Blog posts for advertisers

How to avoid the digital ad fraud grinch this silly season

How to avoid the digital ad fraud grinch this silly season

Don’t suffer at the mercy of the Christmas Grinch of the ad world this season. We’ve got some tips for avoiding digital ad fraud, making great campaigns and ensuring you reach audiences through the clutter of tinsel and the ho, ho, ho of the big fat man.

Sad and frustrating as it may be, Christmas time is prime time for fraudsters trying to profit from your end of year media budget. Make the boss happy by ensuring you only pay for valid, viewable traffic.

When it comes to unwrapping presents on Christmas day, one of the biggest excitements is not knowing what you’re going to find under all that wrapping paper. The same cannot be said for the media buying world.

Avoid digital ad fraud: know what you’re buying

When you purchase inventory for your brand, it’s pretty darn important you know exactly what you’re getting.

  • Make sure you work with a compliant platform or ad network with rules in place. They should be transparent about what inventory is sold and what is accepted as valid, in-view and brand-safe. We have our own invalid traffic score that we apply to each publisher partner. We work with our partners on a one to one basis to ensure their inventory is compliant. It’s simple, avoid digital ad fraud and buy safely and efficiently.

  • Ensure you get the best match possible. Talk to your account manager about what inventory is available and at what price.

  • Don’t just buy on one metric. Although you may be buying inventory based on viewability, that’s no good at all if the inventory is fraudulent. Cutting corners is not the way to get that Christmas bonus. Frame you KPIs around what matters in programmatic and ditch historic measurement models.

Make your ad campaigns count

  • Be as relevant as you can this season by running PMP (Private Marketplace) deals. Talk to your account manager about the best option for your campaigns rather than diving blind into a pool that could be flooded with invalid traffic. Again, work with partners you trust.

  • Choose ad formats that will be seen by your audience. This means they should have a track record of high CTR. For example, our OverStream formats perform 10x  better than a standard display ad.

  • Engage your audience on the move with mobile-friendly campaigns.

  • Engage your audience across their favourite content format – video. The IAB and PWC’s latest report shows massive growth in video ad revenue, especially on mobile so be where your audience are.

  • Communicate what you want to your platform so they can find the right inventory for you.

Get the format right

  • Work with your agency or creative team to make your ad unit do the work for you. Choose the right ad format for your audience. Annoying and interruptive advertising isn’t the way to get noticed. Engage your audience when they’re thinking about purchasing.

  • Talk to your SSP or ad network and find out which formats are the most engaging and efficient. Not all ads are born equal. Running multiple formats that complement each other will give you the best chance of being seen and will make your media budget work harder.

Coull's OverStream Suite of video advertising formats

Check out our OverStream Suite of advertising formats.


  • Tis the season for re-targeting. We suggest running a re-targeting campaign a few days before Black Friday to coincide with Black Friday purchase decisions. Get in early to get that customer.

  • Target specific devices and locations you know your audience will be buying across. Don’t limit yourself to chance.

  • Buy across specific categories. Knowing what video inventory you’re buying is important when it comes to conversion.

Keep these tips in mind when planning your upcoming campaigns and get the most from your spend (and keep that mean, green critter away).

Merry end of year ad campaigning to you all!

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment

Coull Quickie October – The one about ad fraud

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

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

Posted by simonholliday in Coull video
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. They’ve enabled anyone with a video camera to be discovered on merit alone and new young stars to have a viable career.

2016 marks 10 years since Google acquired YouTube. It seems fitting that the traditional gift for a decade of dedication is tin because Google hasn’t made 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 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. But, 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 first-party data and their existing sales team can sell directly 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 and verification vendors are just not going to happen. This is a historical problem.

When Google first bought Youtube they had a hard time getting their salespeople 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 and 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 does 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 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 is 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. 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 has 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 on ad formats or forging partnerships with those using YouTube content, something has got to give or the 20 year anniversary will 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?

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

Apple and Google giveth and the IAB taketh away

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment
Did Facebook really rip off its video advertisers?

Did Facebook really rip off its video advertisers?

Did Facebook really rip off its video advertisers? No. It’s a complete non-story. These stories have been hyped by poor research and sensational headlines, suggesting Facebook did something fraudulent. Journalists have been quick to jump on the bandwagon and feeding off the initial story without doing there on research.

What actually happened?

Here’s some context to help break this story down.

Facebook only charges marketers 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’ = total time spent watching a video ÷ total number of people who have played the video.

  • Now, the ‘Average Duration of Video Viewed’ = total time spent watching a video ÷ number of views of the video, for 3+ seconds.

Realistically, marketers shouldn’t base buying decisions on this metric alone. Facebook hasn’t changed any code to correct this, only their terms and conditions. Therefore, careful consideration must still be applied when making purchases.

Is Facebook advertising completely flawed?

Let’s not get carried away too.

Facebook’s newsfeed ads are fed by its data, therefore making it the greatest ad format ever invented. Marketers can easily see if the ROI and so if they’re not seeing results they won’t buy more.

The real story

The real story isn’t a metric miscommunication or blunder – it’s a much bigger issue. The debate is about walled gardens and transparency. Does Facebook provide enough transparency for their own verification? Well, Facebook recently announced limited partnerships with Nielsen, Integral Ad Science and comScore to provide transparency.

For Facebook, it’s a question of user data because that’s their USP. Controlling data and protecting their users will ensure they continue to spend time in the app. However, opening doors to too many vendors and knocking down their walled garden will put that at risk.

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ODV spells good news for publishers

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment
Tackling video ad fraud

Tackling video ad fraud

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

What is ad fraud?

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

Automated traffic

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


The IP address is a known proxy.


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

Ad injection

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

Cloaked domains

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

Domain spoofing

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

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

What are bots?

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


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

Who you gonna call?…

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

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

How to spot a ghost (site)

WordPress templates

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

No contact or web hosting information

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

Strange growth patterns

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

Hardcoded banner ads

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

Will there be a future without video ad fraud?

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

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

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment
Digital advertising in Asia is growing, and fast!

Digital advertising in Asia is growing, and fast!

Why should we care about the digital advertising market in Asia?

According to the latest Strategy Analytics report, this year the Asia-Pacific region (APAC) is likely to overtake North America as the biggest digital advertising market worldwide. Predictions range between an 18%-20% increase in digital ad spending, which would bring its total spend for 2016 up into the region of $70-$80 billion.

This is a staggering figure and one we shouldn’t overlook. Perhaps unsurprisingly, China is firmly in the front seat of this drive in digital ad spending. This year, 44% of total digital ad spend worldwide will come from the U.S and China alone. But China isn’t an oddity, with the likes of Japan, Thailand, India and Indonesia, the region boasts half of the world’s top six countries in digital ad spending.

Digital ad spend by region - Asia, America, Europe, Africa

What is unique and desirable about the Asia-Pacific digital market?


The majority of people in APAC interact and engage with the digital world through their smartphones. In China, uniquely, users often even favour apps over the mobile web. Understandably, many APAC countries have become critical markets for mobile app and gaming companies. Leading in-app advertising company, Vungle, saw ad revenues soar up 400% in China from 2015.

Efficient broadband

Mature markets such as Singapore have well-developed broadband networks, providing a large internet-connected audience. WeAreSocial reported that an impressive 82% of the city-state was connected to the web. The availability and size of the audience in many countries in APAC are attractive, and there’s plenty of room to grow. Currently, spending per person in APAC is around $15, compared with $165 in the US and $95 in Western Europe.

Untapped technology

Pokémon Go has highlighted the potential of location-aware apps and geo-targeting. This week, breaking away from its traditional mould, Japan has become the first country to include in-app brand sponsored locations with McDonald’s Japan.

What are some of the challenges of the Asia-Pacific market?

Unique market

Just because it works in the West, doesn’t mean it will work in APAC. Whilst foreign companies can bring a lot of value to the region and act as a bridge between China and the rest of the world, it’s essential to tailor tactics to the region. Vungle’s success in China is largely due to their commitment to understanding the local market. By hiring Chinese-speaking employees and sending them into the field, they’ve localized everything from sales, engineering to account management.


The Chinese firewall not only screens and blocks websites, but also slows down almost every international ad call. Moving forward, companies would benefit from investing in localizing their servers.

Anti-Fraud and ad-blocking

Anti-piracy efforts and viewability standards abroad are yet to catch up with the U.S. and Western Europe. In addition, many APAC consumers in countries such as China are mobile-savvy and aware of the latest ad blocking technology. According to a study by PageFair, 36% of smartphone users in APAC countries have ad blockers installed.

To recap, the potential of programmatic video in Asia-Pacific is huge. Foreign companies should not be discouraged by the regional challenges; APAC offers a unique market that’s only just taking off.

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Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment
Coull’s 5 programmatic video and Ad Tech predictions for 2016

Coull’s 5 programmatic video and Ad Tech predictions for 2016

It’s been a big year in programmatic video advertising and the scale of change has not gone unnoticed or unanswered. There have been big challenges to overcome in 2015, such as the pitfalls of viewability, fraud, brand safety and ad blocker issues. But these issues have become the ‘make or break’ for ad tech companies hoping to survive.

In reality, there’s been a lot of negative press surrounding programmatic video and advertising as a whole. We need a bigger effort from industry bodies to provide consistent standards that meet advertiser expectations. Educating audiences about the differences between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ advertising is key for the following year. We need to show that ‘good’ advertising is useful and engaging for audiences and funds quality content. And we need to show ‘bad’ advertising is not creative or engaging and doesn’t comply with IAB standards.

Huge potential for programmatic video

There’s a massive opportunity for programmatic to consolidate the great work that’s being done with proprietary tech. But there’s also a small margin for error with agencies and DSPs fighting for the unique factor that will make or break their bottom line.

The IAB have predicted, around 70-80% of all digital spend will be programmatic by 2018, and therefore, we expect the coming year to have even more growth than 2015.

Our 5 ad tech predictions for 2016

Here are our top 5 programmatic video predictions for 2016, as foreseen by our trusted oracle, CTO and Coull founder, Aden Forshaw.

1. We’ll see the rise of AVOD (advertiser-supported video on demand)

Subscription services like Netflix, Now TV and Amazon Prime offer people quality content for a monthly fee. And whilst a lot of UK viewers now have subscriptions to 3-4 services, as well as BBC iPlayer, there are a countless VOD services competing in the US. While competition is good, there’s only so many services people will pay for – it’s a zero-sum game.

Having said this, there are many traditional media companies with loyal audiences, and in some cases, these brands already have their own original content. These media companies should now translate their offering into online platforms and support it with advertising to quickly gain market share.

2. Media companies take more control of their own data and targeting

Video supply platforms will be bought or white labelled. Big publishers creating more video and new content platforms will want to white label or buy supply platforms to help them integrate with the demand side. This consolidating takes out more of the middlemen and creates a stronger proposition.

3. Shakeout of DSPs

DSPs act as the gateway to the market for advertisers, but as more advertisers bring this knowledge in-house, only the most useful DSPs will survive. DSPs that present no points of difference are in danger of extinction or at the very least, absorption by another powerhouse.

4. Trading desks put under pressure

The route to the programmatic market is becoming more commoditised, and as this continues to happen, trading desks will be swept away. If a trading desk can’t provide a unique way to improve ROI, advertisers will seriously question their use and either move activity in-house, go direct, or switch platforms.

5. Agencies, with so many cooks in the kitchen, it’s time to get creative or get out

There’s been a lot of talk about the role of agencies and how (or even if) they fit in the programmatic ecosystem. Agencies have lost the responsibility of ad spend. So, to survive they need to get creative and partner with ad tech providers to enable new ways to run campaigns.

Google VR cardboard - programmatic video ad tech predictions

Source: New York Times

A great example of innovative storytelling is Google’s VR Cardboard – a piece of incredibly engaging kit, made from cardboard. Who’d have thought it? Well someone did. And that’s exactly the point, we need ideas and agencies need to make those ideas a reality.

When the New York Times, Google and collaborated to create Google Cardboard, even they couldn’t have dreamed it’s huge success. It really was the start of a remarkable new way of storytelling with the most important factor: accessibility.

The scope of possibility is only limited by imagination. If agencies are to survive, they need to be relevant and valuable. Agencies need to be pushing those limits, collaborating with tech partners and helping brands tell stories in exciting ways.

So that’s our top 5 predictions for 2016! It’s definitely going to be a huge year for programmatic video and we couldn’t be more excited.

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We want better ads

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment

We want better ads

If you ask most people their opinion of advertising, they generally range from disinterested to distaste. You’d be hard pressed to find many people who claim to love adverts, and rightfully so. They’re generally disruptive, not aimed at our interests or needs and some are just plain boring. This doesn’t have to be the case. We can have better ads. But how?

Better ads mean better creative

Let’s tackle the fun problem first; adverts don’t have to be boring. In fact, there are some really good ads out there. You know, the ones that make you laugh, cry, and most importantly they engage you. Every year, there are a handful of standouts, often they tell a story, pull on the heartstrings, and relate to their audience.

Some of the best examples from this year come from two very different products. The first is from Met Life, with an ad that ran in Hong Kong. It’s hard to deny the power this video has, and the format itself feels more like a short film. It engages the audience, but also makes them feel like they need the product.

The second has the best viral components: cute animals being friends. Hats off to Android for capitalising on our obsession with cute animal videos and compiling these clips of unlikely fur friends. According to Digital Trends, this is the most shared ad of all time, with 6.4 million shares.

Improve targeting

Now, what about ad targeting?  We’re all used to re-targeted ads, in fact, it’s the ability to re-target consumers that gives digital advertisers a major advantage over tradition TV or newspaper ad spots. However, most consumers will agree, brands can do better at retargeting and it means moving beyond the basics.

With the data available online and specifically through programmatic marketing, advertisers have the ability to tailor their message to fit the consumer’s needs. The person who just bought a surfboard won’t get much use out of more surfboard ads, but how about a car rack, wet-suit, or surfing travel packages? Now we’re talking.

MediaPost points out, “A major advantage of programmatic creative is the dynamic and sequential messaging that is influenced by rich-data signals. The signals can also be used to adjust creatives to better fit the person viewing the ad.”

The art and science of better ads

Some argue the science of advertising is taking away from the art, that ads have become so calculated that they’re no longer the creative masterpieces of times past.  Like this ad, that got a second nod following the finale of Mad Men.

There’s also an argument, and a strong one, that science and technology are making betters ads, more creative and dynamic ads than ever before. A great example of this is from a new campaign Crayola recently launched, with YouTube star Zach King.

According to AdWeek, “The mini-film is part of larger holiday campaign from Crayola…which includes a range of kid influencers, demonstration videos, in-store sampling and social media.” It’s easy to see how the use of technology, data, and proper targeting can take advertising to a whole new level.  

The need for quality creative is clear, but quality goes beyond captivating storytelling and requires the use of data, targeting, and technology to develop better ads.  

Instead of putting science vs. creativity, it’s high time both sides worked together to strengthen advertising for the better. The end result of a science blended with creativity based advertising approach is far more likely to be relevant and engaging advertising, delivered to appropriate audiences on the right screen when it’s useful to them. No matter which end of the spectrum you’re approaching it from, that’s a pretty compelling and sustainable result to strive for, and we think audiences would agree. Now let’s raise our glasses to better ads!

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Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment

The Perpetual Flaws of Digital Advertising

Ads clutter the internet. I work for an advertising technology company and I’m not afraid to say this to you, potential clients, existing clients, industry colleagues. It’s the truth and it’s important to recognize the big problem in our industry right now. Ads!

One of the biggest threats to the digital advertising industry surrounds misconceptions about advertising and poor campaign execution. The perceived arbitrary nature surrounding ad serving arises because of poorly delivered campaigns, poorly designed creative and the manner in which we exchange remnant inventory. Format too is a huge factor in influencing attitudes toward online advertising. The idea that banner ads are intrusive comes about from a neglect in banner creative, perpetrating invasive campaigns, and filling pages with irrelevant ads. However, poor performance often comes down to the enabling of completely unseen ad impressions. The same goes for other ad formats that are being traded irresponsibly, either without viewability or fraud standards, or simply served to the point of saturation. It’s these very things that give consumers a valid reason to choose to use ad blockers.

Always remember your customer and prioritise their experience

image via

beer ad.png         Samsung ad.png

It’s the obstructive, invasive, visually and audibly loud, data sucking ads that have stippled the industry with a ghastly reputation. Rising from the ashes of that reputation can seem a futile undertaking, but premium publishers and ad tech companies are doing what they can to clear the debris, and improve the ecosystem.

Programmatic entered the game and rather quickly became the norm for buying digital inventory. But not without some serious flaws caused by such automatic functions as matching brand to keyword rather than context (as can be seen in the above examples), poor reporting models, lackluster standards for providing transparent ad request information, and many other inefficiencies.

The advertising model, while oftentimes not ideal, is crucial for businesses, and is helpful for audiences. In fact, professionally designed creative and well strategized advertising can be awesome. But when low quality, non IAB compliant formats are traded programmatically and sold to publishers who don’t much care how they appear, or sent to invalid/fraudulent publisher sites – the whole thing falls apart. Industry bodies have taken a back seat for too long. They need to do more to regulate both the quality and viewability of ad formats.

Why not just block the ads?

Ad blocking has been around for years but has only now become an issue of contention due to the nature of how it’s being used. Blocking ads only halts the flow of revenue for media providers and smaller creatives who can’t afford to implement paywalls, it doesn’t solve the problem. It should come as no surprise that audiences are choosing to install ad blockers, though while this ‘apparently’ gives audiences more choice, it gives publishers none. And in terms of economic sustainability, this makes no sense.

Ad blockers play havoc with the democracy of digital content. Instead of destroying the digital media economy, we should demand more of advertisers by only allowing quality ad formats, of an acceptable and compliant nature to be traded in our marketplace. Publishers too, should be required to provide more transparency as to the inventory they are selling. Following the release of iOS 9 which enabled ad blockers to be downloaded and installed on Apple iPhone, a leading ad block application Peace, had a change of heart, disabling its service after just 36 hours and refunding customers. Why? Because ad blockers are unfair on digital media publishers trying to survive.

If the ‘solution’ of ad blocking were applied to the film or music industry, there would be no doubt of content piracy. You cannot simply take someone else’s work without paying for it. Simple. Companies like Israel’s mobile ad blocking startup Shine, believe they’re doing nothing wrong – but they are facilitating the distribution of other people’s content without obliging the recipient to pay. That’s what The Oxford Dictionary would term as stealing. Their definition is of course:

Take (another person’s property) without permission or legal right and without intending to return it.

Yes, it’s stealing!

Just because the content is not technically being reproduced (though there is an argument that downloading is a form of reproducing – see Ad blocking panel discussion from ATS London via Exchange Wiredoes not mean it’s not being stolen. It’s still being made available, to a huge number of consumers – free of charge, without the permission of the publisher. Get a grip!

The industry needs to take responsibility

Audiences have spoken out by the million about their objection to the quality of ads, by downloading ad blockers. In the US 41% of 18-29 year olds use an ad blocker (Secret Media). There is plenty of room to further improve existing ad formats, and new formats are patented every day, giving publishers and audiences more choice. It’s not up to us, the industry and everyone involved in it to make this happen for our audiences and our clients.

So how exactly do we improve digital advertising so that it can be a viable format of monetising inventory is growing media companies. Check out 5 ways to improve digital advertising now.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment

Yield Optimization – Another selling point for automated trading

Programmatic advertising has been augmented by the depth, scale and accessibility of data. It is used to enrich advertising by enabling granular targeting and critical post analysis of campaign performance. Data and the competitive nature of the advertising industry, has mobilised the practice of yield optimisation allowing it to become a standard skill set throughout the programmatic landscape.

What is yield optimization?

Yield optimization can be loosely defined as using data analysis and optimization techniques to maximize performance and revenue. There is always a necessity for efficiency, especially when each party involved wants to attain optimum value and return on investment for their business. With the growing amount of data points that are being made available within the industry, yield optimization can be a daunting task. This often encapsulates dissecting huge amounts of data and applying strict process-driven tasks to realize successful, tangible outcomes.

For publishers of online media, yield optimization can involve the analysis of existing data to determine which areas of inventory are performing well, and which are not. The key part of yield optimization is understanding the precise elements or circumstances of these areas and exploiting them to maximize efficiency.

One of the simplest forms of inventory optimization from a publisher’s perspective is correctly valuing inventory. By effectively managing the value that they sell ad space for and applying floor prices against specific inventory segments, they can ensure a healthy balance between fill rate and eCPM value, easily enabling overall revenue to be increased. Many SSPs now build out their own yield optimization tools within their platforms to highlight simulated opportunities based on different valuations of inventory. Due to the nature of programmatic video specifically, the flexibility of revaluing inventory depends on perspective and how many parties are involved in handling the inventory in question.

What are the opportunities and challenges for yield optimization?

With the escalating amount of different data points available, yield optimization is becoming more complex and data heavy. Some of the analytical skills used to extrapolate data and understand patterns and trends are bordering on data-science. In some circumstances, an advanced knowledge of mathematics and engineering can be a requisite to the skillset and achieving success. Presently, yield optimization can be viewed as a skillset applicable to an ad-operations, trafficker or account manager role. However, as accessible data, complex ad systems and technologies grow, so does yield optimization into it’s own field.

Vendors and partners on the supply side specifically, seem to be struggling to scale yield optimization operations for their platforms. Collating and breaking down vast amounts of data and relaying the essential information to clients in an understandable fashion can be a difficult process, particularly when the skills required are subset to an existing role. This evokes a large opportunity for specific role-driven yield optimization teams to be built out within their own businesses, to purely focus on increasing programmatic efficiency and thus turning over more revenue.

Looking forward, as more resources and investment are applied to yield optimisation, the tasks involved should become more data-science driven where more mathematical algorithms and automated processes come into play, always with the aim to achieve greater efficiency and overall revenue for the programmatic industry.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment