Industry news

Publishers: here’s the best thing you can adopt this festive season

Publishers: here’s 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 it’s lack of transparency, claiming it’s “murky at best, and fraudulent at worst”. But the IAB (the Internet Advertising Bureau) have 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:

Coull's ethos.png

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 are 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
A digital fad or valuable ads?

A digital fad or valuable ads?

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

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

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

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

How can Snapchat win back users?

  • Make it easier for people to find brands on Snapchat

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

  • Focus on creativity and functionality

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

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

  • Involve influencers more

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

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

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

  • More monetising options

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

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

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

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

Changes on the horizon?

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

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


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

Posted by Naomi Sandercock in Coull comment

Women in tech – it’s about 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, to an extent, and the steps that need to be taken to encourage more women to get into tech. This time, we’re going to talk about the work/life balance, because it’s a realistic concern for many women and something companies need to understand and 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 an industry filled predominantly with men and if they’ve gained career confidence, working in a relatively new industry, where their experience and knowledge is in such high demand.

Nicola Woodford – Coull Compliance Manager

Nicola is Coull’s compliance manager, a role created specifically around her skill set, something the industry is in need of. She helps ensure Coull’s inventory is comprised of valid and viewable traffic, that’s brand safe, human and trustworthy. Whilst cyber security vendors use machine learning and algorithms to detect fraudulent traffic or traffic that’s not viewable, Nicola combines the methods of using specific technologies, and her own eyes, to spot invalid traffic before it has a chance to enter the market.

How did you get started working in programmatic ad tech?

Before working at Coull, programmatic ad tech was not something that I even really knew existed. I always noticed the ads on the websites I viewed, but it wasn’t something I really even considered. After university, I gained an internship at Coull, which really opened my eyes to online advertising and programmatics. Throughout my time at Coull, and with help from the people here, I have 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 – and therefore, content free?

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

Do you feel there is a gender bias when it comes to women in ad tech, or just that there aren’t enough women out there applying for these roles?

There does seem to be a gender bias, especially in that there are more males in senior roles within the industry than women, I am finding that over recent years, that is slowly changing. It is only fairly recently that women have been slightly more encouraged to pursue these types of roles and I really think that starts with education. For example, I remember my teachers trying to discourage me from taking electronics as a GCSE as it was seen as more of a boys subject (luckily, I am extremely stubborn so I completely ignored them). I am 28 and those attitudes haven’t changed since I was at school, it will take some time but I like to think the balance is changing.

You have a young family, do you feel there is good enough support for you to keep a work/family balance?

I am very lucky that Coull allow 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 is just not possible to return to work after maternity – whether they would like to or not. Unfortunately, this means we are 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 – could this be a positive drawcard, especially for mums?

As mentioned, I am very lucky to have flexible working and I would say that is something which is much more prevalent in the tech and emerging media industries. Working from home (and other flexible working) is possible due 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 there could be differences in the third party verification used, or simply not having the third party verification in the first place. Often, it is possible 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 explaining/trying to explain it to them. After extensive explanations people usually come to the conclusion that I work in IT. Though, I was at a family get together the other week 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 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 would have to say the people I work with make my job very enjoyable. Coull have a great team here and I can honestly say that they are all my friends. We’re able to get all the work done but also be able to laugh throughout the day and help each other out. I also get to speak to a wide range of people in the industry, which is really great. I tend to be able to 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 pan out to 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 that it’s skewed one way?

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

What sort of skills have you learned from working in tech that you didn’t have before you started?

I studied a degree in History and Politics so my technical knowledge was very limited. My strength when I joined Coull, was my people skills, rather than technical ones. However I have 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 will hopefully get there.

Do you find any clients are surprised to find their account manager for programmatic optimization is a woman?

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

Working regular office hours in an industry where some of your clients are waking up when you’d normally be winding down must be difficult, is it hard not to take work home with you?

Absolutely. I went through a period of being online from 7am in the morning to 11pm at night and checking my emails throughout the night, which makes it very difficult to have time to yourself. I’ve learned through experience 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 in terms of training, groups, conferences to build more interest and educate on emerging programmatic trends?

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 with the pace of things.

Would you normally describe yourself as a techie or is this something that’s really just developed because of the nature of the work you do for Coull?

I wouldn’t describe myself as a techie, that part of my personality has definitely grown throughout my time at Coull. Luckily my role as an account manager mainly focuses on relationship building, speaking to different people on a daily basis and spending time analysing reports, which are my favourite things to do. I’m lucky enough to have a great tech/dev team and Coull who are able to assist with any technical setups.

This brings our women in tech series to a close, but we hope these insights into real women, in developer, senior management, marketing, programmatic compliance and programmatic account management will encourage more discussion, and more interest in employment.

The gender gap is wide and women in tech roles often find they’re not taken as seriously as their male counterparts. The trend is slowly changing, this has been reflected by all the women I’ve spoken with, and in the work being done by industry bodies to put more women front and centre in tech and to encourage young women and girls, to adopt an interest, and a passion for tech industries.

#womenintech

If you enjoyed this blog, read the stories from our women in tech series here:

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment
Women in tech are pretty awesome

Women in tech are pretty awesome

Last week we spoke about the lack of women in tech roles and introduced Liv Franzen, Developer at Coull. We wanted to open a dialogue and help encourage more women to join the industry, and be confident to apply for senior roles.

We’re continuing the #womenintech series this week and are lucky to have 3 inspiring ladies featured in this blog.

Michelle Bommer, head of adops at Coull tells us how a sweet American girl from Southern California, found herself waking up at the crack of dawn to work on innovative video ad campaigns with her colleagues across the ocean, in the UK.

We’ll also find out from Alex Kolzoff and Sophia Amin of the IAB UK, what they’re doing to encourage and promote equality and professional growth for women within the technology space.

Let’s kick things off with Coull’s queen of adops – 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 adtech. Five years later, she moved to San Francisco, and joined Coull. Since then she’s earned her place as head of adops, leading a talented team of technical campaign account managers. Michelle is respected by colleagues and clients and always has a positive, upbeat attitude, ensuring her team feel motivated and our partners enjoy the benefits.

Despite these personal achievements, when we scan the adtech 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, it’s 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 to 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, with leadership roles.

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

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 work to coordinate the daily operations of our supply and demand accounts.  Through the technical onboarding, to monitoring of traffic quality and brand safety, to the daily management of partners, we ensure that everything is running as smoothly as possible, and at the end of the day our partners are happy.

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

I started out as an intern at a small company in Hermosa Beach 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 monetized 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’ve always been a social person and someone who enjoys a good challenge, having a job in the dynamic tech space that allows me to interact with people every day, is wonderful.

What are your biggest challenges?

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

Is the gender gap in ad tech something you notice?

Having been in the adtech 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 very few women there, besides the “booth babes” hired to lure people in.  I have seen that change over the last few years though, as organizations move to address the issue and those behind the events are making a point of having 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) did not exist when I was in school and similar programs weren’t exactly encouraging girls to join.  I’m hopeful though as we are seeing 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.

From: Girls Who Code

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

I can’t say I have 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 have taken the first step in becoming aware of the issue and vocalizing it, and now it’s really just a matter of making it possible for women to step into these roles and succeed.  I believe organizations, tech or otherwise have a lot to gain by having more women, particularly in more 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, and you can’t forget all those who came before us. At the end of the day I’m inspired most by the people around me, my close girlfriends, who are kicking butt in life and in their respected fields, and are always there to lend support and guidance.

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

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 they future.

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

Sophia:

The future of women could be utterly shattered right now with crazy politics further afield, which is a tragedy of economic proportion. 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, and a great swathe of industry have been doing a great deal about it for some time. Whether it’s tuning into adas list or helping to promote coding and 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 (not to say we all work the same way if we’re women) and if boards continue to be all male, there’s a very real danger that our industry will slip behind and 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 what has traditionally been a 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 looking around the halls it seems more like 20-30% now. Fantastic to see such rapid change, which I hope continues long into the future.

What are you doing at the IAB right now to encourage more women to step up into senior positions in tech companies and to speak at conferences etc?

Sophia:

Alex has already touched on the focus of balancing the speakers at our conference – more on this here https://iabuk.net/blog/striking-a-balance-engage-2016 .

At the IAB, we are also just as keen to get thought leadership in any form for our industry wide comms, as we want to represent an evolving and balanced industry.

I would also hope that somehow the fact that at the IAB we employ more men than women and have myself and Alex as directors, helps to celebrate that. For me, with two young children, having taken some time out, this has only been made possible by an employer who understands my need for flexibility and having a bit of support from time to time. For me, it’s largely been senior men who have supported this, they also happen to be dads, and so they ‘get it’. So 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 coming up through the ranks to be 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 creative agency world – over a decade of account managing various blue chip brands in their digital marketing. I was lucky to have many brilliant, supportive women bosses, role models I guess. I vividly remember one of my worst people management experiences when I was in my mid-twenties, line managing someone who was 8 years my senior. Didn’t listen, didn’t 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, and defiants should be goners.

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 six years ago. 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 and try new things which has been really important for my career. I think this flexibility is key for the next generation in the workforce, and should help to help female talent (and men too hopefully!) progress.

Some powerful messages from 3 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.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment
Women in tech are a problem

Women in tech are a problem

Women in tech are a real problem. They’re a problem because they’re not there, not in the same numbers as their male counterparts. They’ve been absent from the conversation. But this is changing – we’re seeing and hearing from talented women in tech roles who are reaching out, starting conversations and shining their beacon on an industry that can, and needs to do better at facilitating equality. We’re seeing more women represented on ad tech panels and their insights are both meaningful and challenging.

It’s time to not only open the doors of technical roles to women, but to encourage them to step through. We need more women in tech, to give them the opportunity to influence a new generation of creative, skilled and driven tech leaders, with disparate experiences, ideas and opinions.

Slowly we’re starting to see an emergence of female driven content, and startups being chaired by women. And, we’re beginning to hear a dialogue between women who are supporting each other, rather than taking a purely competitive stance in the workplace.

All that said – when we take a look at the number of women in tech roles globally – we start to worry considerably.

According to Forbes ‘Apple has 20% of women employees  in technology; Google has 17% of women in its workforce, while Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter have 16.6%, 15% and 10% respectively.

I encourage you to read the full Forbes article which goes on to provide a long list of disheartening stats about women in tech companies, especially those in leadership positions.

The technology sector has become such a huge growth machine and it will impact future generations in such a powerful way. We need women to be part of that influence, we need their ideas, their leadership, their skills and their communication. We need women in tech to be seen and heard to inspire the next generation of female techies – and we need tech giants like Google and Apple to lead the charge by changing the way they recruit.

At Coull, we’re very proud of having the best people in development and we are keen to grow our female to male ratio of employees. Liv Franzén is currently representing women in tech as a developer at Coull – so who better to fill in some of the gaps in our understanding of why so few women are in her position. I spoke to her to find out exactly what her experience has been:

 What made you get into tech in the first place, what was so appealing about it?

I was fascinated by computers as a child and had a natural talent for math, logic & problem-solving. I also knew I wanted to do something creative and development is all about making things. I didn’t have much exposure to tech in school – the computer programming classes were truly dreadful, perfectly uninspiring.

What was the process like for becoming a developer?

After some Film Studies, I did a Graphic Design / New Media course, where I got hands on with coding, which sparked the geek inside me, and I decided that I wanted to take computer programming further.  So I went on to study a Computer Science major with Digital Arts minor degree, after which I went straight into a job developing multimedia science software.

Did you find there were many females studying with you and do you know many other women who are developers?

There were many women on my university course, but strangely hardly any in the workspace. I’ve seen a pattern that women with tech background take on more administrative / project management type jobs. I know some lady developers socially, but my work colleagues throughout my career have been almost exclusively male. It’s a shame that women techies are so scarce, but then the general lack of diversity – not just the gender polarisation – is a limitation for this industry.

What are your biggest challenges?

The speed of innovation and rapid change in the development world, I think most [front end] developers struggle with this to some degree. It’s been specifically noticeable after taking time out after having kids – it is a quite a mountain to climb to get back after taking a year or so out.

 For those playing at home that do know a bit about dev work and are pondering the different areas they might get into – what sort of work do you find the most interesting?

I enjoy the visual side of front-end programming – 3D / WebGL, generative art and data visualisation. There are loads of inspiring projects out there – much of which is open source.

Do you ever feel the pressure of being outnumbered by men in your industry or do you see it more of an opportunity?

I honestly never felt that being a female in the tech industry has been a problem. People in generally are positively surprised if anything.

Why do you think men dominate this industry to the extent they currently do?

Not sure. It’s possible that young girls don’t get inspired to explore if they have the aptitude for this industry. Maybe it is cooler for boys to be geeky than for girls? There is definitely a perception problem with tech not being a woman’s domain…

What advice do you have for women who want to get into tech, as you have?

It’s not all that easy to figure out what you should do with your life, regardless of gender. If anything, I would advise any young person to not be afraid to go against the grain, if that’s what’s needed to follow your path.

You have two lovely daughters; would you encourage them into a profession as a techie if they showed an interest or aptitude for it?

Yes, absolutely. They should follow their interests whatever they may be. Right now, the older wants to be an artist and the younger one wants to be a ladybird.

Do you find your colleagues and peers in development supportive of you and has this always been the case?

Yes, I find people that work in the digital industry and the wider tech community to be a friendly, supportive and progressive lot.

We want to actively encourage more women to join the tech sector. The success of women in tech roles at Coull has directly impacted the successes of our business and providing opportunities for women to take on senior roles is something we strive to provide.

‘“If companies start early with diversity and inclusion, they don’t have to bolt it on later, which is much harder,” Erica Baker, Build and Release Engineer at Slack Technologies via The Times.

If all the women’s demonstration marches in the US and around the world this week haven’t got you feeling inspired to get behind them and provide those opportunities, maybe the success stories of women in ad tech will.

Next week we chat to Michelle Bommer, head of ad ops at Coull and hear from two female directors at the IAB UK. Then we’ll be interviewing Coull Compliance manager Nicola Woodford and demand side account manager Laura Matthews.

Be want you want to be – if that’s a ladybird, then be that ladybird!

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment

The looming video adtech apocalypse of 2017

The video advertising industry has experienced rapid growth over the last 5-10 years, spawned from the increasing popularity of the format. During this time, it’s become awash with intermediaries, all trying to claim their slice of the cake. Many of these middle men have taken that slice without contributing to the publisher, advertiser, or viewer in any valuable, tangible or measurable way.

When we look back the video ad-network arbitrage model circa 2011, we see a simple model for programmatic advertising that’s done a job, but that’s lacked the necessary measurement and invalid traffic detection required today.

It now seems we’ve gone from one extreme to another, with a plethora of intermediaries filling every possible space, and yet the solution for quality video advertising has not yet been achieved. We’ve reached a point of reckoning. The middle men who aren’t contributing or performing will be vanquished in 2017, leaving a trail of destruction.

The ad tech apocalypse is upon us, here’s how we got there and who will survive it.

The background

The video ad-network arbitrage model

2011

This is the year video advertising started becoming popular. The biggest problem was that there wasn’t enough pre-roll (an ad before the content). This stunted the growth of early video ad platforms. So with display advertising getting cheaper and cheaper, brands and agencies bought ad slots on web pages originally designed for display banner ads. As these slots are inherently smaller, generally muted and not as obvious to a user, they were far less effective than pre-roll. Thus, in-banner video was born, bringing with it a multitude of problems that Tubemogul called out at the time.

The video exchanges didn’t do any dynamic analysis or fraud protection at the time, so buyers didn’t know if they were buying real pre-roll or in-banner. This Adexchanger article on the subject divulges more.

Video ad networks soon followed, white labelling these same platforms to create in-banner video ads, and then selling it back to platforms. These platforms like Liverail loved it, as it gave the plausible deniability as to where the inventory came from, and made them grow enormously.

In 2012, some video Ad networks were making 300% margin.

Cut to 2017:

Let’s jump to the present, and take a look at what has happened since:

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  • There are now hundreds of companies arbitraging, all buying and selling to each other – just take a look at any of the many lumascapes of the ad industry that further illustrate this point.

  • All the 1st generation video SSPs have been bought, and cleaned up their acts (in Liverail’s case completely closed), so there’s nowhere easy to sell it.

  • 3rd party vendors now exist to show what is in-banner from real pre-roll, creating transparency.

  • Facebook is the king of in-banner, and can demonstrate a clear ROI. If you want to buy it, you go there.

  • Ghost sites and fraud paid-for traffic are easier to detect.

  • Advertisers are demanding clawbacks on media buys that are flagged as fraudulent by the vendors.

  • Average 90 day payment terms means that they carry large liabilities

  • The CPM prices have dropped now advertisers know what they’re buying

  • Zero-sum game. All the growth in ad spend is going to Facebook & Google -AKA the walled garden – not to the open web.

  • Disintermediation, with advertisers going direct to publishers for the best inventory.

Having spoken to many publishers, their average margin in 2016 was 20%!

All this adds up to a rough 2017 for the all the middlemen, who are now scrabbling to rebrand themselves video SSPs with a “proprietary exchanges” and “patented algorithms”.

  • If you are a publisher with quality inventory then don’t mess around, get on one of the big video SSPs, and do PMP deals directly with brands & agencies.

  • The only tech that publishers should be using, is that which creates more of, or adds value to their existing supply. It’s never been easier to sell it yourself.

  • If you are a middleman, then create something of real value. Solve a real problem for publishers, not just an inefficiency.

 

If you’ve been watching the market for the last few years you’ll have noticed the lay offs, the acquisitions and the negative media attention aimed at programmatic. And the reasons won’t come as a shock:

  • Commoditization

  • Arbitrage / less inefficiencies in the market to exploit.

  • The wrong approach to mobile

  • Old display exchanges missing the boat on video

  • Lack of unique data

  • Innovating in the auction not the format – actually solve a problem, not an inefficiency.

 

Companies to watch in 2017 will be those that can keep steady growth, get a grip on their spend

Threats

Whilst we have made incredible inroads to detecting fraud, viewability and creating transparency on the buy side, there are still unknown factors across emerging formats that need to be addressed, and there is threat posed by those still haggling their way in, without the required expertise.

Old display exchanges providing liquidity

  • The old display exchanges coming into video advertising but without the experience, or understanding its nuances and how to guard against fraud. Video is a shared & embedded around the web. With limited experience in how to deal with this, these old display SSP/Exchanges are already responsible for far more fraud than dedicated video platforms like SpotX.

Mobile web

  • It’s still a real wild west out there, the verification vendors haven’t yet developed adequate solutions. There are plenty of hacks to make ads autoplay on mobile browsers, and plenty of obnoxious unclosable ad units coming out to clog users screens with obnoxious unskippable ads.

Who will survive?

Surviving the ad tech apocalypse will come down to being unique, contributing value to publishers, advertisers and users, and having the conviction to offer proof. If you’ve got a strong business that’s presenting something unique, and innovating the formats and channels rather than how they are sold and you’re able to differentiate yourself in a commoditised market – you’re in with a real chance.

How?

  • Tick the basics: highly quality, highly viewable, fraud free.

  • Have defensible tech & direct partnerships

  • Cut through the noise with clear buzzword free messaging.

Transparency is a must. Advertisers are sick of being lied to, they’re sick of fraud and sick of inefficiencies. Publishers need viable ad formats that ad value for their audience and as for the viewers – they just want better experiences.

We’re seeing a move to buying based on audience targeting and engaging metrics. We’re also starting to see mobile video ascend the ad revenue rankings. But to survive in ad tech in 2017, you’ll need to:

  • facilitate measurement
  • develop and or enable appropriate and creative ad formats
  • target audiences

If you can’t add value and help enable a sustainable ecosystem, your spot in the food chain will become obsolete.

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RTB 2.5 – new features that affect video advertising

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With the release of the draft spec for RTB 2.5 there are some super interesting new ideas around how to describe video adverts. Here we’ll take you through a few and how we see them being used.

1 video.placement

This addition allows publishers and SSPs to describe the type of placement that an ad is being requested for. We’ve all seen 300×250 ad placements come through, and we all know they are in banner requests – now we have a way of saying that explicitly.

2 Data Encoding

You can now specify a data encoding header that should be handled by the bidder. A good example of this would be specifying gzip encoding of the bid request – this simply compresses the traffic over the wire from exchange to bidder and back, saving on bandwidth and ultimately money.

3 Bid Changes

There are a few changes to the bid object. A bidder now has the ability to provide a Billing Notice URL (burl) and a Loss Notice URL (lurl).

For Coull, this added layer of transparency is something we’ve been passing to bidders for a while now, albeit relying on our own tech to make that possible. It’s an important inclusion as 2017 will be the year brands and agencies demand more clarity about what they’re bidding on and the result of the auction in real time. We allow the bidder to see if they’ve won or lost, and what the winning price was, which only helps optimise the whole process.

The addition of these 2 features introduces a subtle but important change to the data a DSP can get from an auction. The win notification can now be thought of as just that – the price you offered was enough to win the auction but it doesn’t guarantee anything.

The burl is a great addition, as it’s stage further on from the current win notification. The burl will provide a more accurate way of tracking spend based on delivered impressions, as it’s connected to the impression – it’s saying this impression cost $x.  Splitting these 2 things up enables DSPs to track things like failed impressions and possibly partners that may have issues with their player.

The loss notification adds another dimension to this information. It enables the DSP to immediately know that the spend that they had assigned to the auction is now free – there will be no impression. Coull has been offering loss notifications since the introduction of its Exchange and we’re pleased to see this finally make it into the RTB specification

4 Source

The new Source object lets the exchange pass on some data about whether or not there will be a decision made upstream from the exchange. Header Bidding is the obvious example here, but more and more Ad Managers are holding client side auctions to increase the amount of demand an opportunity sees, and it’s normal now to see sideways connections from exchange to exchange, again to increase the amount of demand available in an efficient way.

There are some more changes, little and big, to the spec but I’ll leave it there for now. The above represents what we believe to be the most interesting ideas in the new spec. It’s great to see some positive changes have been made in the is latest update, and again we’ll look for yet for improvements come version 2.6.

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Coull CEOs martech and adtech predictions 2017

Aden Forshaw helped found Coull back in 2008 but this year has been his big leap, being appointed CEO and taking the reins. Aden has been integral in bringing some exciting developments to fruition, including the launch of our proprietary ad format OverStream and placing a big focus on eradicating invalid traffic from the marketplace, starting with the Coull Platform.

Aden made his predictions about the ad tech industry at the end of 2015 and unsurprisingly to us, proved the spirit of Yoda really does thrive within him.

In this post Aden, CEO and Yoda of Coull –  gives his predictions for what the programmatic ad industry is going to look like in 2017.

Top predictions

1.The adtech bloodbath

The tools now exist to highlight any middlemen representing poor inventory or adding no value. As a result of the adoption of these tools, there will be a bloodbath of inadequate adtech middlemen. Ad networks will continue going out of business in 2017 as the demand side goes around them with programmatic direct. This is good news for quality publishers, who will see their CPMs rise, and for adtech players creating real value to cut through the noise.

2. Sweating the asset

Brands are paying top dollar for the right spot, within the right inventory, and are also paying the mass of vendors to validate the quality of the spot they’re buying.  2017 will see brands demand more ROI from their investment and more from their agencies. As for the ad units itself, real-time creative backed by deep-learning AI will take us back to a time when advertising was fun and engaging.

3. Artificial Intelligence

Look forward to buzzword bingo at every conference with a lot of people not understanding what AI means. We’re referring to the deep-learning variant, the same that Google has been using so successfully with Quickdraw. This will create real magic and new ways of interacting with an audience, and finding niche audiences that once relied on manual targeting.

4. Measuring the garden – accountability for all the big players

Measurement standards will finally be applied inside walled gardens. YouTube is already moving that way, as is Facebook with its continued ‘mea-culpas’ – buyers are demanding more. This will be the draw of more TV money into online, but it’ll mainly go to Facebook rather than the open web.

5. Civilising Mobile Video

2016 was the year that all the verification vendors to help clean up desktop video, 2017 will be mobile. Sophisticated vendors like White Ops are already raising large amounts to dedicate themselves to the task but it’s time to apply them to mobile. It’s still a wild west of VAST inventory, but app makers are finally coalescing around a small number of Ad SDKs, meaning mobile VPAID will soon be the norm.

6. Another acronym joins the team – hello H-2-H – goodbye B-2-C

2016 saw the direct to consumer revolution take hold, led by players like Dollarshave club. Big Brands have taken note, and are following suit. This will see them try new creative approaches to reaching an audience, with heavy experimentation on Chatbots and personalised Video campaigns. It’s about human to human communications, brand stories, and ideas.

7. Widening cracks in the looking glass

Viewability has become a widespread proxy for ad-quality during 2016 but the cracks have already been clear to see with ample evidence of its fallibility and potential for gaming. Industry experts and savvy advertisers are already calling for an exercise in caution within our peer group when putting viewability on a pedestal. Underlying fraud and the drudging pursuit of unattainable standardisation in viewability measurement, will become more of a theme as 2017 progresses. Expect publishers and advertisers to put their support behind ad formats that are more viewable by design, engage audiences in more tangible ways and offer a safer bet for ROI than a flawed measure of viewability.

 Some of the other changes we expect to take hold:

EU Data

The EU General Data Protection Regulation won’t hit until 2018, but by the end of 2017 we’ll see it shake out for implementation. It is a seismic shift in how data is handled not just for Advertising, but all PII and metadata about users.

Expect more Hacks

In technology terms some adtech platforms have been around for eons. There are legacy security models, and antiquated tech stacks, especially those built by third parties and not maintained. With adtech providing easy way to touch so many people expect a few big hacks in 2017.

Google’s open source video player

It’s long been doing the rounds of the rumor mill but this year could very well see the launch of Google’s open source video player. Once launched the player, will inevitably compete with VideoJS, and take market share from established players like JWPlayer, and potentially Brightcove. Of course it will plug into Google’s adtech stack, straight out of the box.

Commoditisation means old display adtech will take a beating

Header bidding has commoditised what was once locked in relationships. Expect to see the old guard struggle, especially those that haven’t successfully added Video and Mobile to their offering. The shelves stacked with out of date ad units will collect dust as new creative, engaging and data driven formats fly off, attracting the attention of agencies and trading desks.

We are hoping to see big changes in 2017, with the momentum toward cleaning up programmatic swinging in the right direction already, its transition across platforms will be a game changer. The adoption of AI and more targetable ad tech will become normal as quality, trusted inventory with highly engaging ad formats takes centre stage, finally allowing digital publishers to earn their keep.

The final word:

2016 delivered transparency, in 2017 we’ll see action emerge from insight.

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What the IAB and PWC’s latest report means for 2017

The IAB and PWC have released the latest digital ad revenue figures for 2016 and we thought you’d like to know what some of the findings are pointing to. These figures are based on the first half of 2016 compared with the first half of 2015.

The overall findings are that digital ad revenues continue to increase and compared to the same last year, they’re 20% higher. So while the chocolate bars get smaller, the crips bags offering significantly less crisps and our Toblerone’s changing shape – at least we can rest assured something in our retail economy is getting bigger. Digital ad spend.

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The report stated that historically we see around 53% of the years revenue coming from the second quarter – so we should see further growth when the next report is released. The trajectory is going one way – up!

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The big news is the domination in mobile video revenue growth

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‘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 are seeing strong revenues across the board but unsurprisingly – the dollars have shifted toward the mobile platform with video growing rapidly.

As more mobile friendly ad formats begin to emerge toward the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017 we would expect this to continue increasing, as audiences interact with more creative, rich media and relevantly targeted ad units.

We know which ad formats are doing well, but the IAB has also taken a look at which categories are performing better. It’s no surprise retail is right there at the top but exactly what sort of retail and which formats work best for each would be good to analyze. Mobile targeted ads for the retail space are beginning to take off as people discover on the move so perhaps the second half of the year will reveal more about the changing purchase journey.

Whilst desktop search was down from the same time period in 2015 – combined desktop and mobile search is actually up 17% – at 8.4 billion in total revenues. This goes to show how the mobile device is taking over and that it’s an area where more analysis and investment will be focused in 2017.

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Click here to view the full IAB report. Video really is showing its strength across all platforms and as we introduce more relevance, better mobile experiences and brand stories the handheld device we all rely on is set to be the main revenue generator for media companies.

Check out The OverStream Suite of advertising formats to see just one of the ways Coull is making better ad experiences that are high performing, yet non-interruptive.

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What can be learned from the demise of Mode Media?

The demise of Mode Media is a sad one for its staff and publisher’s. Its story will be turned into a narrative that the wider tech industry will find salacious. Business InsiderMediapost already have very readable accounts.

Whilst its Shakespearean tale of trouble at the top may be enthralling to the tech community, what can everyday publishers who are the life blood of the industry learn from the debacle?

  1. Diversify your demand. I know it’s tempting to say yes when an ad network comes knocking, offering to do it all for you and promising that you’ll have more time to go off and concentrate on making more content. Instead say ‘’thanks but no thanks Mr Middleman, that would be taking a huge risk’’. Fact is you’re running a business, and part of that is understanding how advertisers value your content, not relying on one go-between.

  2. Net120 (120 days until they pay out) terms is a big warning, hell even net90 is borderline. No matter how direct to the brand paying the bills you are there will always be a payment delay. There is a worrying trend by some brands to extend it further past even net120. Whether you’re working with an SSP or directly with DSPs & agencies, they should shoulder some of the risk for you.

  3. Offset the risk, if you do have to accept long payment terms, then consider what some Mode publishers did and take a 5% charge to get it down to net30.

  4. Engage with the Adops communities, either on Reddit / Slack / IRC or Facebook groups. These are the people on the ground floor making things happen, they are the first to see issues arise, and call out press statements as BS.

  5. Be careful of companies that can’t do video & mobile. This is fast becoming the barometer for identifying companies that will be around in the next few years.  It’s 2016 and any company still only successful in display will struggle. The adtech market is in consolidation mode and some of the old guard, whether large or small, who may have paved the way for the new, won’t be around in 2 years – especially if they haven’t diversified.
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