing history or millions of people if they hack the bid request stream (think Snowden).

Securing web traffic is the zeitgeist as anyone working in tech knows and we’re very happy to finally see an expectation of encryption across OpenRTB 2.4. Securing web traffic guarantees the connection and what comes through, making the entire process much more secure and transparent. In our opinion, this one is a no-brainer!

3.    Video skip ability support

OpenRTB 2.4 allows publishers to declare if they want to impose a skip button on the ad, something that they’ve previously had very little control over. However, there’s no clear definition as to who is responsible for creating it – the publisher in their player? Or the advertiser in VPAID? The advice at this stage is for the DSP to consult the publisher. So whilst this is a good addition, it would benefit from further clarification.

4.    Location support

Accurate location data is a big demand of advertisers, especially in mobile. The problem is, not much mobile location data is actually valid. The device may know it’s only accurate to 10 or even 500 meters. But the exchange it made the ad request to, couldn’t pass that on to its bidders. This has all changed with the latest update. The exchange can now pass on this location information with the “accuracy” value set in meters, along with a “lastfix” value to say how long ago that fixed.

Where location is looked up via IP address, exchanges can now declare the vendor they used as ip2location, Neustar, or Maxmind. Sorry DigitalElement, it looks like you’re not on the list! Perhaps that’s one for the IAB to address once public comments have been considered.

5.    Audio object

The addition of the audio object enables live audio streams, like podcasts or services such as Spotify to request ads from bidders with the OpenRTB standard. This update assumes DAAST standard compliance, with companion banners as an option just like video. The audio object/ad can be stitched into the playback, and even downloaded by the user.

Look for more legacy ad exchanges to jump on this as a new way to differentiate themselves.

Other OpenRTB 2.4 updates worth a mention

Other OpenRTB 2.4 updates include the ability to format the size of banner ads, additional creative attributes for Adobe Flash and best practice guidelines for DSPs responding with deal ID. They’re all valid updates but don’t add a huge amount to the innovation of the space.

What Coull expect in OpenRTB 2.5

As a market-leading third generation video ad exchange and platform, we operate with multiple DSP’s and push demand through our SSP and supply partners. So it’s very important to constantly update and upgrade our proprietary technology. We’ve made a conscious choice to ensure we operate and implement above and beyond the industry standard. If we can do something better now, we do it. We’re not waiting to be told and we don’t believe the guidelines should wait either.

Here are some of the updates we feel could have been implemented in OpenRTB 2.4. Updates that we expect to see in 2.5, hopefully, sooner rather than later.

HTTP2 and Advertising

The current OpenRTB 2.4 spec doesn’t take HTTP2 into account, it assumes HTTP1 as the standard. We believe there are a few parts of the new HTTP2 spec that are exciting from an advertising point of view.

Currently, HTTP1 only allows for a single conversation to go on between 2 computers. But if there are to be more conversations then more connections are needed. HTTP2 allows a single connection to have multiple conversations with no specific order in them.

HTTP2 is also a binary protocol, meaning it’s more aligned to how a computer speaks than a human. It’s evident that the overall efficiency of a connection and the data sent over it is far better. This is obviously quite relevant in exchange to DSP connections.

Security in HTTP2 was also thought about from the beginning with the downsides of secure connections in HTTP1 considered. Secure connections in HTTP2 can easily send both secure headers and body while being compressed effectively saving bandwidth.

Another subtle change that has an advantage in exchange to DSP connections is the ability to cancel a request without dropping a connection. In theory, this saves computation power should an exchange make a decision – maybe securing a PMP deal before a DSP has decided on a bid.

These all add up to some good increases in efficiency of connections, both in-between clients and ad servers, as well as exchanges and DSPs. Though both parties in all examples need to be able to handle the HTTP2 connections.

Our third generation exchange has already implemented some of these changes and is well underway to go even further. The whole industry should be guided in this direction. These improvements make programmatic advertising safer, more reliable and more efficient for everyone.

Loss Notification

To ensure the most efficient means of bidding and yield optimization we have loss notification built into our exchange. It’s something that could easily be included as a standard within OpenRTB and would expect to this appearing in 2.5. Within the Coull exchange, we inform bid loss notification in real-time without revealing the identity of bid winners. This means advertisers and DSPs can better optimize their campaigns. Not only does loss notification help streamline yield optimization, but it aids in stopping ad fraud such as that mentioned above. By letting the bidder know they’ve lost the auction, they can finish it without worrying about a future impression. It just makes sense. Which is exactly why we’ve already applied this technology within our own platform.


Do your part and get your feedback to Melissa at the IAB before the 19th of Feb.

The latest spec can be found here.


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Uncovering video performance metrics

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment

The limitations of current Viewable Ad Technologies

Viewable video advertising has been and is a huge topic of conjecture in the digital ad industry. This is because of the struggle to come up with a consistent way to deliver and measure 100% ad viewability.

There is a discrepancy within the industry as to what this term ‘viewable’ actually means. There is yet to be an agreed metric that tells both supply and demand if an ad unit is in view on a browser. And if it was in view, was it present long enough to have a reasonable chance of being seen?

There are multiple tech partners measuring viewability within the ecosystem, but no one method is the same, and whilst advertisers value the length of time and full resolution of an ad, publishers are less likely to value that metric in the same way. The IAB has their own standards but to cut a long story short, there is no consensus here. An industry wide viewability measurement system is the loch ness monster of ad tech – if it does exist, it’s lurking below the surface, waiting to be discovered but so far evading us all.

Even though the marketplace has the ability to sell viewable impressions, there is a lack of efficiency on the sell side that limits yield for the publisher. Advertisers and networks are unlikely to pay for an impression that’s not deemed viewable by their own measurement standards, even if the supply side disagrees. At the moment it’s a fairly one sided solution in favour of demand, and we need a consistent algorithm if the benefits are to be more equally spread. We can’t lump all these bits of terminology together and expect a one size fits all metric but we can get smarter about how we measure.

The requirements

The IAB and MRC have established minimum viable requirements for viewable advertising.

According to the IAB and MRC online viewable ad impressions guidelines:

‘As a baseline it is simple to appreciate the in-view measure aims to be an objective, qualitative, measure that simply answers the following questions.

  • Was the ad served?

  • Was it in-view?

  • Was there an opportunity for the user of the device to see it?

While these are the very basic guidelines for digital advertising, the metrics that constitute an opportunity to see, differ between ad formats:

  • For in page display advertising there must be greater than or equal to 50% pixels in view for greater than or equal to a second.

  • For video advertising, an opportunity so see is measured as greater than or equal to 50% of pixels in-view for greater than or equal to 2 continuous seconds of video ad play.

The problem with current measurement

These standards while seemingly basic are difficult to measure because different browsers load content differently. Not only that but as mentioned earlier, there are a huge number of ad tech vendors running their own measurement of these standards, and the methods used to do so vary for each. This means each vendor’s results will be different, affecting expected CPMs, creating a paucity of excepted inventory and mistrust.

Some vendors use a historically based system to measure viewability, meaning they will assume certain domains are viewable and others are not depending on the historic data of those domains. But because domain content changes regularly and the advertisements vary widely, this method can be very inaccurate. It’s not enough to solely rely on historical probability scores to tell an advertiser their ad may or may not be seen based on a domain that may or may not have previously served a viewable impression. So while industry players are trying to address these issues, we’re not accelerating to true ‘viewability’ very quickly and we could be disadvantaging a lot of publishers.

Coull pre-bid viewability technology

To give our demand partners the very best opportunity to engage with their customers we developed Coull’s pre-bid viewability technology. Of course the first step along that road to viewability that everyone seems to be moonwalking towards, is very simply for the ad to be seen in compliance for the minimum standards.

What we’ve developed is the ability to detect where the ad unit is on the page before it’s served, in other words, pre-bid viewability. This enables advertisers to decide what inventory to purchase based on whether their ad would likely be in view. We have the ability to run viewabilty tech that combines historical viewability and pre-bid viewability data. This tech is tested across different browsers to try and mitigate the lack of consistency, as well and give the best potential for efficiency and ROI success across campaigns.

For media companies, the ability to sell inventory that shows a high level of viewability delivery and opportunity to see, means an increase in the value of that inventory in the market.

The biggest advantage in using this viewability technology is that it minimizes wasted ad spend, giving demand partners real-time data to help them make the best buying decision.

Coull provides viewability analysis using both page geometry and browser optimization and the tech is available through the Coull Video Ad Exchange which is in beta phase right now; due for full release before the end of the year.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment