2015 predictions for the Adtech industry

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

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

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

  1. Mobile is just another form of digital

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

  1. We need more transparency around data

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

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

  1. Innovation will come from the publisher space

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

  1. We need to take the reigns on programmatic

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

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

  1. Viewability is a dealbreaker

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

  1. Demand for talent increases

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

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

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment

Explaining the Video Player-Ad Interface Definition (VPAID)

Spelling it out

The purpose of this post is to briefly explain VPAID and its function within online video advertising. If you’ve been monetizing your video inventory for some time, you might have noticed some changes in the ads delivered across your site. You may have also developed your own unique video player to enable compatibility with the standard ad unit requirements that have been implemented by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).

If all this sounds relatively new to you, don’t panic – the standardisation was implemented to ensure better measurement and compliance across the online advertising industry. You may only just be beginning to serve advertising across your inventory or you may be switching to the IAB standard ad formats so let’s take a look at VPAID specifically and what it means for you.

VPAID – the IAB’s Video Player-Ad Interface Definition

The IAB created this ad format to ensure a standard template for online video advertising across all types of video players that allows all compliant publishers to display. VAST itself however, is limited in regard to the extent of interaction the ad unit allows the user.

The VPAID ad format allows a rich interactive user experience with in stream video ads. Not only does it provide a deeper experience for the user than VAST, but it captures and reports how the user interacts. Advertisers can use this information to improve their creative and technical specifications.

In short, VPAID allows executable ads with compatible video players, while VAST delivers a packaged ad with basic interactions.

Video ad flow with VPAID


The Executable Ad

VPAID communicates a set of instructions that informs a video player of the length of the advertisement, tells it when to play, when to disappear or re-appear within the player and allows the user to interact in a variety of ways.

An example of a VPAID enabled interaction would be that a user could click on an ad to view more detailed content such as a longer version of a pre-roll. The publisher can choose to set what time and where the ad appears within the content, and the basic functions of play, pause, close/hide etc. remain. Whatever action is taken by the user will be recorded and reported back to the advertiser.

Types of ads supported include:

  • Clickable pre-roll

                                   clickable pre-roll

  • Companion banner

                                   companion banner

  • Overlay banner

                                   overlay banner

  • Overlay banner with click-to-linear video ad

                                         overlay banner with click-to-linear video advertisement

What if the player can’t read a flash format such as the type VPAID uses?

VPAID uses the .SWF file format which enables graphics, gifs and other interactive elements via Flash that standard file types do not. If a publisher player is unable to read the .SWF (eg, it only reads JavaScript) the VPAID tag will be overridden by the VAST tag so that an ad will still be served but it won’t have the interactive capabilities the VPAID tag allows for.

What does it mean for advertisers?

VPAID is an important IAB development because it means advertisers can see how individual ads are performing and devise improved ways of engaging their audiences and increasing the level of interaction with the ad.

What does it mean for publishers?

Publisher players must be compatible with IAB standards to ensure VPAID ads are executable and this is of mutual benefit across the industry. Publishers compatible with VPAID ad formats can accept more rich interaction advertising, and the premium experience, according to the IAB, will often lead to ‘premium compensation’. The IAB standard formats also make it easier for publisher development teams because they only need to build one compatible player which will accept all standard formats.

All example images from: 

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Why are brands investing in mobile advertising?

According to the IAB, mobile ad spend grew by 127% to £429.2 million in the first half of 2013 and now accounts for 14.1% of all digital advertising spend, which is nearly double the same time last year’s figure of 7.2% (IAB).

A recent study by BBC World News found that mobile advertising is now more than twice as effective as desktop (The Drum). It’s predicted that overall US spending on mobile advertising will grow a further 56% next year, with desktop ad spend increasing by just 0.41%. By 2017, mobile ad spend will overtake desktop at an estimated $35.62 billion (Emarketer). In total, global mobile ad spend is expected to grow at an average of 26% each year over the next five years (Business Insider).

So why is the mobile device such a promising prospect for advertisers? Aside from the obvious fact that mobile is where the audience is, there’s a few key reasons why mobile advertising may be more effective at engaging consumers.


Most people take their phones with them everywhere – geo-targeting allows for location-based mobile marketing. Ads can be customized and targeted based on the user’s usage behavior and other data collected. Targeted ads are usually more contextual to the consumer, so they’re more likely to interact with that ad in some way.

“Accurate geo-targeting is extremely powerful because it enables marketers to identify interested consumers and makes it easy for interested consumers to call, visit, or make a purchase.” (iMediaConnection)


With mobile theres a much smaller screen to look at, with a lot less going on. On desktops we usually have multiple tabs and programmes open so it’s difficult for advertising to catch our attention. Advertising on mobile devices is relatively new so banner blindness isn’t so rife – we haven’t channeled it out yet.

It could be suggested that consumers use their mobile devices during leisure time when they’re relaxed with less distractions, and so may be more open to engaging with ads. Desktops however, are used more for work purposes in the office or at home. (The Guardian)


Our lives are consumption-heavy and increasingly people are demanding constant interaction. Marketing budgets are increasingly giving more weight to multi-screen campaigns – a 2013 study from Nielsen and ANA found that two-thirds of marketers spent up to 25% of their budget on them (Nielsen).

“Our love of multitasking and the changing nature of media consumption has invented a new arena for marketers to play in. It’s clear that the new trend is being taken seriously as marketers swarm to create multiscreen campaigns and engage with users across multiple platforms.” (DotRising)


New and creative advertising formats can thrive on the mobile device, including rich media and video. Consumers are naturally more compelled by innovative content. Aside from this, advertising on mobile can be ‘better’ simply because it is more relevant due to increased targeting opportunities.

“Our next generation of mobile ads will no longer be intrusive, annoying or pop up when not needed since technology is enabling us to create more on-demand app download options which tie in with location data, creating a content proposition that users really want to be a part of.” (The Drum)


Fundamentally, mobile technology opens new and wider opportunities for advertisers by getting them closer to their audience than they have ever been before. The collection of data and a deeper understanding of consumer behavior allows for more targeted, contextual and relevant ads. With a wealth of research conducted on desktop advertising, brands know what consumers really don’t like – intrusive, annoying and irrelevants ads. The use of mobile devices have become the norm in consumers’ lives but as much as this is a huge opportunity, advertisers also have a responsibility to figure out how to be part of that in a way that consumers will accept it, and ultimately interact with their ads.

Future Coull blog posts will be looking at the challenges that advertisers face in mobile advertising – so keep an eye on our Twitter page for the latest updates.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment