Transparency

Coull is IAB Gold Standard certified

Coull is IAB Gold Standard certified

Launched at the end of last year, the IAB Gold Standard was put in place to reduce ad fraud, improve user experience and increase brand safety. Now, over 50 companies are certified including Facebook, Instagram and GroupM.

Now, Coull can be added to the Gold Standard list! Over the last year, we’ve built positive user experiences using our technology, implemented ads.txt and earned our JICWEBS Brand Safety seal. This fulfils all of the IAB Gold Standard’s criteria of:

  1. Reducing ad fraud by implementing ads.txt.
  2. Improving digital advertising experiences by following the Coalition for Better Ads principles and the ‘Better Ads Standards’.
  3. Increasing brand safety by working with JICWEBS.

All with the main aim: to build a sustainable future for digital advertising.

Dan Ginns, Coull’s Managing Director, said “We’re very pleased to receive the IAB Gold Standard certification. This further highlights our commitment to building a better future for digital advertising. Such dedication to transparency and brand safety is exactly what our clients should expect from all of their adtech partners.”

The IAB Gold Standard is an industry-wide effort

This certification isn’t only about individual companies, it’s an industry-wide effort to re-establish trust. The IAB Gold Standard isn’t a ‘nice to have’, it should become a priority for anyone trading in digital advertising – publishers, agencies and adtech businesses alike.

The subject of regulation and trust is particularly relevant after GDPR and last year’s brand safety concerns. Not only this, we need to address ad blocking. The increased use of ad blockers should be a wake-up call for the advertising industry. We need to be building a sustainable future for digital advertising. And how do we do that? By creating online ad experiences that work for everyone, especially the audience.

We welcome all self-regulation that brings improvements to the industry. The question is, will you join the combined effort too?

Posted by Naomi Sandercock in Coull news, Press releases
Why Coull is putting brand safety first (and why you should too)

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


What does this mean?

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

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

Check before you buy

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

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

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

Whitelists

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

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

The human element

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

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

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

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

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

Press release: Coull earns JICWEBS Brand Safety seal of approval

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

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

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

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

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

Read more about how we ensure brand safety.

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About Coull

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

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

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

About ABC

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

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

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

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

About JICWEBS

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

For more information please visit www.jicwebs.org

Posted by Naomi Sandercock in Coull news, Press releases
One idea, countless battles: Coull’s journey against ad fraud

One idea, countless battles: Coull’s journey against ad fraud

Coull's journey against ad fraudCreativity at the heart

Born out of the vibrant streets of Bristol, Coull has always had creativity at the heart of the business. Coull’s founders had a vision of making online video advertising an engaging and interactive experience. The idea was brewing away in the background since 2005, but the online video world was still growing and adapting. High-speed internet hadn’t appeared and many different video formats made things more complicated.

Skip forward a few years to 2007, YouTube had grown to over 50 million users and high-speed internet had arrived. Families were able to watch a cat play the piano, a dog surfing and someone biting Charlie’s finger, from the comfort of their own homes. It was revolutionary and people couldn’t get enough. The popularity of video content shot up and the creators wanted a way to profit from it.

Cue Coull. 2008 was our founding year and although we’ve come a long way since then, it was always about our love affair with video.

Introducing…programmatic

Programmatic arrived like a whirlwind in 2013. By connecting everyone and allowing quicker, more efficient sales, it sounded like a dream. Caught up in the vortex of the programmatic online world, Coull started out with an ad network model. We were integrating with leading programmatic platforms to enable delivery of interest-based, targeted advertising at a global scale.

One problem: ad fraud

All of the innovations emerging from the humble office in Bristol were exciting, but there was one big problem with the online ad industry: fraud. The regulation of crime, particularly ad fraud, couldn’t keep up with the digital world.

But Coull was prepared. We were producing our own in-house anti-fraud technology in the background for some time. Such as domain and IP filters, URL detection and implementing the IAB’s VPAID specification.

As anticipated, the talk about fraud in the media increased and some shocking figures flagged up. Behind the scenes, fraudsters had been on a crime shopping spree and cost the industry billions each year.

We quickly realised that, although ad networks were great for connecting us, the business model was a doomed one. It was undifferentiated and arbitraged inventory, combined with a justifiable loss of trust from buyers resulting in an inevitable race to the bottom. More importantly, it didn’t represent our original vision to be unique and think outside the box.

Dedicated team

First and foremost, at Coull, we pride ourselves on being a technology company. We have a dedicated team, many of whom are developers, and a fresh minded approach. This has lead to building and launching the Coull Platform. Our Platform consists of the Coull SSP, Coull Exchange and distinct Coull advertising formats, which are all self-built to fit Coull’s vision.

With us, publishers can earn revenue without spamming their content, advertisers can benefit from effective formats and users don’t get overloaded by ads. Not only this, we have a very comprehensive compliance process paired with a strong company ethos in combatting fraud.

We’ve invested in and improved our proprietary technology to ensure anti-fraud and brand safety. Applying our technology, we have a dedicated compliance team and partnerships with industry-leading verification vendors. Using their audit results, our true URL detection product and IP filters, we can effectively fight domain spoofing, bot fraud and build trust among our partners.

Viewability

But we aren’t stopping there. Viewability is of paramount importance. We currently measure viewability through our partners, but we have additional plans to improve our business. Using our technology expertise, in combination with our measurement partners, we expect to build our own viewable inventory marketplaces.

Regulation and transparency

Unfortunately, the internet won’t ever be fraud-free. Even recently, the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) estimate that ad fraud is likely to exceed $50 billion by 2025. Much like a game of whack-a-mole, as soon as one source of fraud is stamped out, another three pop up. But by having our own technology and platform, regulation is a lot simpler for us and being transparent with partners is easier.

After nine years of a bumpy rollercoaster ride in the online advertising industry, we’re now proud to say we’ve come a long way, keeping our founder’s vision alive and continuing to aspire. We have a strong ethos on ad fraud and are always trying to be transparent, educate and work with partners to tackle ad fraud together.

Find out more about fighting ad fraud by reading our last blog post: “Combatting ad fraud on the wild, wild, web“.

Posted by Naomi Sandercock in Coull news
Combatting ad fraud on the wild wild web

Combatting ad fraud on the wild wild web

ad fraud infographicFilms are made about drug cartels and stories are told of famous bank heists. But why aren’t we talking about one of the biggest organised crimes in the world: online ad fraud? It’s not as dramatic as other crime stories, but the elusiveness of digital fraud is one of the many reasons it’s not stopping. And we think it’s worth talking about.

By 2025, the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) estimate that ad fraud is likely to exceed $50 billion, making it second only to the drugs trade in terms of income. The web is turning into the wild west; every advertiser, publisher and adtech company for themselves. Ad fraud is relentless and jeopardising free online content.

But not to worry, there’s a new sheriff in town.

Coull has come a long way since our humble beginnings, we quickly realised how huge ad fraud was and we had to change this. Since then, we have been trying to tackle fraud in the wild wild web.

First of all, what should we all be looking for?

Automated traffic: Otherwise known as non-human traffic (NHT), it is the most common form of ad fraud. These bots can come from software applications which run automated tasks over the internet to simulate human activity.

Invalid traffic: Traffic running through a domain being undesirable, this does not mean the domain itself is bad and therefore would not require blocking. However, the source of the traffic needs to be found and removed.

Ghost sites: Ghost sites are made to resemble real websites, but have no value and instead host a multitude of advertisements.

Proxy traffic: A proxy allows anonymous access to the internet and can browse the internet without leaving a 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.

Spoofing: A malicious party impersonates another device (or user) on a network in order to show ad requests from more reputable sources.

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

With a free and open internet dependant on ad revenues, it’s important that the entire chain works together to ultimately strike out the risk of ad fraud.

Here’s Coull’s advice and ethos:

Transparency

Being able to be completely open and honest with everyone in the industry means that, things like invalid traffic and ghost sites are easier to detect. Without transparency, it’s like finding a needle in a haystack…in the dark.

Coull strives to be a transparent and trusted company to work with. Which is why we’ve put a huge amount of time, effort and investment into eradicating invalid traffic from our platform.

Teamwork

We don’t have to tackle this crime alone, using the best third-party vendors to verify traffic is much more effective. At Coull, we work with MRC accredited third-party verification tools to track all inventory and act accordingly.

Also, we have our very own fraud detecting hero, Nicola, Coull’s compliance manager. Every day, Nicola manually scans traffic and domains to cut out the pesky bots and *inappropriate* websites. This enables us to have a multi-level process targeting ad fraud and eliminating it from our platform.

We have introduced our Traffic Quality Assurance program. This helps publisher partners reach the required quality and to help our advertisers buy media with confidence.

No double standards

Much like the wild west, online advertising doesn’t have many set rules, turning the internet into a western shootout – fraudulent traffic coming from every direction. One way to stop fraud is by measuring genuine ad impressions and true viewability.

Although industry bodies like the International Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) are setting guidelines, not everyone follows them. There are a huge number of ad tech vendors running their own measurement of these standards. This means each vendor’s results will be different, affecting expected CPMs, creating a lack of expected inventory and mistrust.

Coull has been working on pre-bid viewability technology. We can detect where the ad unit is on the page before it’s served. This enables advertisers to decide what inventory to purchase based on whether their ad would likely be in view. The biggest advantage is that this minimizes wasted ad spend, giving demand partners real-time data to help them make the best buying decision.

Educate

Coull’s queen of compliance, Nicola says, “Educating people about the different types of fraud is one of the most important things at the moment. Unfortunately, law enforcement is still behind on tackling ad fraud, so we need to learn how to defend ourselves.” So that means, helping publishers recognise any fraudulent traffic and the different forms it comes in. Also, helping buyers achieve an efficient and valuable return on campaigns by evading traps and not buying blind.

Direct partnerships

With the hundreds of partners, networks and exchanges out there it makes it easier for fraud to creep in. Whereas, having direct partnerships can eliminate the risk. According to Integral Ad Science, nearly 9% of digital ads delivered via programmatic channels are fraudulent, compared with only 2% of ads delivered through direct deals with publishers.

Coull cut out the middlemen by hosting our own exchange, connecting demand partners directly to publishers’ ad servers. And our formats, OverStream and DoubleUp are direct publisher integrations, for a simpler environment.

What now?Coull ad fraud checklist

Many companies are working on anti-fraud techniques, particularly the buy side. However, this year will hopefully see more supply side and exchange take the lead.

Publishers: Fraudulent activity can compromise your business model and can damage the brand’s reputation. You need to be able to identify the different forms of invalid traffic and be transparent about inventory.

Advertisers: Fake views on your online campaign is wasting money and creates inaccurate data about the ad’s performance. Make sure you know exactly what inventory you’re buying to protect brand image and have a more valuable return on campaigns.

Ad tech suppliers: If fraud is being hosted by your technology, you’ll be liable for refunds to your advertisers and their agencies – and may even be removed from media plans. Work on keeping up standards and abiding by guidelines. Also, direct relationships with partners result in more trust and transparency.  

It’s all about teamwork and education to banish the fraud cowboys from the wild wild web, for good.

Posted by Naomi Sandercock in Coull news
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
The looming video ad tech apocalypse of 2017

The looming video ad tech apocalypse of 2017

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

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 middlemen 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.

The ad tech apocalypse

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 middlemen who aren’t contributing or performing will be vanquished in 2017, leaving a trail of destruction.

The background

The video ad network arbitrage model

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:

Video lumascape ad tech apocalypse

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

  • All the first 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.

  • Third-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 mean 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 and Google – aka the walled garden – not to the open web.

  • Disintermediation, with advertisers going directly 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 scrambling 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 and 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 layoffs, the acquisitions and the negative media attention aimed at programmatic. And the reasons won’t come as a shock:

  • Commoditization

  • Arbitrage/fewer 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 and 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.

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 shared and 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 unskippable ads.

Who will survive?

Surviving the ad tech apocalypse will come down to being unique, contributing value and having the conviction to offer proof. If you’ve got a strong business that’s presenting something unique 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 and 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 engagement 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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Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment
RTB 2.5 – new features that affect video advertising

RTB 2.5 – new features that affect video advertising

The IAB has released the new RTB 2.5 spec and there are some interesting new changes around video advertising. Here are a few of the changes…

1 video.placement

This 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’re in banner requests. Now we have a way of explicitly saying that.

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 already, albeit relying on our own tech to make that possible. It’s an important inclusion as brands and agencies are demanding more clarity about what they’re bidding on and the results. We optimise the process by allowing the bidder to see if they’ve won or lost and what the winning price was.

The addition of these two 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 burl is a great addition, it’s a stage further on from the current win notification. The burl will provide a more accurate way of tracking spend based on delivered impressions, it tells you that the 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 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. It’s now normal to see sideways connections from exchange to exchange, again to increase the amount of demand available in an efficient way.


RTB 2.5 onwards…

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 the RTB 2.5 update. We’ll look for yet more improvements in version 2.6.


If you liked this post, we recommend reading:

ODV spells good news for publishers

Our impressions of the IAB OpenRTB 2.4

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