Mark Lee

Coull’s ZPF technology patent approved

Coull’s ZPF technology patent approved

We pride ourselves on being a technology company and so naturally, our tech is at the heart of everything we do. Our amazing dev team have built everything from the ground up and continue to adapt and innovate. Now, we have official recognition of our hard work and unique tech – our very own patent! We’ve had a patent approved for our ‘Zero Point of Failure’ technology – or ZPF for short. Sounds complicated, right? Well, it can be. The system is very intelligent and complex. However, let me put it in simple terms…

What is ZPF?

The patent covers the “process” of design, building and running ZPF. This technology internally manages our server infrastructure, supporting both ad serving and internal tools. This is to ensure the maximum possible up-time for all of our services and avoiding disaster if a server fails.

How does it work?

ZPF makes the components of Coull’s infrastructure interchangeable across various cloud providers. This means we’re not tied to one specific provider and we can isolate any problems.

For the techies amongst you, here’s some extra detail about what ZPF includes…

    • Multiple controllers and providers, meaning there are many versions of the same components
    • High availability of repos
    • A ticketing system that’s integrated to self-document resources
    • High availability of config management and orchestration
    • Using the lowest cost resources, mix and matched on the best providers
  • Agnostic deployments on any supported provider

Where did the idea for ZPF come from?

Meet Gary, our most experienced DevOps guy. He’s been at Coull for an impressive 13 years. Some years ago, Gary had to survive a series of major outages from Amazon’s cloud service. This had serious knock-on effects and left Gary having to rebuild a lot of the infrastructure from scratch. So, he then had the perfect excuse to put into practice some ideas. This is where our Zero Point of Failure tech was born. By removing the dependency on a single provider and backing up components on many servers, he could prevent this from happening again.

ZPF took about 12 months to create and we first deployed this technology in production in 2012. And now, thanks to our ZPF tech, our infrastructure is much more reliable, ensures maximum up-time for our clients and isolates any problems.

Posted by Mark Lee in Coull comment
Winter (and Change) is here… for Over-The-Top (OTT)

Winter (and Change) is here… for Over-The-Top (OTT)

Over-The-Top is Ad Tech’s new best friend

Online video is influencing all generations and consumers are now watching more than eight hours of online content every week Rapidly evolving audience behaviour in 2018 has continued to drive video growth for over-the-top (OTT).

Global markets progressively continue to adopt online video as it becomes more popular, while the U.S remains a leader in Connected TV (CTV) and OTT. The growth of OTT subscribers and global OTT viewing time shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

Where is OTT really hitting home?

A recent IAB Study found that in the U.S, over two-thirds of adults (that typically watched OTT video) stated that they watch ad-supported OTT video (IAB Video Centre of Excellence). Millennials in the U.S are by far the largest adopters of CTV and OTT, paving the way for the most popular channel through which advertisers can reach these ‘cord-cutting’ audiences.

Further East however, has also been a year of substantial growth for online video. Asia-Pacific (APAC) has witnessed a boom in OTT and CTV devices. Improvements in audience targeting and better quality video ad experiences has led to a spike in video ad spend in the region, with this trend set to continue well into 2019. Japan and Korea, as leaders in the established ad tech market have experienced some growth. However, due to their deep level of market integration, some areas of OTT adoption have been slower coming in comparison to the US – though growth is expected to be much quicker in 2019. So we can expect more innovative techniques and developments to emerge out of that corner of the world within the coming years.

What can advertisers do to achieve meaningful reach?

Previously advertisers had to simply get their ads in front of as many eyes as possible. These days advertisers need to calculate and target their efforts through campaigns based on first-party customer data. As advertisers today are continually pressing for consumer attention and business, personalised ad experiences are becoming the more popular way to do it.

It should come at no surprise that many people aren’t huge fans of seeing ads. Especially when those ads get in the way of our user-experience. Our products are able to solve that problem and add value to any video.

Original approaches and uninhibited user-experiences are what consumers want. Our On-Pause format only displays an advert when a video is paused. An innovative way to utilise unused and non-intrusive space don’t you think?


On-Pause Demo

Our Overstream On-Pause ad format mimics and aligns with the behaviours of TV advertising. Delivering relevant, in-view ads politely, when a user chooses to pause content for whatever reason, such as a tea break, interruption or to replay a section. By not interfering with the user experience or content, users are communicated to at a time of their choosing or expectation.

We’re proud of our Overstream On-Pause ad format. We feel that it can not only deliver content respectfully, but also add value to the users experience online. That’s the real goal at the end of the day right?

Posted by Mark Lee in Coull comment
How to make programmatic advertising work in a post-GDPR world

How to make programmatic advertising work in a post-GDPR world

If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, you’ve probably been bombarded with news about privacy, data and our favourite 4-letter acronym: GDPR. One of the biggest stories was the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, where over 50 million Facebook profiles were harvested to target political adverts. This shook the world and ever since people have been questioning how their personal data is actually being used.

Though, the issue of personal privacy has been cropping up for years. Although the internet has made it easier to collect personal data, there’s been controversy surrounding the invasion of privacy long before the wide use of the internet. For example, at one point, a bill was put forward in the state of California to ban caller ID because they felt it was a breach of privacy for the caller to have their information displayed.

But it’s only now that substantial steps are being taken to protect personal data, hence the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was born.

GDPR: one month on

If you haven’t heard about GDPR (though, how could you avoid it?), it’s a law that aims to protect all EU citizens from privacy and data breaches. This regulation was enforced a month ago, on 25th May 2018.

So, what’s happened since? Businesses within Europe that handle personal data are facing more legal obligation for how they collect, process and store this data. Within the digital advertising world, personal data is collected for audience targeting, but this strategy is changing – big time. As a result, we predict other marketing and targeting techniques will flourish and ad tech will play a dominant role in this change.

How is GDPR affecting Coull?

Data privacy is affecting most businesses, but some more than others. At Coull, we’ve always taken our user’s data and their privacy seriously and so we haven’t had to change our business processes or behaviours. Though we have updated our policies and contracts to reflect our adherence to the GDPR guidelines and we will continue working closely with our partners to ensure compliance.

Ultimately, GDPR is an opportunity for responsible businesses to add value in an open and transparent way. We hope this is the start of a new era of transparent data processing across our industry.

How is it affecting the digital advertising industry as a whole?

Many digital advertising strategies rely on collecting a person’s information through browser cookies – which stores information such as age, gender, location and general interests. Whereas GDPR means that people now need to ‘opt-in’ to having their information collected. This poses a problem for advertisers who want to target audiences this way.

However, changes are already happening, such as a push towards more sponsored, social media and influencer marketing. For example, Adidas has quickly capitalised on the World Cup, by working with footballers and celebrities for social media content, directly targeting their followers.

Does this mean programmatic advertising is dead? No! Of course not. There are still successful and ‘GDPR safe’ ways to use digital advertising…

All in context

Contextual advertising is one way to avoid using personal data. It uses information on the content itself to make assumptions and then target the audience with a relevant advert. This is ‘GDPR safe’ because it doesn’t need to use personal data.

Contextual targeting has many different levels, depending on the technical and analytical capabilities, such as targeting by domain, keywords or location. For example, Land Rover may want to contextually target their audience at a domain level with an advert on a car review website.

contextual programmatic advertising, OverStream OnPause format

An example of Coull’s OnPause format displaying a Land Rover ad in a contextually targeted environment.

Retarget without using cookies

Cookie monster eating cookies

Source: Giphy

Advertisers can be real cookie monsters, collecting as many cookies as possible to target a particular campaign to the same person, again and again. However, without consent to collect their data, it can make retargeting hard. So let’s forget about the non-edible cookies, shall we?

This is where ad tech can really make a difference. For example, our format, DoubleUp, delivers a ‘two-part’ retargeting campaign in the video player. First of all, a pre-roll ad is shown, then the video plays and the second part of the campaign, a display creative, is presented in one of our OverStream formats.

As an example, Emirates might want to advertise to and retarget international travellers. They decide to put a pre-roll ad before a video about Dubai on a travel tourism website:

Contextual programmatic advertising, pre-roll DoubleUp

Emirate pre-roll (first part of a DoubleUp campaign).

Then as the video content starts playing, they can use the OverStream Banner format to retarget the same person using a CTA banner from the same campaign:

contextual programmatic advertising, OverStream Banner DoubleUp

An example of Coull’s OverStream Banner in a DoubleUp campaign for Emirates.

This feature:

  • Retargets someone in a ‘GDPR safe’ way
  • Gives people a direct ‘Call To Action’ for the pre-roll
  • Shortens the customer journey by immediately retargeting whilst you still have the customer’s attention

Aside from using different targeting techniques, education and transparency are now more important than ever. If advertisers want to continue collecting data in a post-GDPR world, they’re going to have to win back the trust of the people, through respect and complete transparency. This involves, being open about their policies and making both opt-in and opt-out options clear and easy to follow. But unfortunately, many organisations are simply using confusing wordplay to give consumers no other option other than to simply ‘accept and close’ to approve the collection of their data. This is misleading and isn’t an effective way to earn trust.

Website GDPR privacy data consent

An example of how some organisations mislead their audience and are able to gain consent to collect data

But, there’s still hope. The digital advertising industry can be incredibly creative, so it’s a matter of ‘innovate to survive’ in the world of GDPR. Perhaps this will not only encourage transparency but also give the industry an opportunity to rethink ways to deliver great advertising without invading people’s privacy. We will have to wait and see…

Posted by Mark Lee in Coull comment