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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
The Power of Video

The Power of Video

Online video has been around ever since I can remember, I grew up with it - even if it was through a dodgy dial-up connection. But video advertising has also been around since I can remember, and it’s not all been as positive. Don’t get me wrong, when advertisers get video right, they really get it right, like this famous ad from Cadburys. But why are high-quality, memorable and relevant video adverts so few and far between?

Gone are the days when advertisers could spend weeks and months planning the perfect advertising campaign for a billboard or magazine page. We’re now living in a fast-moving, rapid-consuming world, we want video and we want it now. There’s a panic amongst advertisers, millions of videos are being watched every day and adverts need to follow that audience. And so, rushed, ineffective and non-engaging video ads are born, in an attempt to get something - anything - into the video space, ignoring quality and only focusing on the quantity.

And that’s just where the advertising industry has gone wrong. There’s such a rush to get into the video space, in front of an audience, that the most important thing has been forgotten...the people watching. There’s no use putting a message out there, if it isn’t high-quality content, if it doesn’t engage and if it’s not relevant.

Videos can be powerful, but we need to learn to harness that power to win over audiences once again.

The Power of Video

Last week, we hosted a breakfast event all about digital video, called The Power of Video. The aim of this event was to discuss the current state of the online video advertising industry and how to unlock the power of online video.


The IAB’s Senior Industry Initiatives Manager, Mike Reynolds, presented first, focusing on video trends and creative research. He shared some research to emphasise the huge growth of the video market.

Video is driving market growth

X3 | The time spent watching short video clips online has tripled in the last three years.

Source: IAB / YouGov consumer insights, October 2017

£699m | Online video has overtaken banners as the largest display format.

Source: IAB / PWC Digital Adspend Study H1 2017

But he also touched on how mobile is such a big influence on advertising spend.

Mobile video is also driving growth

68% | Mobile video is up 68% year on year, making it the fastest growing format.

Source: IAB / PWC Digital Adspend Study H1 2017

Lastly, he spoke about the IAB’s research, ‘Fit for Purpose’. This research looks at how advertisers tailor creative video ads for mobiles. If you would like to find out more about ‘Fit for Purpose’, the IAB is hosting the official research launch on 20th March 2018.

Next up was Coull’s very own Director of Agency Sales, Alex Wright.

Alex asked the question, why are videos so powerful? The answer: it’s part of our DNA. Paying attention to motion and avoiding cognitive strain are just a few reasons why we are hard-wired to favour video over any other format.

Perhaps more importantly for brands, is that videos can generate far more emotional cues than a photo can, with the ability to tell an extensive story and appeal to a wider range of senses.

It's ideas that evoke specific emotional responses: joy, sadness, anger, laughter etc. These emotions fuel passion and drive human behaviour while building a brand relationship with an audience.

Emotions form brand connections

But, as Alex went on to say, that power is being diluted through poorly made videos that don’t take their audience - or the device they’re watching on - into account. However, here are the 4 action points from Alex on how to get the most out of your video advertising:

how to unlock the power of video advertising infographic

Follow these steps and we can say goodbye to videos that make little to no impact and say hello to engaging, high-quality videos that connect brands and audiences.

Are you unsure of the best way to follow-up a pre-roll? This is where we can help.

We enhance the impact of your pre-roll by giving it an immediate follow-up within the video player. We can offer a variety of follow-up options from within our OverStream Suite. When you pair our OverStream formats with pre-roll, we call this DoubleUp.

Our OverStream Suite formats:

OverStream Banner - video advertising format

Banner

Our simplest format that delivers results from inside the video stream.

The Banner appears for 30 seconds, offering brand engagement opportunities. The user can choose to dismiss the advert at any time with a clearly distinguished close button.

 


 

Minimising MPU

Grabs attention and encourages action, with your audience in mind.

The Minimising MPU format appears in the corner of the video player for 5 seconds before minimising to a small ‘ad-expand’ icon that re-expands on user interaction. The user may then engage with, or close, the advert at their discretion.

OverStream Minimising MPU - video advertising format

 


 

OverStream OnPause - video advertising format

OnPause

An intelligent ad format, shown when the audience clicks pause.

OnPause delivers an ad on the video player each time it is paused by the user. This is easily dismissable via the ‘dismiss’ button or automatically when content is resumed.

 


 

 

However, we see the value of both high-quality pre-roll and high-quality video content. Our aim is to add value to any video. So, if you would prefer to not use pre-roll, you can still reach video audiences solely through any OverStream format, so you can still make use of a valuable and viewable online space.

If you’re interested in how Coull can help you harness the power of video advertising, check out The OverStream suite or contact us.

 

Take a look at the photos from The Power of Video...

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
The importance of targeting

The importance of targeting

Targeting in your platform is usually a fairly simple operation – it’s easy to set up and you expect it to work based on the rules you implemented. However…

 

  • How many of you audit your targeting – do your publishers send you the correct information?

  • How many of you are speaking to your demand side to ensure that your targeting is matching their targeting?

  • Are you seeing misaligned CPM’s and wondering why?

The chances are that your targeting rules are misaligned. Most of the tags that we send out are price matched against either domain lists, player sizes and/or geos. I personally don’t see much misalignment against domain lists or geos, but I do when it comes to player sizes. The publisher is expected to send a certain size via a particular tag. And due to the strict targeting we apply on our demand side, you’re probably losing revenue and decreasing your fill rate.

Targeting test: traffic audit

Recently, I completed an internal audit across our supply chain. I wanted to know the number of requests we received, where we were unable to detect/receive the following:

  • page_url

  • player_width

  • player_height

In a 24-hour period, we received 180k requests where we were unable to pass the required information to our exchange. It’s a small percentage of our overall traffic, but, add that to misaligned pricing channels and it starts to add up – especially when you sit in a chain of other ad servers.

At Coull, we’re happy to audit your traffic and let you know where sales are going amiss. Equally, we have another amazing option – it’s called multi-price floor targeting. We are not the first to use it, but it does make sense!

We only need to supply you with one tag:

  • Tell us what CPMs you expect and we’ll handle all the necessary targeting.

  • Use subID’s only to identify sub-publishers rather than price points.

  • We will never under-sell your inventory.

  • All targeting criteria are immediately lined up with our demand stack, ensuring the best connections.

We care about the quality of our traffic and continue to develop technologies and communications that improve the transparency of inventory. If you would like your traffic to be audited, please reach out to your account manager. We are more than happy to help!

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment
How to identify and avoid invalid traffic fraud

How to identify and avoid invalid traffic fraud

Recent reports from the IAB show that digital ad fraud, particularly invalid traffic fraud, is second only to the drug trade in terms of crime rates and revenue. That’s a pretty devastating stat for anyone working in the advertising industry.

But it’s not the end of days, in fact, programmatic is lifting its game and those who won’t comply to providing better will find themselves ousted. There are many players in the programmatic ad world, many pipes connecting different suppliers to advertisers. At the end of that supply pipe exists many different forms of fraud. Understanding what types of fraud exist is important, and we are taking steps to educate our partners about what they are.

Here are some of the most common types of invalid traffic fraud and how to catch them out:

Ghost sites

We can prove that ghosts exist because we have an abundance of evidence – here’s how to spot a cyber spook:
  • Ghost sites are made to resemble real websites that host a multitude of adverts. But when scrutinised further, it’s easy to tell a real site from a false one.
  • Ghost sites will usually use a standard blog template, meaning that they often look exactly the same as each other and appear to be legitimate sites. The domain name of a ‘ghost site’ will nearly always describe a contextual category (e.g. food, automotive, fashion) that appeals to advertisers.
Some basic signs of a ghost site are:
  • Ghost sites referral traffic often comes from an unsafe location such as a porn site but will be camouflaged with another URL – usually one that doesn’t link to anything because it’s not real.

  • Links within the content that don’t work.

  • Social media links that don’t work or direct you to an empty page.

  • Videos within the content will take an age to load because the player is requesting as many ads as it can. Ads can appear behind the page itself, be hidden in the page or start to load a ridiculous amount – often that you’ll never see.

  • About us and contact pages will have content that is scraped from other sites.

  • Try emailing the support or sales team – the email will invariably bounce.

  • The page will have incredibly high bounce rates.

  • Real, quality site domains will be copied and the same URL with a different path such as .tv will be purchased. The site will look very much the same as the .com version but the content won’t change much. Company addresses will be false and you will often find the layout of ghost sites have many similarities or are exactly the same template.

  • The copy is scraped from other sites so if you search for it.

Got time for a quick test of your ad fraud knowledge?

Both these sites are blacklisted by Coull  – can you identify any of the above fraud indicators?

Gardengirly.com

Gardengirly.com ghost site - avoiding invalid traffic fraud

http://fashionitch.com/

fashionitch.com ghost site - avoiding invalid traffic fraud

Domain Fraud

This is when there’s a problem with the actual domain being sent through to us. Domain fraud can come in many different forms, for example, there could be a mismatch between the domain declared and where the ad is actually placed.

Domain spoofing can difficult to detect and prevent, making it one of the most lucrative forms of domain fraud. Those spoofing domains declare inaccurate domains in order to make advertisers believe that invalid or low-quality domains are reputable.

Example:

Watch-Movies-Online.cc → Changed to show → usatoday.com

IVT (Invalid Traffic)

Invalid traffic relates to the traffic running through a domain being undesirable. This doesn’t mean the domain itself is bad and therefore wouldn’t require blocking. However, the source of the traffic needs to be found and removed. Here are types of invalid traffic fraud:

Proxy Traffic

A proxy allows access to the internet anonymously and can browse the internet without leaving any kind of footprint. This means all ad requests will go through a proxy, so for those monitoring the requests, the only thing visible is the proxy – there’s no way to know who’s behind it.

No proxy: User → Domain

Using a proxy: User → Proxy → Domain

People using proxies are usually trying to hide. There can be a few legitimate reasons for using proxies but most proxies are used to hide malicious activity.

IP Reputation

IP reputation means that the detected IP has historically been shown to be high risk. This is usually due to it being associated with characteristics of fraudulent activity.

Automated Traffic

Automated traffic refers to malicious bots or non-human traffic, designed to generate false ad impressions or serve hidden ads. They often take over a user’s computer, running in the background and unknown to the user.

Spoofing

Spoofing is a practice where a user’s browser/device are manipulated to resemble a different browser/device. The malicious party impersonates another device (or user) on a network to show ad requests from more reputable sources. This is often used to simulate traffic from multiple visitors and therefore increases the number of potential impressions running through an exchange.

Transparency is key to fighting invalid traffic fraud

We’ve put a huge amount of time and effort into eradicating invalid traffic from our platform. We’ve added new features to our publisher dashboard to enable our partners to see when we detect any invalid traffic coming from them. If we identify any problems, we alert our partners and help them clean it up. This maintains the quality of their inventory and relationships with advertisers.

We’ve also introduced our Traffic Quality Assurance program. This aims to help publishers reach the quality required to partner with Coull and help advertisers buy media with confidence. We’ve developed a stringent program in line with the MRC’s Invalid Traffic Detection and Filtration Guidelines. And we detect and block against (GIVT) and (SIVT) as defined by the IAB, MMA and MRC.

This strategy has been enforced to ensure we don’t allow invalid traffic fraud to exist in our platform. We ultimately want to help our publishers increase the value of their inventory and provide a trusted market for advertisers.

To find out more about the benefits of working with the Coull Platform, get in touch. Or visit our Products page to see our ad formats in action.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment

Coull Quickie October – The one about ad fraud

We’ve spoken about ad fraud before – it’s making headlines. Lots of platforms and vendors are saying they’re doing something about ad fraud. But the proof shouldn’t be about expensive marketing campaigns claiming miracles, it’s in the investment by tech companies to make a real change to the way digital media is bought.

Let’s break this down, discard the sugar coating and get real.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull video
Mastering the metrics: stop forcing your ad agency to buy fraud

Mastering the metrics: stop forcing your ad agency to buy fraud

Agencies and marketers are taking the reins of their ad spending and campaign monitoring. But there’s still confusion over which metrics are best to capture a campaign’s performance.

But does it really matter?

The short answer, yes.

Marketers’ choice of KPI’s can actually be having a massive impact on the overall success of a digital campaign.

Often, the benchmarks marketers set can indirectly encourage ad buyers to turn to fraudulent options to try and hit unrealistic targets. Marketers and advertisers soon find themselves trapped in the number-chasing cycle.

mastering the metrics - ad buying cycle

So, how can we break the cycle?

Mastering the metrics: Viewability

Marketers and advertisers need to understand ad metrics and read between the numbers. As Digiday reports, GroupM doesn’t care about the time spent on an ad, but rather the viewability of an ad. Metrics such as viewability rate, fill rate and impression rate can offer detailed information on this. But aiming for an unrealistically high % can pose an array of risks:

  • Pushing for a large number of impressions may compromise the ad’s placement online. mastering the metrics: viewability

  • Ad buyers may turn to ad servers and/or players that take part in malpractice such as:

    • counting an impression before the ad has loaded.

    • rotating multiple ads in a player to count multiple impressions with no ad being properly served.

    • placing an ad on a range of fraudulent websites.

  • Ad buyers may be encouraged to ‘cookie bomb’ a page. This is when lots of cookies are dropped onto a page, trying to convert at least a small percentage.

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

Transparent Reporting

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

mastering the metrics: transparent reporting

Here at Coull, we recognise the industry’s need for a third party fraud-free “enforcer”. By using an array of fraud detection tools, such as the IAB’s approved cybersecurity service and manual vetting, we’re able to detect sophisticated patterns of fraud. We then work closely with both the publishers and advertisers to relay this information back and (most importantly) take action across our marketplace.

The duopoly, Google and Facebook, have often been accused of having a much less objective approach to reports as some of their ad metrics have yet to be verified by third-parties. Unilever’s Keith Weed has likened this to “marking their own homework”.

Realistic Targets

Marketers and advertisers need to be realistic with their KPI benchmarks. As Venture Beat reports, new video formats such as click-to-play pre-roll, native and out-stream, and video within social content are much more fraud-resistant. However, “ad-buyers continued to expect the high completion rates the overall industry had been promising”.

       mastering the metrics: realistic targets

Many have suggested that the need for a new reporting metric is the real answer to the dilemma. But the reality is, numbers will always be subject to potential manipulation. The responsibility lies with the marketers to tackle digital ad metrics head on, without turning a blind eye to the potential risks. Numbers on fill, viewability and completion on high-quality fraud-free websites are undoubtedly going to be lower than those generated in the realm of bots, dodgy players and fake websites.

Ultimately, elevated completion rates like those projected by both Facebook and Google in recent months are simply unrealistic for in-feed ads. Both marketers and advertisers need to agree that a potential dip in the graph is a small price to pay for real human views on high-quality sites.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment
What can be learned from the demise of Mode Media?

What can be learned from the demise of Mode Media?

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

What can we learn from Mode Media?

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

Diversify your demand

It’s tempting to say yes when an ad network comes knocking. They’ll offer to do it all for you and promise you more time to concentrate on making more content. Instead, you should say: “thanks, but no thanks, Mr Middleman. That would be taking a huge risk’’. The fact is, you’re running a business and part of that is understanding how advertisers value your content, not relying on one go-between.

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’re 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.

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

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’re the first to see issues arise and call out press statements as BS.

Be careful of companies that can’t do video and 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 formats will struggle. The ad tech 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.


If you enjoyed reading this, we also recommend:

ODV spells good news for publishers

The IAB’s ad block primer for publishers

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment
Tackling video ad fraud

Tackling video ad fraud

Digital advertising has had its fair share of issues over the years, some have been overcome, some remain bugbears and others are critically problematic in our industry today. Video ad fraud is, without a doubt, the latter. In 2015 we saw the rise of bots and in 2016 the advertising industry is set to attribute losses of approximately $7.2 billion globally to the nasty things.

What is ad fraud?

Video ad fraud covers a range of deceitful techniques administered by fraudsters with the object of making money. One of the reasons video ad fraud is the plague of programmatic advertising is that it can appear in so many forms, therefore, making it difficult for the industry to identify and deal with it. Here are some of the types of desktop fraud we come across at Coull:

Automated traffic

Automatic traffic finds botnet activity flagged on the user level through real-time traffic pattern analysis.

Proxy

The IP address is a known proxy.

Spoofing

The user’s device and browser were manipulated to resemble a different device or browser. This technique is commonly used to produce a real-life distribution of traffic and simulate traffic from multiple visitors.

Ad injection

The ad was locked by ad injection software, often bundled with other software like games and toolbars. This practice artificially inflates the number of ads on a page and can lead to a negative user experience.

Cloaked domains

There’s an imbalance between the domain where the ad appeared and the referring domain. This practice enables undesirable properties such as pirate and adult sites to sell inventory under a high-CPM category such as cars or travel.

Domain spoofing

The publisher reports an inaccurate domain to the exchange. The ad never appeared on the publisher-reported domain. This practice allows publishers to misrepresent low-quality inventory as coming from high-quality sources. In some cases, ghost sites can use this technique.

Video ad fraud bots aren't as cute as Wall-e

What are bots?

Unfortunately, I’m not talking about WALL-E. The bots I’m referring to represent non-human traffic, the most common form of ad fraud today. Fraud exists to make money illegally and as digital advertising grows, fraudsters are able to take advantage of the system. Bots can come from software that runs automated tasks over the internet to simulate human activity. It’s been estimated by Videology that 8%-23% of online video ad inventory is consumed by bot impressions. This is a significant problem for video advertisers to contend with.

Solution?

At Coull, we utilise industry-leading cybersecurity services to filter and detect inappropriate content coming through the system. Our Compliance team use strategies to identify and rate any invalid traffic. This enables us to have a multi-level process targeting ad fraud and eliminating it from our platform. Manual detection is a key part in removing certain types of domain fraud, including the aforementioned ghost sites, that haunt the web.

Who you gonna call?…

So what are ‘ghost’ sites? Well, they’re spooks! Ghost sites may look like ordinary websites at first glance, however, if you dig a little deeper you will uncover their dark secrets. These sinister pages exist to bypass tech filters and, because they look clean and safe, tech vendors let them off the hook.

We’re doing everything we can to identify ghost sites and ensure the culprits don’t get past our compliance. But there are things you can do too, and they don’t involve bringing in an exorcist. Follow the simple tips below and you’ll be able to spot a ghost site a mile away.

How to spot a ghost (site)

WordPress templates

Ghost sites typically look very similar as their templates often originate from WordPress. The templates will all have the same layout with different skins for each.

No contact or web hosting information

Ghost sites will, more often than not, have links to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. However, if you click on the links they’ll lead to nothing or old accounts. Something else to look out for is cheap website solutions such as ‘Garden Pages’ and a hidden presence on the internet with services like DomainsByProxy. Do you want to contact the owner? No chance. They won’t have any contact information or the information will be false.

Strange growth patterns

Ghost sites don’t pay for their traffic growth and will buy from Click Farms.

Hardcoded banner ads

Banner ads on a ghost site will have a URL destination which will lead straight back to the same ghost site. The banner ads are mostly static images making them seem like genuine ads, however, they’re most probably fake.

Will there be a future without video ad fraud?

Ad fraud detection is a very tricky business. Every day is like the wild west with fraudsters stealing impressions left, right and centre. There’s no superhero to lock them up and put an end to their tyranny. But we’re working hard to change that.

Our compliance team is leading the way and guarding our marketplace against fraudulent activity. Coull has a zero-tolerance policy and we take all forms of video ad fraud very seriously. We’re raising awareness and working with leading fraud detection vendors to make the industry a fraud-free place for our partners. We can weed the industry garden of video ad fraud, we’re just asking for your help to replant it.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment