Technology

Coull: A top ranking technology company

Coull: A top ranking technology company

Yesterday, technology business directors from all over the country gathered for The Deloitte Technology Fast 50 awards ceremony in London. Our very own Managing Director, Dan Ginns, and Finance Director, Simon Alpren, were amongst the guests.

We’re very proud to announce that Coull has been ranked 9th in the 2017 Deloitte UK Technology Fast 50, a ranking of the 50 fastest growing technology companies in the UK. Companies such as Deliveroo and Move GB were also in the Top 10. Not only this, but we have been ranked number 1 in the media sector of the Tech Fast 50. Rankings are based on percentage revenue growth over the last four years and Coull has a 1,915% growth.

Dan Ginns, said: “We’re very pleased to be Top 10 of the Tech Fast 50, which denotes accelerated growth for Coull as we concurrently transition our business and announce new products and partnerships to market. We’ll be seeking to maintain such growth levels in the coming months and years. We’d love to be ranked number one in the Tech Fast 50 one year.”

The award ceremony at The London Hilton Bankside

The Deloitte Technology Fast 50 is one of the UK’s foremost technology award programmes, celebrating innovation and entrepreneurship. Now, in its 20th successful year, it is a ranking of the country’s 50 fastest growing technology companies, driven by leading intellectual property and based on revenue growth over the last four years.

David Cobb, lead partner for the Deloitte UK Technology Fast 50, said: “The Deloitte UK
Technology Fast 50 gives great profile to technology companies and is internationally recognised as being one of the most important business awards in the sector. This year’s ranking highlights the importance of being innovative, recruiting high-skilled talent and finding a niche product or service.”

Making the Deloitte UK Technology Fast 50 is a significant accomplishment for all of the team and we’re all looking forward to see what 2018 holds for Coull.

Posted by Naomi Sandercock in Coull news

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.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment

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.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment

The Coull ad request journey – Whatsapp style

An ad request really is like a group discussion with everyone bringing something to the table. Our Invalid Traffic Detection looks pretty straight forward but is actually made up of multiple fraud detection vendors as well as our in-house compliance team. And our QUASAR tech has some amazing layers to it that help us ensure the best inventory and brand match. The right conversation means we get the best possible performance every time.

We hope this helps to clarify the ad request process and get some more conversations going.

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 it, but the proof is not in 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
10 years of YouTube and still no dollar signs

10 years of YouTube and still no dollar signs

I adore Youtube, it’s a safe home for free speech, education and live cat streams. The team of worker bees at YouTube have enabled anyone with a video camera to have their creations discovered on merit alone, and new young stars to have a viable career.

2016 marks 10 years since Google acquired YouTube and it seems fitting the traditional gift for a decade of dedication is tin, because Google haven’t chalked up much more than that in revenue.

After 10 years, YouTube is still not profitable. That’s crazy.

When YouTube stars first emerged it was incredibly exciting to think anyone off the street could make money and possibly even a career from the ‘broadcast yourself’ mantra. For a while it seemed like the dream, but now YouTube stars are being lured to other platforms that invest in their talent and provide better advertising formats or sponsorship deals.

Creators are jumping ship because YouTube doesn’t enable enough worldwide fill. A video star may get a 1,000,000 views from Egypt, but they won’t make any money. Their audience is either geographical, or coincidental and nothing is gained from the view. There’s no impetus to scale and the CPMs advertisers pay, is too low.

When creators do hit that sweet spot and make money from their videos, Youtube takes a heavy cut – 45/55 split to be precise. That’s a hefty sum to handover.

The 6 YouTube sins

We’ve established it’s crazy that YouTube isn’t profitable, buy why? We’ve narrowed it down to these 6 deadly sins.

1. No premium content

It’s not like they haven’t tried to be a central hub for premium content – they just haven’t tried hard enough.  For a while Channel 4 had all its content on Youtube, but they removed it because they could earn a lot more on their own 4oD service. The login wall on 4oD gives them valuable 1st party data which YouTube won’t, and they can leverage their existing sales team to sell direct without YouTube taking a cut. This is where Google’s walled garden approach really started, it’s not a fair model for any creator and many won’t tolerate it anymore.

2. Awkward for Advertisers

YouTube shut off access to other DSPs like Tubemogul last year. For creators Youtube is incredibly easy and open, for advertisers it’s really awkward. Buying a specific video, using your own targeting data, and your own viewability & verification vendors is just not going to happen. This is a historical problem.

When Google first brought Youtube they had a hard time getting their sales people to actually push it. They were used to the easy money machine that was search and display. It wasn’t until they made it 20% of the sales team’s bonus that they actually got many sales at all.

3. Premium short form video was driven away

A few years ago when it was hard to sell your own video ad space, mid-sized publishers used to upload all their videos such as gadget reviews on Youtube, and then let YouTube take care of monetization. But as video SSPs like SpotX & StickyAds made the process of selling your own inventory easy, they’ve all gone back to using other hosting platforms like Brightcove or Ooyala. And YouTube just watched them go.

4. No cut of sponsorship or product placement

Whilst the revenue split isn’t an ideal model, YouTube do a fantastic job of nurturing creators by providing free studio time. But a massive opportunity has been squandered. What wasn’t grasped was the potential to connect brands to creators, instead they’ve just let them go to another MCN (multi-channel network such as Maker Studios or Fullscreen).

5. Lack of brand safety

Love or loathe them, everyone knows how much vitriol YouTube comments contain. Automatically filtering content is incredibly tough, especially with so many cultures and languages, so without the ability to whitelist, the risks to brand reputation are still there. Whilst recent changes have been made to remove monetization from videos that aren’t ‘advertiser friendly’ – it’s far from perfect.

Not a destination – If YouTube’s ‘home page’’ was a holiday destination, we’d be asking for travel compensation. As an average user, your entry point to Youtube.com is via a link someone else has shared. The only reason to go there is to see the recommended videos and most people just watch embeds in other sites. It’s not pretty, it’s not particularly well thought out, it’s a bumpy ride. But, Facebook looked at the numbers of people clicking out to Youtube and decided they wanted in, hence launching Facebook video serendipitously with no content protection systems. This enabled people to simply upload stolen clips from Youtube and get massive views, all inside Facebook’s wall.

6. Lack of ad format innovation

The big one for me. YouTube engineers have created the best pre-roll format ever made. TrueView is loved by advertisers, and tolerated by users. It’s led to innovative creative that engages a user within 5 seconds. YouTube do small tests all the time with things like brand recall surveys, and implement minor changes. But rarely do they ever see full production.

There is a palpable lack of creative innovation, in fact after 10 years, this is their full ad format selection – this is their selection…

Can they turn it around?

Youtube Red

YouTube are pushing their subscription service hard and with a lack of ad revenue it’s easy to see why. However, they’ve landed themselves on a double edged sword. If the subscription model is too successful, it will naturally cannibalize the ad business -disproportionately so, because those who can afford a subscription are generally those which advertisers will pay more to reach.

Live streaming

Herein we reach the zeitgeist. Facebook et al are throwing tons of money at Live Stream content. Youtube isn’t a destination site that an average user spends tons of time loitering on, like Facebook so the use case is different. YouTube views are rather more like appointments, rather than a serendipitous opportunity in your news feed. Still, neither Youtube nor Facebook have a viable way to monetize Live Stream, interrupting the stream for a 30 second ad is not the solution. The time to make the bold innovation in ad formats to suit evolving watching habits is now.

Youtube may currently be the king of short form, but if they don’t start shifting the goalposts, it won’t take another 10 years before a blue logo’d upstart takes over. Whether it’s building a better destination for users, innovating more creative ad formats to reward channel owners or forging partnerships with those using YouTube content, something has got to give or the 20 year anniversary will be mark nothing but another penniless decade.

Can’t believe it’s been 10 years of YouTube? Neither can we, but luckily, Coull’s own Scott Mackay is never too far away to remind us what user content looked like back in 2006. And while this video is still fun 10 years later, Scott is yet to receive his millions – will future Scott be any better off?

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment

The Coull Quickie – Header Bidding

In the latest Coull Quickie, Elise is joined by Coull CEO Aden Forshaw and Developer Tom Riley to talk header bidding and find out exactly what all the fuss is about. Join us for this easy to digest explanation of how it works, why it’s beneficial for the industry and the value we see in using it at Coull.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull video

Facebook is trialling mid- roll advertising for Facebook Live and we’re suppose to be impressed?

Facebook are the powerhouse of walled garden networks. Publishers have been lured to the garden and are essentially handing their distribution over to Instant Articles for instant reach but how this will affect publishers long term, especially their brands is yet to be seen. Whilst reach seems to be increasing, engagement and time spent visiting the publisher’s sites is declining.

The model is almost pushing publishers to create snackable content for Facebook feeds, rather than perhaps the stories they would have invested time, talent and research in. Ad dollars are generating revenue, but is that revenue helping the longevity of legacy publisher brands?

Advertisers too are lining up, all eager to dive into the deep end of Facebook’s brand pool. Again though, as with publisher brands – many may well find their messages hugely diluted, and their data? Well, it’s Facebook’s data now.

The latest news from Facebook is that they’ll be introducing mid-roll advertising to Facebook Live. It’s being sold as a positive story, but we’re calling them on it right here, right now. No Facebook, just no!

Facebook have jumped on live streaming video because it’s the popular flavour right now, and for very good reason. But their advertising plans are confusing. Like pairing a fine vintage wine with 2 minute noodles and expecting people to be impressed. We’re not.

(Sometimes it’s said best, when you say nothing at all)

It’s not too difficult to coerce influential celebrities and media companies to get involved in creating live stream content – not if there’s a hefty paycheck involved anyway, and that’s what Facebook have offered.

The budget set aside for paid live stream content was set at $50million with various chunks dedicated to attracting and keeping very specific media companies such as BuzzFeed and popular celebs like Gordon Ramsay. It may seem a lot but it’s not an epic amount when you consider the vast amount of content required and the percentages set aside for specific publishers. And what happens when that $50million runs out? What about those publishers or YouTube stars that aren’t benefiting from that contractual pay packet?  Enter advertising, the solution that’s been keeping content free for the masses whilst also paying creators for years. Perfect. Well it could be, but again – no!

Facebook’s consideration of the publisher and their audience’s experience seems to be non-existent. Zuckerberg has always been averse to the idea of pre-roll advertising because according to him it ‘ruins the viewing experience’. However, whilst pre-roll may not be the ideal ad format for all audiences, it is a non interruptive format because it sits before content. What ruins viewing experiences is interruption.

Mid-roll is an interruption – it’s got the word mid in it people, it doesn’t get more interruptive than that. But ‘The Berg’ isn’t concerned, that’s the very model he’s approved for Facebook Live advertising.

Why mid-roll for live stream is fundamentally flawed

The nature of live streaming – is that it is live! That’s why it’s so exciting. So putting an ad in the middle of a live stream seems rather inappropriate, especially as the advertising industry is fighting hard to provide better ad experiences, and making inroads. It’s a backward step being taken by a huge network. There are much better options for publishers to monetise live stream content and engage with audiences, and yes – Coull’s OverStream format is one of those. We’re not going to shy away from the fact we care about audiences, we care about our publisher’s content and their brand and we care about the open web.

Live stream mid-roll ads have ad tech providers scratching heads. As we plough ahead and erode the status quo to forge a better shinier ad experience for our clients, Facebook scream and shout about a terrible solution to monetising an exciting new content format.

The industry and our audiences deserve better than mediocre monetisation solutions in the form of interruptive advertising – from the biggest social platform on the planet no less.

Advertisers and publishers do have a choice. Stop jumping in that pool – it’s tainted and it’s just a matter of time before the blue dye stains everything.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment

ODV spells good news for publishers

The IAB last month released the Original Digital Video Consumer Study based around US audience’s TV viewing, compared with original digital video viewing habits. The results aren’t particularly surprising but they do paint an interesting picture of where media consumption is headed and it’s something publishers need to take heed of in regard to how their content is presented. For advertisers, it’s just as poignant in defining where their spend should be directed and for traditional TV media owners it’s about being aware of the facts and adapting.

Before we dive in and look at the changing behaviour in US media viewing habits, let’s first clarify ODV.

What is Original Digital Video – ODV?  

Essentially it is originally produced online video which can further be defined as professionally produced video only for ad-supported online distribution and viewing (not TV).

Who creates ODV?

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

What other digital content owners are competing for audience attention?

  • TV Online is made up of Network TV shows like Pretty LIttle Liars and The Walking Dead or sites on the ABC.com and HBO.com
  • Amatuer Online Video is just that, video created by regular people, home made videos generally and short form more often than not.

The IAB outlined some of its key takeaways which included:

1) Growth of the original digital video market continues

The year over year growth continues for ODV unlike TV online and amateur video – which are flat in terms of growth.

2) Original digital video beats regular TV among viewers

Unique content that can be watched anywhere within anyone’s schedule, is a leading factor in the viewing choices of US adults .

3) Original digital video is becoming more ingrained

ODV’s improved quality and accessibility makes it more and more of a habitual exercise, meaning not only are more people switching to ODV, but they are watching more of it than they were before.

4) Social media wildfire

ODV is shareable, it’s engaging and often leads to another view or engagement with more content from the same site.

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

The story of ODV is one of growth with approximately 63 million US adults viewing ODV on a monthly basis.

Whist TV online and Amateur video have healthy, respectable viewing numbers, the growth rate isn’t there which suggests a move to original video, and that’s a trend worth noting, especially where budgeting is concerned. The potential for advertisers to reach audiences with ODV is huge, and as ad tech companies develop new ad formats and creative agencies realize the value of enhanced user experience – we’ll likely see a premium on this inventory.

TV isn’t dead, it’s the way we use it that has changed

Remember when the remote control first came about – holy batman did that change our lives for the lazy. Not only did it help nurture the inner couch potato but we could enjoy more variety too – because we were more likely to browse channels. Simple but revolutionary.

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

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

Social creatures

It’s not surprising to read in this report that ODV viewers are discovering their content via word of mouth and social media. There is an interesting gender divide in the way content is discovered with females discovering the majority of their content via friends and family, and social media while their male counterparts tend to follow links, recommendations and search results.

All interesting from a marketer’s perspective but it also paints a picture of how much video content is being discovered socially, rather than on a publisher’s own site, and this specific statistical shift should not be swept aside. With many publishers taking advantage of Facebook Instant Articles to publish content, there is a possible threat to bottom line revenues because they too are sharing, but it’s their revenues and their brand identity that are being given away.

When it comes to the cord cutters/cord nevers title – can we just file that in the ‘not another useless piece of jargon bin’? Viewing habits are changing – of course they are, we’re not sat round a huge wooden box with a comparatively small screen choosing from 4 programmes and being told by our mum’s and dad’s to get up and turn it down when the ads come on. No – that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy viewing together and what the TV has that other devices may not, is the magic of nostalgia.

Modern media offers disparate audiences so much variety, it’s astounding. Content is becoming personal, it’s ubiquitous, but it’s also incredibly niche so even as audiences grow, segments become more identifiable. ODV makes it possible for media companies to present quality, highly engaging and targeted content, and advertisers have the technology at their fingertips to engage through connected devices in a way they never have before – concurrently collecting data about us, learning who we are from our habits.

It shouldn’t come as a shock that viewers like the flexibility of ODV. The fact is, we all have different devices we use daily, often at the same time – and media companies have evolved to give viewers much more choice, control and a completely different way of engaging with content we love. This IAB study shows that significant shift, but did we really need a study? To make it official perhaps yes, but you can also strike up a conversation with any millennial and ask them to explain how they consumed media when they were growing up compared to now.

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

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

It’s little wonder the report found 18-34 year olds are the biggest driver of this significant evolution in the way we view media. What is interesting for brands though is the advertising is reported to be more memorable in this format, contrary to some popular belief. That is just the tip of what’s happening right now under the surface of tech companies who are building the blocks to facilitate much better creative and to change the face of advertisements and our consumer relationship with them. The ads of the very near future will be dynamic, highly personable and definitely more interactive. Millennial audiences have sparked the adoption and growth of connected TV, ODV and amateur video as well but as we too get older and make way for the next generation, the digital model becomes even more user focused. Personal, shareable, highly accessible content packed with options and driven by advertised which itself is informed by real time data is very real, traditional models of media including TV shouldn’t begrudge this change, nor deny it – it should be seen as a real opportunity.

There’s no need to hollow out the old set and put mr goldfish inside – but you may just find the communal ritual of watching tele, becomes more personal, more enjoyable and dare we imagine, more profitable?

 

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment

The IAB’s ad block primer for publishers

The IAB Tech Lab Ad Blocking Group has compiled guidance to help publishers manage ad blockers. The Publisher Ad Blocking Primer provides tactics for responding to ad blocking and comes as a result of the high adoption rate of ad blockers provided by companies such as AdBlock Plus and Ghostery. These are businesses too, making money by either whitelisting preferred ads (or ads that have been paid to be whitelisted), or collecting and selling data. So while publishers lose out these companies are thriving, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

In this post we’re going to break down the guidance so our publishers can understand how to best approach the problem of monetizing their video content whilst combating the quandary ad blockers present. The purpose of this post is not to criticize ad blocking but rather help publishers decide how to take ownership of their revenue and communicate better with their audience as to how they provide their content and what they reasonably expect in return.

There are specific tactics outlined in the IAB Primer, and each is based around a process they call DEAL. Each tactic should keep the premise of DEAL in mind:

D – Detect ad blocking in order to initiate the conversation

E – Explain the value exchange that advertising enables

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

L – Lift restrictions or L- Limit access in response to consumer choices

Shifting the focus of tackling of ad blocking from the ad blockers themselves, to the consumer, both by educating them about publisher business models and providing better user experiences is really important. The IAB’s Primer makes 7 tactical suggestions as listed below. We will cover those relevant to the audience only, but you can find a link to the official primer with more details including tactics specific to the ad blocker provider at the end.

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

 

Tactics publishers can adopt to ecouraging the disabling ad blockers

Notice – educate and signpost

When an ad blocker is detected you can present the user with a notice – a message that displays on the site in a variety of formats whether it be in the page header, within video content, on a landing page, or perhaps it’s something that’s triggered a little later once the user has been engaged in your content for a defined amount of time.

The notice can serve a variety of purposes including:

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

Educating your audience as to why advertising is essential is the first step in beginning a discussion that leads to asking them to do something such as either turn off their ad blocker, or pay for your content.

Whilst giving notice is a good way of educating your audience it also has the potential to draw attention to ad blockers, raising awareness of their widespread use and therefore, potentially give them more traction.  It’s also important to keep in mind that if you do enable notices, some ad blockers have the capabilities to block those too. It is recommended that if you decide to issue a notice, this should not be a standalone tactic but part of a wider strategy.

Access denial – risky business

This tactic seems pretty straight forward. If a visitor has ad blockers detected on their device, as a publisher, you simply disable their access to content. This is however quite a drastic measure and shouldn’t be implemented without an additional notice explaining why the content has been made unavailable and what the visitor can do to gain access.

Access denial invariably leads to a smaller audience and less sharing so it would only be appropriate for particular publishers who feel their audience loyalty is cemented and whose business model isn’t dependent on attracting new viewers.

Access denial can possibly lead to a reduced search rank because it can limit the ability for search bots to crawl the content, but if you’re relying on an audience that would come across your content without the use of search, that might not be a huge issue.

Tiered experience – limited access

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

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

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

Payments from visitors – subscription

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

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

Payment to visitors – the flip side

There have been various reward systems in place for visitors/players/viewers in digital publishing since well before ad blockers came about, but now they serve this additional purpose of enticing visitors to disable ad blockers. This can be done via a revenue share, rewards, or collaboration with other publishers to make ‘both financial and non-financial rewards more easily distributed’. (IAN Tech Lab).

Again this tactic requires some additional work on the development side but could be a viable solution especially within the gaming industry. Some publishers already have a system in place where users are rewarding for watching ads with vouchers, bonuses or points/hints for a level completion in a game. Ad blocking therefore serves a two problems for these publishers, often app owners because it disturbs the user experience and damages their model on more than one level. Another reason to educate your audience as early as possible.

Ad reinsertion – beating the blockers at their own game

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

Additional tech is required meaning additional cost, and the more ad blocker – reinsertion – ad blocker processes going on in the background, the worse the user experience as latency and reduced ability to collect data compromise how the user experiences not just the ad unit but the content itself.

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


Consider, communicate, collaborate – conquer

If you’re a publisher looking to implement one or more of the IABs recommended tactics, we would recommend you consider every option very carefully and how it applies to your specific business model, how it effects editorial and audience and weigh up the pros and cons, all of which can be found in the official primer document here.

The IAB should be commended for actively initiating the conversation around fighting back against ad blockers. Ad blockers may have won some judgments in the EU and managed to bypass some publisher revenue models, but ad blockers are not the future. Audiences need to understand the value exchange, publishers need to retain control of their own revenue, and users need better experiences. This all comes down to the advertisers and agencies providing more engaging and dynamic creative ad formats, and publishers ensuring the quality of that relationship by ensuring editorial teams are part of the decision making process.

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