Combatting ad fraud on the wild wild web

Combatting ad fraud on the wild wild web

Films 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 may not seem as dramatic as many 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 have 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 web sites, 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.

Cloaked domains: This is when an imbalance between the domain where the ad appeared and the referring domain. This practice enables undesirable properties such as pirate and adult portals to sell inventory under a high-CPM category such as cars or travel.

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 negative user experience.

With a free and open Internet dependant on ad revenues, it’s important that the entire chain, along with industry associations, work together to ultimately strike out the risk of advertising fraud.

Here’s Coull’s advice and ethos:


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. For example, we have added features to our publisher dashboard to enable our publisher partners to see when we detect any invalid traffic coming from them and our compliance team stamp it out.

Team work

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 3rd 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 to help publisher partners reach the quality required to partner with Coull 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, enabling 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.


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 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 Double:UP are direct publisher integrations, for a simpler, diluted environment.
What now?

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 will be liable for rebates or 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

Stop forcing your ad agency to buy fraud

Agencies and marketers are taking the reins of their ad spending and campaign monitoring, but there is still a lot of confusion over what KPIs best capture how well a digital campaign has performed.

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 metrics and benchmarks marketers set can indirectly encourage ad buyers to turn to fraudulent options as a means of hitting unrealistic targets. Marketers and Advertisers soon find themselves trapped in the number-chasing 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 whether an ad is 100% in view. 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 amount of impressions may compromise the ad’s placement online.

  • Ad buyers may turn to ad servers and/or players that partake 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, by dropping lots of cookies onto a page with the idea that at least a small percentage will convert.

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

Transparent Reporting

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

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 Forensic, the IAB’s approved cybersecurity service and manual vetting, we are able detect the most sophisticated patterns of fraudulent behaviour & 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 due to the fact that some of their ad metrics have yet to be verified by third-parties. The UK Business Insider has likened this to “marking their own homework”.

Realistic Targets

Marketers & 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”.


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

Did Facebook really rip off its video advertisers?

No. It is a complete non-story – hyped by limited research and hyperbolic headlines, suggesting Facebook did something fraudulent. Journalists have been quick to jump on the bandwagon, all feeding off the initial story without digging into what it’s about.

What actually happened?

Here’s some context to help break this down into what it really is.

Facebook only charges marketeers when users watch their video ad for 3 seconds or more. They use a metric called ‘Average Duration of Video Viewed’. Any right minded person would naturally assume this only included those ads classed as a ‘view’.

Unfortunately Facebook’s documentation was wrong:

  • Previously the Average Duration of Video Viewed was equal to: total time spent watching a video, divided by the total number of people who have played the video.

  • Now the Average Duration of Video Viewed is equal to: the total time spent watching your video divided by the number of views of your video, for three or more seconds.

Realistically it would have been a rather poor marketer who based any further buying decisions on this metric alone instead of looking at the raw data. Facebook have not changed any code to correct this, only their documentation – so caution and careful consideration must still be applied when considering your purchases.

Is Facebook advertising completely flawed?

Let’s not get carried away too.

I’ve said it before and I reiterate, Facebook’s news feed ads, fed by its data & attribution products is the greatest ad format ever invented. Marketers can easily see if they are getting ROI, and attribute actions users take directly back to an ad they’ve seen. If they’re not seeing results, they wouldn’t buy more.

The real story

The real story isn’t a metric miscommunication or blunder – it’s a much bigger issue. The debate here is that of walled gardens, does Facebook provide enough transparency for independent verification. It’s recently partnered in a limited way with Nielsen, Integral Ad Science and comScore to provide some transparency, but there are >20 others on agencies wish list too.

For Facebook it’s a question of user data, that’s their USP. So controlling it for themselves and making their users feel protected so they continue to spend time in their Apps is key. Opening their door to too many vendors, and knocking down their walled garden unquestionably puts that at risk.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment

PubNative – native mobile advertising

As part of our blog series on mobile advertising and mobile formats we spoke with Ionut Ciobotaru, Co-founder and Managing Director of PubNative, to find out more about this native SSP and how native mobile advertising – specifically video, is evolving.

We know mobile is exploding in regard to advertising, especially video – can you explain what role PubNative plays in mobile advertising and exactly what service you facilitate?

PubNative is a global mobile supply-side platform (SSP) that’s fully focused on native advertising. We work directly with mobile publishers to understand each app’s needs in terms of UX and business objectives, and to provide ad monetisation solutions that enable sustainable revenue growth. Mobile native is a growing market so focusing specifically in this area gives us an actionable specialisation.

We aggregate a considerable quantity of demand in order to create good competition within the PubNative marketplace and maximise the eCPMs that we provide to our publishers. Our business model is based on a revenue share with publishers, where depending on their size, they can receive up to 90% of the revenue generated through our platform.

In terms of video, we’re working on some native and in-feed video ad placements. This is a really interesting area and it’s something we’ve worked hard on to understand and document the native video market on mobile. It’s changing pretty fast but definitely offers an exciting future.

Tell us about the ‘native’ side of the business and how you differentiate native mobile from other mobile ads?

At PubNative, we see native advertising as a framework. Adverts should fit the form of the context (i.e. the UX), but also the content (i.e. the content that is currently being displayed or read by the user). Through this combination, native ads should actually enhance rather than disrupt the experience of users.

To provide a little more detail on this, let me explain these two points further. Firstly, in terms of UX, as the ad has to fit the app and not look out of place within it. Inherent in this means not disrupting the experience of those using the app. If we look at a platform like Instagram, the native ads fit seamlessly into the app feed and therefore don’t interrupt users when scrolling.

In terms of context, it is about delivering relevant advertisements according to the profile of the user. To take the example of Instagram again, they use information about a user – for example, an early 20s woman from San Francisco who follows a lot of fashion accounts. With this information, they are able to use adverts that fit the context of that user’s Instagram feed, for example with adverts for related fashion products on ecommerce sites.

How do you best work ads around UX for gaming apps?

This is actually something I covered relatively recently in our blog, looking at several examples of in-game advertising. Overall the issue is about following the principles of fitting the advert to the content and context of the games. In real terms this means a consideration of the way a game is built, amongst others.

For example, users are likely to be more receptive to downloading a similar game at the stage in which they have just completed a level rather than halfway through. By considering factors like this, we can boost UX and improve installs.

What is the biggest challenge for mobile advertisers at the moment?

One of the biggest challenges is educating mobile advertisers, especially the brand advertisers. Since mobile native is still in its relative infancy, it’s really important to spread the word to advertisers and publishers. Because many marketers are inherently conservative and like to stick to what they know, this is about showcasing why native is the option for the future and illustrating its qualities in comparison to more traditional formats like banners and interstitials.

To what extent do you think mobile publishers are being affected by ad blocking? How do you approach this problem?

I would say that mobile is being marginally affected by ad-blocking. There are two cases to consider: Mobile in-app – which can’t be blocked so easily – so impact is minimal, and mobile web – where all the ad-blockers can function – but despite the buzz of its initial launch, its impact is limited. On top of that, Google recently removed Samsung’s ad-blocking tool from the store, showing the influence of major players in the market.

With movements like the Acceptable Ads Manifesto, the industry is evolving in a way that both advertisers and users can live happily ever after. For those of us working in the native sector, this is about making sure our adverts work with the form and the function as well as providing superior value and relevance to the viewer.

With this kind of combination, we should increasingly see adverts deliver the requisite value to the user and in turn, remove factors such as irritation and intrusion that so frequently cause the use of ad blocking software in the first place.

You have global offices, what is the scale of PubNative and are you seeing any particular trends based on geography?

Our HQ is based in Berlin and we also have offices in San Francisco, Beijing and Seoul to serve all of our major markets (EMEA, APAC, NA). We’re expanding fast and Berlin gives us the ideal location of working between the two time zones.

APAC is one of the fastest growing markets for us. Smartphone penetration is particularly high there and some of the emerging markets are mobile first or even mobile only – in terms of consumer adoption of technology. Still because of its maturity – US remains the highest revenue generating market.

In-app and mobile web are significantly different when it comes to ad serving – do you service both mobile formats or do you deal purely with apps?

Most of our clients are mobile app publishers but we also work with mobile web publishers. With so much search being conducted through mobile web, it is still a significant source of traffic for advertisers.

Mobile web can be seen as falling somewhere between desktop and mobile app. Whilst it often employs resized ad formats used on desktop, it has to be optimised for the smaller screen and provide good UX.

If you work with both is there a particular advantage one has over the other?

It really depends on the user base of mobile web and apps. At the moment I would say that there are more native formats for in-app native rather than native ads on the mobile web.

Regarding the mobile web – because it is an application of the desktop environment to mobile, this means that the content is being consumed in similar ways – i.e. through news websites, blogs, portals, etc. This means that native on mobile web is a direct replica of native on desktop, so underpinned by the six formats laid out in the IAB Native Advertising Playbook.

Another factor is simply mobile optimization. Whilst there remain companies who fail to adequately optimize their sites for mobile, ads on these sites are unlikely to provide good UX or ROI for advertisers.

Mobile apps, on the other hand, have specific functionalities, such as games, utility, entertainment, etc., and the UX is very particular to each function or app. In turn, this means that in-app native advertising has to be much more flexible in terms of format.

Do you encounter many issues with transparency and how do you tackle viewability, brand safety and fraud issues within mobile?

Ad tech is a fast-moving space that has evolved incredibly quickly. In an industry that moves so fast, it can be difficult to ensure that everyone follows best practices and plays by the rules that can often lag behind the market.

The issue of fraud, in particular, has certainly been a topic of conversation lately. In fact there are a number of different fraudulent activities that have taken place, one of which is the issue of click spamming. We need to come together as an industry to ensure that we legislate and advise to reduce the frequency and impact of issues like ad fraud.

As well as fraud, there a number of other issues that affect the industry. In terms of viewability, the MRC has actually just released a paper on the viewability of native ads, so this part is already happening. Increasing transparency on both the publisher and advertiser side would also go a long way to helping issues like fraud.

What is your mobile advertising prediction for 2016 – is this finally the year of mobile – at least when it comes to advertising?

As the mobile native advertising ecosystem continues to evolve at a rapid pace, 2016 is going to see advancements in technology in order to support an increasing demand for control and transparency from all players in this industry.

While mobile advertisers are requesting more guarantees over the execution of their native programmatic campaigns (viewability, fraud), mobile publishers are rightfully demanding more transparency in pricing.

In this context, we should inevitably see the emergence of independent, third-party technology solutions – unified platforms – that aggregate all mobile native demand, enabling publishers to price their inventory at the correct market value and maximize their revenue while facilitating enhanced transparency for advertisers.

About the author:

Ionut Ciobotaru (Co-founder & Managing Director of PubNative) started his career with a web development company and several technology related blogs. After years of entrepreneurial work in fields like eCommerce, digital marketing and collaborating with brands like Orange, Vodafone, HTC, Microsoft, Ionut sought a new challenge in the mobile space. He joined AppLift where he successfully developed company’s product suite for publishers and media partners. In order to fully focus on improving solutions for mobile publishers he founded PubNative, a mobile publisher platform fully focused on native advertising.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment

The limitations of current Viewable Ad Technologies

Viewable video advertising has been and is a huge topic of conjecture in the digital ad industry. This is because of the struggle to come up with a consistent way to deliver and measure 100% ad viewability.

There is a discrepancy within the industry as to what this term ‘viewable’ actually means. There is yet to be an agreed metric that tells both supply and demand if an ad unit is in view on a browser. And if it was in view, was it present long enough to have a reasonable chance of being seen?

There are multiple tech partners measuring viewability within the ecosystem, but no one method is the same, and whilst advertisers value the length of time and full resolution of an ad, publishers are less likely to value that metric in the same way. The IAB has their own standards but to cut a long story short, there is no consensus here. An industry wide viewability measurement system is the loch ness monster of ad tech – if it does exist, it’s lurking below the surface, waiting to be discovered but so far evading us all.

Even though the marketplace has the ability to sell viewable impressions, there is a lack of efficiency on the sell side that limits yield for the publisher. Advertisers and networks are unlikely to pay for an impression that’s not deemed viewable by their own measurement standards, even if the supply side disagrees. At the moment it’s a fairly one sided solution in favour of demand, and we need a consistent algorithm if the benefits are to be more equally spread. We can’t lump all these bits of terminology together and expect a one size fits all metric but we can get smarter about how we measure.

The requirements

The IAB and MRC have established minimum viable requirements for viewable advertising.

According to the IAB and MRC online viewable ad impressions guidelines:

‘As a baseline it is simple to appreciate the in-view measure aims to be an objective, qualitative, measure that simply answers the following questions.

  • Was the ad served?

  • Was it in-view?

  • Was there an opportunity for the user of the device to see it?

While these are the very basic guidelines for digital advertising, the metrics that constitute an opportunity to see, differ between ad formats:

  • For in page display advertising there must be greater than or equal to 50% pixels in view for greater than or equal to a second.

  • For video advertising, an opportunity so see is measured as greater than or equal to 50% of pixels in-view for greater than or equal to 2 continuous seconds of video ad play.

The problem with current measurement

These standards while seemingly basic are difficult to measure because different browsers load content differently. Not only that but as mentioned earlier, there are a huge number of ad tech vendors running their own measurement of these standards, and the methods used to do so vary for each. This means each vendor’s results will be different, affecting expected CPMs, creating a paucity of excepted inventory and mistrust.

Some vendors use a historically based system to measure viewability, meaning they will assume certain domains are viewable and others are not depending on the historic data of those domains. But because domain content changes regularly and the advertisements vary widely, this method can be very inaccurate. It’s not enough to solely rely on historical probability scores to tell an advertiser their ad may or may not be seen based on a domain that may or may not have previously served a viewable impression. So while industry players are trying to address these issues, we’re not accelerating to true ‘viewability’ very quickly and we could be disadvantaging a lot of publishers.

Coull pre-bid viewability technology

To give our demand partners the very best opportunity to engage with their customers we developed Coull’s pre-bid viewability technology. Of course the first step along that road to viewability that everyone seems to be moonwalking towards, is very simply for the ad to be seen in compliance for the minimum standards.

What we’ve developed is the ability to detect where the ad unit is on the page before it’s served, in other words, pre-bid viewability. This enables advertisers to decide what inventory to purchase based on whether their ad would likely be in view. We have the ability to run viewabilty tech that combines historical viewability and pre-bid viewability data. This tech is tested across different browsers to try and mitigate the lack of consistency, as well and give the best potential for efficiency and ROI success across campaigns.

For media companies, the ability to sell inventory that shows a high level of viewability delivery and opportunity to see, means an increase in the value of that inventory in the market.

The biggest advantage in using this viewability technology is that it minimizes wasted ad spend, giving demand partners real-time data to help them make the best buying decision.

Coull provides viewability analysis using both page geometry and browser optimization and the tech is available through the Coull Video Ad Exchange which is in beta phase right now; due for full release before the end of the year.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment

Takeaways from Programmatic IO

Ad Exchanger’s Programmatic IO was held in April in San Francisco, and as with most trade events there were a few running themes. Here are the key points I took away from conversations, panels, and main speakers.

Fraud and Viewability

One of the biggest topics covered by the speakers and discussed by those attending was how to deal with fraud, and what actions are being taken to ensure viewability. The consensus was that across the industry, fraud is something we need to confront head on by investing in technology that can provide both information and transparency.

This is particularly needed within programmatic video – as it was noted; video is a prime target for fraud due to its high CPMs. Retargeting was also noted as a favorite tactic for committing ad fraud.

One opinion that stuck with me on the issues of fraud and viewability was that it is just the starting point for the industry, and that the impact of video as a medium is what needs to be measured.  A similar point came from Google’s Sean Downey’s during his talk on the Future of Programmatic though he said, “When it comes to impact, video is still king”.

Multiple screens

Tablets, computers, mobile phones, and television – consumers are connecting with content through multiple devices throughout the day and sometimes multiple devices at once.  This is a great opportunity for advertisers to reach their target audience, but it also presents advertisers with a greater challenge to earn engagement.

No longer is there one roadmap for reaching your audience, there are multiple routes, all which must be covered to ensure those who deviate from the standard desktop content model, to the increasingly popular mobile device landscape are accounted for. Targeting users while they view content on mobile is a challenge, engaging them while they are doing this during an ad break, while watching television is yet another. All aspects of the users behaviour need to be considered, and thus, content is changing to accommodate all of their various behaviours.

What we are beginning to see more and more, are advertisers blurring the lines between advertisements and content.  Some of the biggest viral videos in the last year were actually selling products, take for example the “Like a Girl” campaign that Always produced, it currently has over 57 million views on alone.  They not only got people to watch an advertisement, but they also started a conversation – showing the true definition of impact.

Great Statistics

Who doesn’t love a good statistic?  Especially when it shows new growth and opportunity.  Here are a few from Programmatic IO that stood out for me:

Programmatic IO covered viewability and ad fraud, multiple screens and how to ensure audiences are engaged and messages impactful. All these themes resonated because they are all challenges facing our industry. The issues present now unify us in a quest to achieve better. The exciting thing is that we’re creating new products and engaging with new partners that will mean we’re able to achieve more through online video, overcome obstacles and forge further ahead, adding even more value and taking advantage of the opportunities afforded to us through mobile content.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment

2015 predictions for the Adtech industry

The adtech industry has come a long way this year, with the ‘death of display ads’ a drunken rambling we’d rather take back. Albeit rebranded as ‘native’, display advertising is thriving again – banner ads are everywhere, from your news feeds to your search results, 2014 has seen a resurrection of the format.

Another notable change has been the increase in ad spend through programmatic, with an estimated 137% growth this year (eMarketer) and investment into video advertising at an estimated 59% increase from last year (IAB).

So with that said, it’s been a positive year for us. But what does next year hold? Here’s what I believe the digital advertising industry need to think about for a successful 2015.

  1. Mobile is just another form of digital

2015 will be characterised by the continual increase in, and shifting of, advertising dollars from more traditional media to online. As part of this, the lines between mobile and desktop will continue to blur and marketers will need to view the mobile web for what it is – just another form of digital.

  1. We need more transparency around data

And I don’t say ‘need’ lightly. As the industry consolidates, adtech companies will need to be more honest about where money is being spent and whether it actually delivers value back to advertisers. Those that don’t will get found out.

The industry isn’t doing a great job of policing the use of data, so I think there’s a high possibility of government intervention and regulation within the next year or two as a result. I also strongly suspect that Google will adopt a ‘no-cookie’ policy within the next 18 months, and there will be a lot of pressure on the government to regulate.

  1. Innovation will come from the publisher space

At the moment, I don’t really see a huge amount of innovation among adtech companies. In 2015 I think we’ll see this innovation coming from the publisher space, but not from traditional media companies. We’ve already seen disruptive publishers and distributors such as NDN and Perform that are able to adapt quickly and create new revenue streams through their use of programmatic. These guys are already competing in the top 10 of comScore having come from virtually nowhere.

  1. We need to take the reigns on programmatic

I’m sick of attempts to define programmatic. We’re doing a dreadful job as an industry trying to explain what it is and it’s not helping the education process for media brands. It doesn’t help that there is a lack of best practice case studies out there – publishers should be more comfortable in explaining how they are using these models.

Industry bodies such as the IAB and AOP also need to do more to provide leadership and education within the industry. At the moment we have a situation where programmatic – and it’s definition – is being led by tech vendors rather than the industry as a whole, and that’s skewing the picture in favor of those companies.

  1. Viewability is a dealbreaker

Adtech companies that can use viewability as a metric and therefore provide real measurement and value, will be the ones that are ultimately successful in 2015. As the market matures and the industry becomes more transparent, we will be begin to see the companies that don’t add any real value begin to fail. Their shortcomings will be fatally exposed.

  1. Demand for talent increases

Programmatic has risen so rapidly that it’s difficult to find people with the ready-made skillsets necessary. The biggest challenge we will have, shared by other companies in the industry, is the recruitment of suitable talent. The types of expertise needed for programmatic advertising are completely different to those of traditional advertising. We’re in the market for data scientists and mathematicians rather than copywriters, and there’s a huge battle for that type of talent. We need to convince people with a degree in maths, for example, that there are real career opportunities for them in advertising.

I don’t have a magic ball and I can’t give you any groundbreaking predictions; I think we simply need to do what we’re already doing, but better. A lot better.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment