Industry news

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
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.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


What does this mean?

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

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

Check before you buy

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

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

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

Whitelists

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

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

The human element

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

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

___________________________________

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

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

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

Press release: Coull earns JICWEBS Brand Safety seal of approval

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

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

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

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

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

Read more about how we ensure brand safety.

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About Coull

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

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

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

About ABC

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

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

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

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

About JICWEBS

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

For more information please visit www.jicwebs.org

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

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

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

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

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

What do we do and why are we raising funds?

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

We are raising funds to:

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

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

So, how do we make advertising better?

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

How to get involved…

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

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

If you have any questions, please get in contact.

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

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

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

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

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

What is Ads.txt?

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

Why should you care?

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

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

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

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

What are the advantages?

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

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

  • Increases transparency in the whole industry

  • Opens up communication between all companies along the chain

  • Publishers: maintain your revenue

  • Advertisers: know exactly what inventory you’re buying

What are the disadvantages?

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

Great! So how can you adopt Ads.txt?

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

For example:

http://example.org/ads.txt

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

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

For example:

coull.com, 12345, DIRECT #banner

google.com, 23456, DIRECT #banner

appnexus.com, 34567, RESELLER #native

Why do we love Ads.txt at Coull?

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

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

So, what’s next?

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

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

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

Snapchat: a digital fad or valuable ads?

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

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

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

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

How can Snapchat win back users?

  • Make it easier for people to find brands on Snapchat

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

  • Focus on creativity and functionality

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

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

  • Involve influencers more

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

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

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

  • More monetising options

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

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

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

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

Changes on the horizon?

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

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


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

Posted by Naomi Sandercock in Coull comment
Women in tech series: it’s about a balance

Women in tech series: it’s about a balance

This is the last post in our women in tech series, but it’s just the beginning of the conversation.

In this post, I speak to Coull’s compliance manager, Nicola Woodford, and demand side account manager, Laura Matthews.

We’ve already covered the issue of education and the steps that need to be taken to encourage more women in tech. This time, we’re going to talk about the work/life balance. This is a real concern for many women and something companies need to support.

Both Nicola and Laura have made a significant contribution to Coull’s business strengths. They both have very specialist skills, unique to the industry and unique to Coull. I was eager to find out how the work/family balance is managed in a male-dominated industry.

Nicola Woodford – Coull Compliance Manager

Nicola, Coull compliance manager - Women in tech

Nicola is Coull’s compliance manager, a role created specifically around her skill set. She helps ensure Coull’s inventory is valid and viewable traffic, that’s brand safe, human and trustworthy. Some cybersecurity vendors use machine learning and algorithms to detect fraudulent or non-viewable traffic. Whereas Nicola combines specific technologies and her own eyes to spot invalid traffic before it even enters the market.

How did you get started working in programmatic ad tech?

Before working at Coull, programmatic ad tech wasn’t something I knew existed. I noticed the ads on the websites, but it wasn’t something I’d really considered. After university, I gained an internship at Coull, which really opened my eyes to online advertising. Throughout my time at Coull, and with help from the people here, I’ve gained extensive knowledge in the industry.

Do you think there is enough emphasis on developing the kind of skills needed to keep digital advertising clean?

Over the last year, in particular, there have been some really positive moves forward pushing the digital advertising industry to be cleaner. With the increased use of ad-blockers, I think the importance of ensuring clean, non-intrusive advertising is becoming more apparent.

Do you think there’s a gender bias when it comes to women in ad tech?

There does seem to be a gender bias. There are more males in senior roles within the industry than women, however, in recent years that’s slowly changing. It’s only fairly recently that women have been encouraged to pursue these types of roles and that starts with education. For example, I was discouraged from taking electronics as a GCSE as it was seen as a boy’s subject (luckily, I’m extremely stubborn so I completely ignored them). I’m now 28 and those attitudes haven’t changed much. It will take some time, but I like to think the bias is changing.

You have a young family, do you feel there’s a good level of support for you to keep a work/family balance?

I’m very lucky that Coull allows me flexibility. I know many friends who aren’t so lucky in that respect. With the rising cost of childcare and living expenses, for some women, it’s just not possible to return to work after maternity – whether they’d like to or not. Unfortunately, this means we’re losing many skilled women from the workplace. My hope is that women have more support and encouragement to return to work.

Do you think working in tech allows you to manage work and family life? This could be a positive drawcard, especially for mums.

As mentioned, I’m very lucky to have flexible working and this seems to be something that’s more prevalent in the tech and emerging media industries. Flexible working is possible due to the nature of the industry being online.

Compliance teams in programmatic are a fairly new idea. Do you find partners value your input and what you’re doing to ensure the industry works better for everyone?

Most partners value the input. Many are not aware that certain inventory is invalid and don’t see the importance of using third-party verification. Often, it’s possible to tell the validity of a partner by how they react to the compliance emails. I aim to educate partners in understanding and spotting invalid traffic rather than being accusatory. That way, we can work more efficiently as partners and I hope, make the industry cleaner and more transparent.

How do you explain your job to your family?

I have sort of given up trying to explain it to them. After extensive explanations, people usually come to the conclusion that I work in IT. Though recently, I was at a family get together and I heard my partner explaining to his brother that my job was to look at porn sites! (That is not what I do!)

Laura Matthews – Senior Account Manager (Demand)

Laura, Coull account manager - Women in tech

Laura is one of the youngest in Coull’s adops team, yet, also one of the most experienced in managing demand relationships.

What is the most enjoyable part of your day to day work?

I’d have to say the people I work with make my job very enjoyable. Coull has a great team and I can honestly say that they’re all my friends. We’re able to get all the work done but also have a laugh and help each other out. I also get to speak to a wide range of people in the industry, which is really great. I can talk for England, so being able to use that skill is awesome.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most difficult part of my job is when you find yourself spending a lot of time getting an account or campaign up and running and it doesn’t quite create the results you were expecting.

In your experience as an account manager, do you find you often speak with a mixture of men and women or is it skewed one way?

I would say, in the past four years I have worked at Coull, there’s definitely been an increase in women working in the industry. The balance is still not 50/50, however, I’m being introduced to more female account managers every month so it’s great to see that number growing.

What sort of skills have you learned from working in tech?

I studied for a history and politics degree so my technical knowledge was very limited. My strength when I joined Coull was my people skills, rather than technical ones. However, I’ve picked up so many technical skills over the past couple of years including creating VAST/VPAID tags, production releases within our SSP and putting demand campaigns live. Don’t get me wrong, I often don’t understand what our dev team are talking about when it comes to coding but I’m hoping I’ll get there one day.

Are any clients surprised to find their account manager is a female?

No, I don’t think I have found this with any of the accounts I’ve worked with.

Working regular office hours when some of your clients are in different time zones must be difficult. Is it hard not to take work home with you?

Absolutely. I went through a period of being online from 7 am in the morning to 11 pm at night, which makes it very difficult to have time to yourself. I’ve learned that most emails you receive after you leave work can be dealt with in the morning.

Do you feel there is enough support for young women in tech roles or do you think more could be done?

The digital industry is changing constantly so we often have to be quick on our feet to pick new things up. I do believe it would benefit a lot of people if there was more training groups for these emerging trends in order to keep up.

Would you normally describe yourself as a techie or is this something that’s developed because of the nature of your job?

I wouldn’t describe myself as a techie, that part of me has definitely grown during my time at Coull. Luckily my role mainly focuses on relationship building, speaking to different people each day and analysing reports, which are my favourite things to do. I’m lucky enough to have a great technical team around me who can assist with any setups.


This brings our women in tech series to a close. We hope these insights into real women, in a variety of tech roles, will encourage more discussion and more interest in employment.

The gender gap is wide and women in tech sometimes find they’re not taken as seriously as their male counterparts. However, the trend is slowly changing, as reflected by the women I’ve spoken with. And hopefully, putting more women in the centre of tech will encourage young women to adopt an interest and a passion for tech industries.

#womenintech

If you enjoyed this blog, read the rest of our women in tech series here:

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Women in tech are pretty awesome

Women in tech are pretty awesome

Last week we spoke about the lack of women in tech and introduced Liv Franzen, a developer at Coull. We want to open a dialogue and help encourage more women to join the industry.

We’re continuing the #womenintech series this week, featuring three inspiring ladies.

Michelle Bommer, Head of ad ops at Coull, tells us how she found herself waking up at the crack of dawn to work on video ad campaigns with her UK colleagues.

We’ll also find out from Alex Kolzoff and Sophia Amin from IAB UK, what they do to promote equality and professional growth for women in tech.

Let’s kick things off with Coull’s queen of ad ops – Michelle Bommer.

Michelle grew up in the High Desert of Southern California. After attending UCSB she moved to LA and found herself in the world of ad tech. Five years later, she moved to San Francisco and joined Coull. Since then she’s earned her place as Head of ad ops, leading a talented team of account managers. Michelle is respected by colleagues and clients and always has a positive, upbeat attitude, ensuring her team feel motivated.

Despite these personal achievements, when we scan the ad tech horizon for examples of similar stories, we find them few and far between. The fact is, Michelle is in the company of predominantly male peers. This is not something that particularly bothers her, but from an industry perspective – it’s a trend we need to change.

Women have every chance to be successful and make a difference in the trajectory of digital advertising and technology.  The skills, technical knowledge, application and determination to be leaders is becoming more apparent but that’s not necessarily translating into more women in senior roles.

I spoke to Michelle about how she sees her role in ad tech and her perception of the industry.

Michelle, Coull's Head of Adops - Women in tech

Michelle and Coull’s favourite dog – Gaucho

Tell us a bit about your role as Head of ad ops at Coull…

I head up a great team of people who coordinate the daily operations of our supply and demand accounts. From the technical onboarding to monitoring traffic quality and daily management of partners, we ensure that everything is running smoothly.

How did you get into ad tech? I’m assuming you didn’t always dream of running digital ad campaigns as a child…

I started out as an intern at a small company that generated financial leads through affiliate and performance-based marketing. I joined full time and worked there for several years, managing affiliates and network relationships. I ran CPC campaigns and monetised our internal data, among other things. It’s funny when you think back because the industry really didn’t exist when I was a kid. I would have really been before my time if I was dreaming of running digital ad campaigns!

What’s the best thing about your job?

Working with people in a space that is exciting and always changing. I’m a social person who enjoys a challenge, so having a job in the dynamic tech space with daily interactions with different people is wonderful.

What are your biggest challenges?

Starting my workday at 6 a.m…just kidding! Really, I’m very fortunate to work with such a great group of people. They make my challenges few and far between – which is key since I’m 8 times zones away from the rest of Coull.

Is the gender gap in ad tech something you notice?

Having been in the ad tech space for nearly a decade, it’s hard to not notice the imbalance. I remember going to my first trade show and being one of the very few women there. I’ve seen that change over the last few years and organizations are starting to address the issues. For example, events are trying to have more diverse panels.

Why do you think it is that there’s a lack of women in tech?

I can’t help but think early education is partially to blame. STEM programs (science, technology, engineering, and math) didn’t exist when I was in school and similar programs weren’t exactly encouraging girls to join. Though, I’m still hopeful as there’s more of an outreach to girls today with great programs, like Girls Who Code. I think the future generations are going to blow us out of the water.

girls who code - Women in tech

From: Girls Who Code

Have you noticed more women being represented in either the USA or the UK?

I can’t say I’ve noticed a difference between the US and the UK. I think a lot of parallels can be drawn between us as more women are joining tech and awareness around equality is made.

How can the industry help improve the ratio of men to women in ad tech/martech?

I think they’ve taken the first step in becoming aware of the issue and vocalizing it. Now it’s a matter of making it possible for women to step into senior roles and succeed. I believe organizations, tech or otherwise, have a lot to gain by having more women in senior positions.

Who inspires you?

Where do I begin? Honestly, there are so many people out there, true trailblazers, who are doing really cool things. I’m inspired most by the people around me especially my close girlfriends, who are kicking butt in life and are always there to support me.

Women kicking butt in life is a great segway to talk about the IAB UK.

Alex and Sophia, IAB UK - Women in tech

I spoke with the IAB UK’s Director of PR and Communications Sophia Amin (left), and Director of Marketing and Industry Engagement, Alex Kolzoff (right) to learn how they see the future.

From the IAB’s perspective, how do you see the future of women in ad tech? What does that future look like and what will it achieve?

Sophia:

Our industry is definitely not the most progressive for female representation but it is (or should be) acutely aware of what needs to be done. Whether it’s tuning into Ada’s list or helping to promote tech opportunities to young women, the future of tech will only be better for the balance of gender. We know men and women hire, work and process things differently, so if boards continue to be male-dominated, there’s a real danger that our industry will never reach its potential.

Alex:

It’s great that diversity is such a hot topic at the moment in our industry. Being aware, and having conversations about women in ad tech can only help the long-term opportunities for women in this male-dominated industry. I’m already noticing changes, for example, six years ago at Mobile World Congress there might have been 1-5% women, but last year seemed more like 20-30%. It’s fantastic to see such a rapid change, which I hope continues long into the future.

What are you doing at the IAB right now to encourage more women in tech to step up?

Sophia:

At the IAB, we’re keen to get female thought leadership for our industry-wide comms, as we want to represent an evolving and balanced industry.

The fact that the IAB employs more men than women and have me and Alex as directors, helps to celebrate women in tech. I have two young children and have taken some time out, yet this has only been made possible by an employer who understands my need for flexibility and support from time to time. For me, it’s largely been senior men who have supported this, they’re also parents so they ‘get it’. It’s not just about having women at the top to pave the way, men are equally able to make this work.

Alex:

We aim to have at least a third female speakers at our conferences. To be totally honest, this can often be challenging, but it’s really important and our members are really supportive of this initiative.

What was your experience like becoming Directors at the IAB? And how do we ensure the next generation of ladies start to fill dev, tech and martech positions?

Sophia:

I started my career in the creative agency world – over a decade of account managing blue-chip brands. I was lucky to have many brilliant, supportive female bosses – role models, I guess. I vividly remember one of my worst people management experiences when I was in my mid-twenties, I had to manage someone who was 8 years my senior. He didn’t listen or respect me. He didn’t last long in the end but it really made me think about how you treat your boss. Whoever they are, wherever they come from, and whatever gender you both are, you need to respect them or you might as well pack up. And that’s the advice I’d give to industry. Don’t just employ and empower women, your culture needs to reshape to support this much overdue change.

Alex:

I started my career at a media agency, followed by a few years at (was then called) Orange before I started at the IAB. At the IAB I’ve had a few different roles, starting in the Mobile department, then moving through to Marketing & Communications to now looking after Marketing & Industry Engagement. The IAB has a really unique and flexible culture that allows both women and men to grow, which has been important for my career. This flexibility is key for the next generation in the workforce and should help female talent (and men too hopefully!) progress.


There you have it! Some powerful messages from three successful, intelligent and truly inspiring women. If you can, take second to pass this on. Let’s make sure we nurture this change and amplify the voices of women in tech.

If you enjoyed this blog, read the rest of our women in tech series here:

Women in tech are a problem

Women in tech series: it’s about a balance

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment