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Women in tech are pretty awesome

Women in tech are pretty awesome

Last week we spoke about the lack of women in tech and introduced Liv Franzen, a developer at Coull. We want to open a dialogue and help encourage more women to join the industry.

We’re continuing the #womenintech series this week, featuring three inspiring ladies.

Michelle Bommer, Head of ad ops at Coull, tells us how she found herself waking up at the crack of dawn to work on video ad campaigns with her UK colleagues.

We’ll also find out from Alex Kolzoff and Sophia Amin from IAB UK, what they do to promote equality and professional growth for women in tech.

Let’s kick things off with Coull’s queen of ad ops – Michelle Bommer.

Michelle grew up in the High Desert of Southern California. After attending UCSB she moved to LA and found herself in the world of ad tech. Five years later, she moved to San Francisco and joined Coull. Since then she’s earned her place as Head of ad ops, leading a talented team of account managers. Michelle is respected by colleagues and clients and always has a positive, upbeat attitude, ensuring her team feel motivated.

Despite these personal achievements, when we scan the ad tech horizon for examples of similar stories, we find them few and far between. The fact is, Michelle is in the company of predominantly male peers. This is not something that particularly bothers her, but from an industry perspective – it’s a trend we need to change.

Women have every chance to be successful and make a difference in the trajectory of digital advertising and technology.  The skills, technical knowledge, application and determination to be leaders is becoming more apparent but that’s not necessarily translating into more women in senior roles.

I spoke to Michelle about how she sees her role in ad tech and her perception of the industry.

Michelle, Coull's Head of Adops - Women in tech

Michelle and Coull’s favourite dog – Gaucho

Tell us a bit about your role as Head of ad ops at Coull…

I head up a great team of people who coordinate the daily operations of our supply and demand accounts. From the technical onboarding to monitoring traffic quality and daily management of partners, we ensure that everything is running smoothly.

How did you get into ad tech? I’m assuming you didn’t always dream of running digital ad campaigns as a child…

I started out as an intern at a small company that generated financial leads through affiliate and performance-based marketing. I joined full time and worked there for several years, managing affiliates and network relationships. I ran CPC campaigns and monetised our internal data, among other things. It’s funny when you think back because the industry really didn’t exist when I was a kid. I would have really been before my time if I was dreaming of running digital ad campaigns!

What’s the best thing about your job?

Working with people in a space that is exciting and always changing. I’m a social person who enjoys a challenge, so having a job in the dynamic tech space with daily interactions with different people is wonderful.

What are your biggest challenges?

Starting my workday at 6 a.m…just kidding! Really, I’m very fortunate to work with such a great group of people. They make my challenges few and far between – which is key since I’m 8 times zones away from the rest of Coull.

Is the gender gap in ad tech something you notice?

Having been in the ad tech space for nearly a decade, it’s hard to not notice the imbalance. I remember going to my first trade show and being one of the very few women there. I’ve seen that change over the last few years and organizations are starting to address the issues. For example, events are trying to have more diverse panels.

Why do you think it is that there’s a lack of women in tech?

I can’t help but think early education is partially to blame. STEM programs (science, technology, engineering, and math) didn’t exist when I was in school and similar programs weren’t exactly encouraging girls to join. Though, I’m still hopeful as there’s more of an outreach to girls today with great programs, like Girls Who Code. I think the future generations are going to blow us out of the water.

girls who code - Women in tech

From: Girls Who Code

Have you noticed more women being represented in either the USA or the UK?

I can’t say I’ve noticed a difference between the US and the UK. I think a lot of parallels can be drawn between us as more women are joining tech and awareness around equality is made.

How can the industry help improve the ratio of men to women in ad tech/martech?

I think they’ve taken the first step in becoming aware of the issue and vocalizing it. Now it’s a matter of making it possible for women to step into senior roles and succeed. I believe organizations, tech or otherwise, have a lot to gain by having more women in senior positions.

Who inspires you?

Where do I begin? Honestly, there are so many people out there, true trailblazers, who are doing really cool things. I’m inspired most by the people around me especially my close girlfriends, who are kicking butt in life and are always there to support me.

Women kicking butt in life is a great segway to talk about the IAB UK.

Alex and Sophia, IAB UK - Women in tech

I spoke with the IAB UK’s Director of PR and Communications Sophia Amin (left), and Director of Marketing and Industry Engagement, Alex Kolzoff (right) to learn how they see the future.

From the IAB’s perspective, how do you see the future of women in ad tech? What does that future look like and what will it achieve?


Our industry is definitely not the most progressive for female representation but it is (or should be) acutely aware of what needs to be done. Whether it’s tuning into Ada’s list or helping to promote tech opportunities to young women, the future of tech will only be better for the balance of gender. We know men and women hire, work and process things differently, so if boards continue to be male-dominated, there’s a real danger that our industry will never reach its potential.


It’s great that diversity is such a hot topic at the moment in our industry. Being aware, and having conversations about women in ad tech can only help the long-term opportunities for women in this male-dominated industry. I’m already noticing changes, for example, six years ago at Mobile World Congress there might have been 1-5% women, but last year seemed more like 20-30%. It’s fantastic to see such a rapid change, which I hope continues long into the future.

What are you doing at the IAB right now to encourage more women in tech to step up?


At the IAB, we’re keen to get female thought leadership for our industry-wide comms, as we want to represent an evolving and balanced industry.

The fact that the IAB employs more men than women and have me and Alex as directors, helps to celebrate women in tech. I have two young children and have taken some time out, yet this has only been made possible by an employer who understands my need for flexibility and support from time to time. For me, it’s largely been senior men who have supported this, they’re also parents so they ‘get it’. It’s not just about having women at the top to pave the way, men are equally able to make this work.


We aim to have at least a third female speakers at our conferences. To be totally honest, this can often be challenging, but it’s really important and our members are really supportive of this initiative.

What was your experience like becoming Directors at the IAB? And how do we ensure the next generation of ladies start to fill dev, tech and martech positions?


I started my career in the creative agency world – over a decade of account managing blue-chip brands. I was lucky to have many brilliant, supportive female bosses – role models, I guess. I vividly remember one of my worst people management experiences when I was in my mid-twenties, I had to manage someone who was 8 years my senior. He didn’t listen or respect me. He didn’t last long in the end but it really made me think about how you treat your boss. Whoever they are, wherever they come from, and whatever gender you both are, you need to respect them or you might as well pack up. And that’s the advice I’d give to industry. Don’t just employ and empower women, your culture needs to reshape to support this much overdue change.


I started my career at a media agency, followed by a few years at (was then called) Orange before I started at the IAB. At the IAB I’ve had a few different roles, starting in the Mobile department, then moving through to Marketing & Communications to now looking after Marketing & Industry Engagement. The IAB has a really unique and flexible culture that allows both women and men to grow, which has been important for my career. This flexibility is key for the next generation in the workforce and should help female talent (and men too hopefully!) progress.

There you have it! Some powerful messages from three successful, intelligent and truly inspiring women. If you can, take second to pass this on. Let’s make sure we nurture this change and amplify the voices of women in tech.

If you enjoyed this blog, read the rest of our women in tech series here:

Women in tech are a problem

Women in tech series: it’s about a balance

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment
Women in tech are a problem

Women in tech are a problem

Women in tech are a real problem. They’re a problem because they’re not there, not in the same numbers as their male counterparts. They’ve been absent from the conversation. But this is changing. We’re starting to see talented women in tech starting conversations and shining their beacon on this issue. We’re seeing more women represented on ad tech panels and their insights are both meaningful and challenging.

It’s time to not only open the doors of technical roles to women but to encourage them to step through. We need more women in tech, to give them the opportunity to influence a new generation of creative, skilled and driven tech leaders, with disparate experiences, ideas and opinions.

Slowly we’re starting to see an emergence of female-driven content, and startups being chaired by women. And, we’re beginning to hear a dialogue between women who are supporting each other, rather than taking a purely competitive stance in the workplace.

Women in tech around the world

All that said – when we take a look at the number of women in tech roles globally – we start to worry considerably. According to Forbes, “Apple has 20% of women employees in technology; Google has 17% of women in its workforce, while Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter have 16.6%, 15% and 10% respectively.” I encourage you to read the full Forbes article which goes on to provide a long list of disheartening stats about women in tech companies, especially those in leadership positions.

The technology sector has become such a huge growth machine and it will impact future generations in such a powerful way. We need women to be part of that influence, we need their ideas, their leadership, their skills and their communication. We need women in tech to be seen and heard to inspire the next generation of female techies – and we need tech giants like Google and Apple to lead the charge by changing the way they recruit.

Meet Liv, a developer at Coull

Liz, developer at Coull - Women in tech

At Coull, we’re very proud of having the best people in development and we are keen to grow our female to male ratio of employees. Liv Franzén is currently representing women in tech as a developer at Coull. So who better to fill in some of the gaps in our understanding of why so few women are in her position? I spoke to her to find out exactly what her experience has been:

 What made you get into tech in the first place, what was so appealing about it?

I was fascinated by computers as a child and had a natural talent for math, logic and problem-solving. Also, I knew I wanted to do something creative, and development is all about making things. I didn’t have much exposure to tech in school – the computer programming classes were truly dreadful, perfectly uninspiring.

What was the process like for becoming a developer?

After some film studies, I did a graphic design/new media course. This is when I got hands-on with coding, which sparked the geek inside me and I decided that I wanted to take computer programming further.  So I went on to study a computer science major with a digital arts minor degree, after which I went straight into a job developing multimedia science software.

Did you find there were many females studying with you? Do you know many other women who are developers?

There were many women on my university course, but hardly any in the workplace. I’ve seen a pattern that women with tech background take on more administrative or project management type jobs. I know some lady developers socially, but my work colleagues throughout my career have been almost exclusively male. It’s a shame that women techies are so scarce, but then the general lack of diversity – not just the gender polarisation – is a limitation for this industry.

What are your biggest challenges?

The speed of innovation and rapid change in the development world, I think most [front end] developers struggle with this to some degree. It’s been specifically noticeable after taking time out after having kids – it’s quite a mountain to climb to get back after taking a year or so out.

What sort of dev work do you find the most interesting?

I enjoy the visual side of front-end programming – 3D/WebGL, generative art and data visualisation. There are loads of inspiring projects out there – much of which is open source.

Do you ever feel the pressure of being outnumbered by men in your industry or do you see it as more of an opportunity?

I honestly never felt that being a female in the tech industry has been a problem. People, in general, are positively surprised if anything.

Why do you think men dominate this industry to the extent they currently do?

Not sure. It’s possible that young girls don’t get inspired to explore if they have the aptitude for this industry. Maybe it’s cooler for boys to be geeky rather than for girls? There’s definitely a perception problem with tech not being a woman’s domain…

What advice do you have for women who want to get into tech?

It’s not all that easy to figure out what you should do with your life, regardless of gender. If anything, I would advise any young person to not be afraid to go against the grain, if that’s what’s needed to follow your path.

You have two lovely daughters; would you encourage them into a profession as a techie if they showed an interest?

Absolutely. They should follow their interests whatever they may be. Right now, the older wants to be an artist and the younger one wants to be a ladybird.

Do you find your colleagues and peers in development supportive of you and has this always been the case?

Yes, I find people that work in the digital industry and the wider tech community to be a friendly, supportive and progressive lot.

We want to actively encourage more women to join the tech sector. The success of women in tech roles at Coull has directly impacted the successes of our business and providing opportunities for women to take on senior roles is something we strive to provide.

“If companies start early with diversity and inclusion, they don’t have to bolt it on later, which is much harder,” Erica Baker, Build and Release Engineer at Slack Technologies via The Times.

If all the women’s demonstration marches in the US and around the world this week haven’t got you feeling inspired to get behind them and provide those opportunities, maybe the success stories of women in ad tech will.

Next week we chat with Michelle Bommer, Head of ad ops at Coull and hear from two female directors at the IAB UK. Then we’ll be interviewing Coull Compliance manager Nicola Woodford and demand side account manager Laura Matthews.

Be want you want to be – if that’s a ladybird, then be that ladybird!


Read the rest of the women in tech series here:

Women in tech are pretty awesome

Women in tech series: it’s about a balance

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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


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


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.


  • 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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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

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Coull CEOs martech and adtech predictions 2017

Coull CEOs martech and adtech predictions 2017

Aden made his predictions about the ad tech industry at the end of 2015 and unsurprisingly to us, proved the spirit of Yoda really does thrive within him.

Aden Forshaw co-founded Coull back in 2008 but this year has been his big leap, being appointed CEO and taking the reins. He has been integral in bringing some exciting developments to fruition. For example, the launch of the OverStream Suite and eradicating invalid traffic from the marketplace, starting with the Coull Platform.

In this post, Aden, CEO and Yoda of Coull gives his predictions for what the programmatic ad industry is going to look like in 2017.

Top predictions

1.The ad tech bloodbath

The tools now exist to highlight any middlemen representing poor inventory or adding no value. As a result of the adoption of these tools, there will be a bloodbath of inadequate ad tech middlemen. Ad networks will continue going out of business in 2017 as the demand side goes around them with programmatic direct. This is good news for quality publishers, who will see their CPMs rise, and for ad tech players creating real value to cut through the noise.

2. Sweating the asset

Brands are paying top dollar for the right spot, within the right inventory, and are also paying the mass of vendors to validate the quality of the spot they’re buying. 2017 will see brands demand more ROI from their investment and more from their agencies. As for the ad units itself, real-time creative backed by deep-learning AI will take us back to a time when advertising was fun and engaging.

3. Artificial Intelligence

Look forward to buzzword bingo at every conference with a lot of people not understanding what AI means. We’re referring to the deep-learning variant, the same that Google has been using so successfully with Quickdraw. This will create new ways of interacting with an audience and find niche audiences that once relied on manual targeting.

ad tech predictions - Artificial Intelligence

4. Measuring the garden – accountability for all the big players

Measurement standards will finally be applied inside walled gardens. YouTube is already moving that way, as is Facebook with its continued ‘mea-culpas’ – buyers are demanding more. This will be the draw of more TV money online, but it’ll mainly go to Facebook rather than the open web.

5. Civilising Mobile Video

2016 was the year that all the verification vendors to help clean up desktop video, 2017 will be mobile. Sophisticated vendors like White Ops are already raising large amounts to dedicate themselves to the task but it’s time to apply them to mobile. It’s still a wild west of VAST inventory, but app makers are finally coalescing around a small number of Ad SDKs, meaning mobile VPAID will soon be the norm.

ad tech predictions - mobile video

6. Another acronym joins the team – hello H-2-H – goodbye B-2-C

2016 saw the direct to consumer revolution take hold, led by players like Dollar Shave Club. Big brands have taken note, and are following suit. This will see them try new creative approaches to reaching an audience, with heavy experimentation on Chatbots and personalised video campaigns. It’s about human to human communications, brand stories, and ideas.

7. Widening cracks in the looking glass

Viewability has become a widespread proxy for ad quality during 2016. But the cracks have already been clear to see, with ample evidence of its fallibility and potential for gaming. Industry experts and savvy advertisers are already calling for an exercise in caution when putting viewability on a pedestal. Underlying fraud and the drudging pursuit of unattainable standardisation in viewability measurement will become more of a theme as 2017 progresses. Expect publishers and advertisers to put their support behind ad formats that are more viewable by design and engage audiences in more tangible ways.

Some of the other predictions we expect…

EU Data

The EU General Data Protection Regulation won’t hit until 2018, but by the end of 2017, we’ll see it shake out for implementation. It’s a seismic shift in how data is handled not just for advertising, but all PII and metadata about users.

Expect more hacks

In technology terms, some ad tech platforms have been around for aeons. There are legacy security models, and antiquated tech stacks, especially those built by third parties and not maintained. With ad tech providing an easy way to touch so many people, expect a few big hacks in 2017.

Google’s open source video player

It’s long been doing the rounds of the rumour mill but this year could very well see the launch of Google’s open source video player. Once launched, the player will inevitably compete with VideoJS, and take market share from established players like JWPlayer, and potentially Brightcove. Of course, it will plug into Google’s ad tech stack, straight out of the box.

Commoditisation means old display ad tech will take a beating

Header bidding has commoditised what was once locked-in relationships. Expect to see the old guard struggle, especially those that haven’t successfully added video and mobile to their offering. The shelves stacked with out-of-date ad units will collect dust as new creative, engaging and data-driven formats fly off, attracting the attention of agencies and trading desks.

We’re hoping to see big changes in 2017, with the momentum toward cleaning up programmatic swinging in the right direction already, its transition across platforms will be a game changer. The adoption of AI and more targetable ad tech will become normal as quality, trusted inventory with highly engaging ad formats takes centre stage, finally allowing digital publishers to earn their keep.

The final word…

2016 delivered transparency, in 2017 we’ll see action emerge from insight.

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What the latest PWC and IAB Adspend report means for 2017

The latest PWC and IAB Adspend report has been released, so let’s have a look at what this means for 2017. These figures are based on the first half of 2016 compared with the first half of 2015.

Increased spend

The overall findings show that digital adspend continue to increase and, compared to the same last year, it’s 20% higher. So although Toblerone’s changing shape, at least something in our retail economy is getting bigger: digital adspend.

toblerone - IAB adspend

The report stated that, historically, around 53% of the year’s revenue comes from the second quarter. So we should see further growth when the next report is released. The trajectory is going one way…up!

IAB adspend chart

Domination in mobile revenue growth

IAB adspend - historic mobile video growth

‘Digital video on smartphones and tablets saw strong triple-digit growth, reaching $1.6 billion in HY 2016, an impressive 178% rise from HY 2015.’

We’re seeing strong revenues across the board but, unsurprisingly, the spend has shifted towards the mobile platform.

We know mobile ad formats are doing well, but the IAB has also taken a look at which categories are performing better. It’s no surprise that retail is right there at the top. Mobile-targeted retails ads are only beginning to take-off. So the second half of the year will reveal more about the changing purchase journey.

Whilst desktop search was down from 2015, combined desktop and mobile search is actually up 17%. This just goes to show how the mobile device is taking over. Mobile is definitely an area where more analysis and investment will be focused on in 2017.

IAB adspend - ad revenue by category

Video is really showing its strength across all platforms. As we introduce more relevant and better mobile experiences, mobile video is set to be the main revenue generator for media companies.

Check out The OverStream Suite of advertising formats to see how we’re making better ad experiences that are high performing, yet non-interruptive.

Coull's OverStream Suite of video advertising formats
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What can be learned from the demise of Mode Media?

What can be learned from the demise of Mode Media?

The demise of Mode Media is a sad one for its staff and publishers. Its story will be turned into a narrative that the wider tech industry will find salacious. Business Insider and Mediapost already have very readable accounts.

What can we learn from Mode Media?

Whilst its Shakespearean tale of trouble at the top may be enthralling to the tech community, what can everyday publishers learn from the debacle?

Diversify your demand

It’s tempting to say yes when an ad network comes knocking. They’ll offer to do it all for you and promise you more time to concentrate on making more content. Instead, you should say: “thanks, but no thanks, Mr Middleman. That would be taking a huge risk’’. The fact is, you’re running a business and part of that is understanding how advertisers value your content, not relying on one go-between.

Net120 (120 days until they pay out) terms is a big warning, hell, even net90 is borderline. No matter how direct to the brand paying the bills you’re there will always be a payment delay. There is a worrying trend by some brands to extend it further past even net120. Whether you’re working with an SSP or directly with DSPs & agencies, they should shoulder some of the risk for you.

Offset the risk, if you do have to accept long payment terms, then consider what some Mode Media publishers did and take a 5% charge to get it down to net30.

Engage with the Adops communities

Either on Reddit / Slack / IRC or Facebook groups. These are the people on the ground floor making things happen, they’re the first to see issues arise and call out press statements as BS.

Be careful of companies that can’t do video and mobile

This is fast becoming the barometer for identifying companies that will be around in the next few years. It’s 2016 and any company still only successful in display formats will struggle. The ad tech market is in consolidation mode and some of the old guard, whether large or small, who may have paved the way for the new, won’t be around in 2 years – especially if they haven’t diversified.

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The 29 Working Party – an update to the EU Shield

The 29 Working Party – an update to the EU Shield

Just a couple of hours ago, the long-awaited 29 Working Party meeting came to an end. It was planned to be the final meeting regarding the EU-US Privacy-Shield paperwork.

Well, they had their say. But unfortunately, we’re still none-the-wiser.

The Party expressed there’s been a major improvement in the negotiations and more suggestions have been proposed. But there are still many topics that need much more coverage.

The Party has expressed their main concerns, namely:

  • Companies are still collecting data in bulk, even though the Party made it clear this isn’t an acceptable practice. In addition to this, there are fresh concerns that gathering this data has direct implications for counter-terrorism measures.
  • Although the party welcomes the appointment of an Ombudsman person, they aren’t sure this role is going to help solve relevant matters. On the contrary, they believe it could lead to further inefficiencies. The party believes it should be made very clear that the first person to deal with any ‘data issues’ for the EU should always be the DPA.

The Working Party strongly recommended the Shield take into consideration the upcoming changes in Data Protection legislation within the next 2 years, referring specifically to the changes in General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

EU Privacy shield update

The Party brought attention to the main standards:

  1. The processing must be based on clear, precise, accessible rules.
  2. They must demonstrate the necessity of data collection.
  3. There needs to be an independent oversight mechanism – whether a judge or independent mechanism.
  4. There should be effective remedies put in place.

In the meantime, the Party advises companies to use the well-known acceptable mechanisms – specifically the Model Clauses Contracts and BCR. According to the Party, this is “a great step forward, but given concerns, we believe there is still work to do”. Which leaves us to wait and see what the mid-June committee will decide later in the year.

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The IAB’s ad blocking primer for publishers

The IAB’s ad blocking primer for publishers

The IAB Tech Lab Ad Blocking Group has compiled guidance to help publishers manage ad blockers. The Publisher Ad Blocking Primer provides tactics for responding to ad blocking. This is a result of the high adoption rate of ad blockers provided by companies such as AdBlock Plus and Ghostery. These are businesses too, making money by either whitelisting preferred ads (or ads that have been paid to be whitelisted) or collecting and selling data. So while publishers lose out, these companies are thriving.

Ad blocking guidance

In this post, we’re going to break down the guidance so publishers can understand how to approach ad blockers and monetising their videos. The purpose of this post is not to criticise ad blocking but rather, to help publishers take ownership of their revenue and communicate better with their audiences.

Specific tactics are outlined in the IAB Primer, and each is based around a process called DEAL. Each tactic should keep the premise of DEAL in mind.

The DEAL process

D – Detect ad blocking in order to initiate the conversation.

E – Explain the value exchange that advertising enables.

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

L – Lift restrictions or limit access in response to consumer choices.

Shifting the focus from ad blockers to the consumer is really important. Publishers can then educate their audience on their business models and commitment to providing a better user experience. The IAB’s Primer makes 7 tactical suggestions as listed below.

The IAB Ad Blocker Primer suggestions

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


Ad blocking

Tactics to encourage disabling ad blockers

Notice – educate and signpost

When an ad blocker is detected, publishers can present the user with a notice. For example, a message in the page header, within video content or on a landing page. This could even be triggered later on, once the user has engaged with the content.

The notice can serve a variety of purposes including:

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

Educating your audience about the importance of advertising is the first step. However, this could draw attention to ad blocking, raising awareness of the widespread use.

It’s also important to keep in mind that if you do enable notices, some ad blocking has the capabilities to block those too. If you decide to issue a notice, this should not be a standalone tactic but part of a wider strategy.

Access denial – risky business

This tactic is pretty straightforward. If ad blocking is detected, publishers can simply disable access to content. This is, however, a drastic measure and shouldn’t be implemented without explaining how users can regain access.

Access denial invariably leads to a smaller audience and less sharing of content. So this is only appropriate for publishers who already have a loyal audience and don’t depend on new viewers.

Access denial can also lead to a reduced search rank because it can limit search bots ability to crawl the content. But if publishers don’t rely hugely on organic search then this isn’t an issue.

Tiered experience – limited access

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

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

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

Payments from visitors – subscription

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

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

Payment to visitors – the flip side

There have been various reward systems in place for visitors in digital publishing for years, but now the aim is to entice visitors to disable ad blockers. This can be done via a revenue share, rewards, or collaboration with other publishers.

Again, this tactic requires some additional work on the development side but could be a viable solution, especially in the gaming industry. Some publishers already have a system where users are rewarded for watching ads with vouchers, bonuses or hints in a game.

Ad reinsertion – beating the blockers at their own game

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

Additional tech is required, meaning additional cost. Also, the more ad blocking processes going on in the background, the worse the user experience is (because of latency issues and limited data collection).

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

woman on mobile - ad blocking

Consider, communicate, collaborate – conquer

If you’re a publisher looking to implement one or more of the IAB’s recommended tactics, we suggest that you consider every option. Consider how the tactic applies to your specific business model and how it affects editorial content and your audience. Find guidance in the official IAB ad blocker primer document here.

The IAB should be commended for initiating the conversation around fighting against ad blockers. Ad blockers may have won some judgments in the EU. And they may have managed to bypass some publisher revenue models, but ad blockers are not the future.

Audiences need to understand the value exchange, publishers need to retain control of their own revenue, and users need better experiences. This all comes down to advertisers providing more engaging and creative ad formats, and publishers ensuring the quality of that relationship.

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