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5 things Dmexco 2017 taught me

5 things Dmexco 2017 taught me

Coull at Dmexco 2017

Dmexco may not be in Mexico… but you will still have a great time. Left to right: Elle (UniLad), Me – Naomi (Coull), Jordan (UniLad), Dan (Coull)

Dmexco, not ‘Dmexico’. It’s not actually related to the sunny beaches of Mexico at all, I found out earlier this year (to my dismay). Swap sand with the streets of Cologne. Replace palm trees with hundreds of exhibitors. Change up the sunshine for the unpredictable, autumnal weather of Cologne. Keep about the same levels of alcohol… and you have Dmexco.

Though, I quickly realised Dmexco (The Digital Marketing Exposition & Conference) would not disappoint. It’s one of the biggest digital marketing conferences in the world, it hosts over 40,000 visitors and more than 500 top speakers impart their knowledge. As a first timer to the conference, here are the 5 things I learnt from Dmexco 2017…

Koelnmesse, the venue for Dmexco

Koelnmesse, the venue for Dmexco

  1. The digital advertising industry is much bigger than you think

It’s easy to forget the sheer size of the online marketing world until you step into Koelnmesse, the colossal trade fair hall. The halls are packed full to the brim with marketing experts and bright and bold booths trying to lure you in. Over 40,000 people attended the event this year…and that’s only a small percentage of the whole industry!

  1. Video, video…and more video

Phrases like “pivot to video” have been thrown around a lot in the past year. And let’s face it, people love visual content, it’s simple to consume, it’s creative and it’s exciting.

On the second day of Dmexco, Facebook’s Vice President of Global Marketing Solutions, Carolyn Everson, was on a panel about ‘Video: Connecting People, Reshaping Marketing’. She said, “Most recently, what we’re seeing is the consumption of videos…78%-90% of mobile traffic will be driven by video. Every time we estimate video consumption on our platform, we underestimate it. What we’re seeing is a really exciting opportunity for marketers to reach consumers in many different formats of video, in the form that they love, which is sight, sound and motion.”

  1. AI and VR are both pretty cool, but they still have a long way to go

The two buzzwords in the industry for this year…AI and VR. More and more technology is being developed to mirror human interactions. Artificial intelligence has taken the form of chatbots and voice search, so it’s like talking to human instead of a machine. Also, Virtual Reality has meant more immersive experiences, particularly through VR headsets. As exciting as these both are, they’re still seen as entertainment and it will be a while until they’re integrated into everyday life.

  1. It’s easy to get caught up in the buzz, but don’t forget about the real issues

There’s a certain buzz you get when you’re at Dmexco because there’s so much going on: thousands of people networking, hundreds of exhibitors, new innovations to see, talks to hear…I could go on. It’s very easy to see how you could get caught up in the Dmexco whirlwind and forget about the serious stuff. But it’s important not to ignore the problems in the industry. The main themes this year were GDPR, ad blocking and brand safety.

Here are the key takeaways from the discussions I heard:

  • The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is being enforced in May 2018. It brings Europe under one privacy law. And although there are penalties, “it’s not all bad news”, said Acxiom’s European Privacy Officer, Dr Sachiko Scheuing in the ‘Preparing for GDPR: Embracing the Inevitable Regulations’ debate at Dmexco. She said, “GDPR is a great success. Now we’re talking about the obsolescence of opt-in. Opt-in made the consumers accountable, so without improving any privacy, you’re doing nothing else but putting the responsibility to the wrong side. GDPR puts that in the right context and I really welcome that.”

  • Ad blocking should encourage businesses to be more creative to engage the consumer, not annoy them. Advertising works best when it gives users space, chooses the moment and excites the consumer.

  • P&G’s Marc Pritchard called for all companies to follow a set of standards including MRC accreditation and brand safety guarantees in the Dmexco keynote: ‘A Wake-Up Call’. He said, ”2017 isn’t over yet but it’s sounded several wake up calls for the marketing world. The reality is, in 2017 the bloom came off the rose for digital media. The reason is the substantial waste in what has become a murky, non-transparent, even fraudulent, media supply chain. If we all raise the bar and transform ourselves, we can accelerate market growth that will lift all of us and will especially benefit consumers.”

  1. Not all freebies are created equal

The Dmexco experience isn’t complete until you get a weird freebie. If you really wanted to, you could walk away with a suitcase full of weird and wonderful freebies. Of course, you have the classic squishy stress balls and branded notepads and pens. However, I find the unconventional ones much more interesting.

Here are some of the weird freebies I saw:

  • Bright orange flip flops

  • A high vis jacket

  • Many fidget spinners

  • Shower caps

  • Plasters

  • Mini shower speaker

  • Grow a plant (in a can)

  • Berocca, Alka seltzer and tea bag selection

Tweet us your best and worst Dmexco freebie: @Coull

So, until next year Cologne…

Cologne cathedral - Dmexco 2017

Cologne Cathedral

Posted by Naomi Sandercock in Coull news
Coull reflect on the year and prepare for the winter ahead…

Coull reflect on the year and prepare for the winter ahead…

Coull escaped the office in early September for a team event, co-sponsored by Sphere Digital Recruitment. The day’s focus was not only about company updates but self-reflection and team building (and of course, some drinks to help with that #FridayFeeling).

Coull team day - self-reflection & preparation

Sphere’s James Everett and Coull’s Managing Director, Dan Ginns led a discussion around the Tuckman theory. In brief, it’s a theory that helps identify development within teams. Although this theory is over 50 years old, it’s still just as relevant today.

There are four main stages of growth: forming, storming, norming and performing.

Tuckman's team development model - Coull team day

The team were asked to plot themselves and their teams on the graph, however, there isn’t a ‘right’ or a ‘wrong’ answer. The Tuckman theory is used to help define different stages in business so that the team can identify where they are and where they want to be.

Self-reflection is crucial in all walks of life. It’s important to recognise both weaknesses and strengths. If we can only see weaknesses, this leads to little self-belief and full potential can’t be reached. On the other hand, if all we can see is our strengths and triumphs, this can lead us to fall into our own traps.

The same goes for businesses and company culture. It’s very easy to notice only strengths or only weaknesses. Yes, there’s always room for improvement, but there’s also a time to celebrate.

At Coull, we know how significant it is to be self-critical, especially if we want to grow as a business. More importantly, we know how to celebrate achievements (and throw a good party!).

Coull company day - self-reflection & preparation

What did we learn?

  • Self-reflection leads to success

  • Not everyone plotted themselves in the same place on the graph – this means we can support each other and work together as a team

  • Not to concentrate too much on KPIs (they only represents a small margin of people), instead we should think about brand uplift and awareness

  • Data insights are important to back up marketing and sales claims

What are our priorities?

  • Continuing to innovate in the video space

  • Always aiming to add value for publishers, advertisers and audiences

  • Case studies and data insights

  • Identifying industry trends and adapting our roadmap to fit

  • Creating a self-serve model for our technology (SaaS)

Where is the industry going?

  • Video…and more video!

  • Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

  • A focus on better ads/ad formats and fighting against ad blocking

  • Anti-fraud and brand safety are just as important

One achievement, in particular, is how far we’ve come as a team – in this year alone.

Since May, we’ve had many key hires.

Meet the new Coull team members…

Dan – Managing Director

Azad – Programmatic Demand Sales Director

Alice – Demand Account Manager

Alex – Agency Sales Director

Toby –  Developer

Harry – Supply Account Manager

(and me) Naomi – Marketing Executive

Coull new hires

And now, for the run-up to Christmas, Coull are prepared for the winter ahead…
                                      
Winter is coming - Coull prepare for the winter ahead
Posted by Naomi Sandercock in Coull news
Coull are heading to Dmexco

Coull are heading to Dmexco

It’s less than a month until people from all over the globe gather in Cologne for the Dmexco conference.

It’s set to be a great place to network, share ideas and discuss the future of the advertising and digital world. Over 50,000 people and 1,000 exhibitors from the digital marketing industry will be there. Not only that, hundreds of speakers will be imparting their knowledge; the impressive line up include: P&G’s Marc Pritchard, Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey and Chris Cox, the CPO at Facebook.

At Coull, we like to think ourselves as the video overlay ad specialists. We are a Bristol born technology company, with teams in the heart of Bristol, London and the US. Six members of our team will be there to meet new people, chat about Coull and discuss the future of video and advertising.

If you’re curious about what we do or would like to work with us, come and say hello or organise a meeting with us!

Posted by Naomi Sandercock in Coull news
One idea, countless battles: Coull’s journey against ad fraud

One idea, countless battles: Coull’s journey against ad fraud

Coull's journey against ad fraudCreativity at the heart

Born out of the vibrant streets of Bristol, Coull has always had creativity at the heart of the business. Coull’s founders had a vision of making online video advertising an engaging and interactive experience. The idea was brewing away in the background since 2005, but the online video world was still growing and adapting. High-speed internet hadn’t appeared and many different video formats made things more complicated.

Skip forward a few years to 2007, YouTube had grown to over 50 million users and high-speed internet had arrived. Families were able to watch a cat play the piano, a dog surfing and someone biting Charlie’s finger, from the comfort of their own homes. It was revolutionary and people couldn’t get enough. The popularity of video content shot up and the creators wanted a way to profit from it.

Cue Coull. 2008 was our founding year and although we’ve come a long way since then, it was always about our love affair with video.

Introducing…programmatic

Programmatic arrived like a whirlwind in 2013. By connecting everyone and allowing quicker, more efficient sales, it sounded like a dream. Caught up in the vortex of the programmatic online world, Coull started out with an ad network model. We were integrating with leading programmatic platforms to enable delivery of interest-based, targeted advertising at a global scale.

One problem: ad fraud

All of the innovations emerging from the humble office in Bristol were exciting, but there was one big problem with the online ad industry: fraud. The regulation of crime, particularly ad fraud, couldn’t keep up with the digital world.

But Coull was prepared. We were producing our own in-house anti-fraud technology in the background for some time. Such as domain and IP filters, URL detection and implementing the IAB’s VPAID specification.

As anticipated, the talk about fraud in the media increased and some shocking figures flagged up. Behind the scenes, fraudsters had been on a crime shopping spree and cost the industry billions each year.

We quickly realised that, although ad networks were great for connecting us, the business model was a doomed one. It was undifferentiated and arbitraged inventory, combined with a justifiable loss of trust from buyers resulting in an inevitable race to the bottom. More importantly, it didn’t represent our original vision to be unique and think outside the box.

Dedicated team

First and foremost, at Coull, we pride ourselves on being a technology company. We have a dedicated team, many of whom are developers, and a fresh minded approach. This has lead to building and launching the Coull Platform. Our Platform consists of the Coull SSP, Coull Exchange and distinct Coull advertising formats, which are all self-built to fit Coull’s vision.

With us, publishers can earn revenue without spamming their content, advertisers can benefit from effective formats and users don’t get overloaded by ads. Not only this, we have a very comprehensive compliance process paired with a strong company ethos in combatting fraud.

We’ve invested in and improved our proprietary technology to ensure anti-fraud and brand safety. Applying our technology, we have a dedicated compliance team and partnerships with industry-leading verification vendors. Using their audit results, our true URL detection product and IP filters, we can effectively fight domain spoofing, bot fraud and build trust among our partners.

Viewability

But we aren’t stopping there. Viewability is of paramount importance. We currently measure viewability through our partners, but we have additional plans to improve our business. Using our technology expertise, in combination with our measurement partners, we expect to build our own viewable inventory marketplaces.

Regulation and transparency

Unfortunately, the internet won’t ever be fraud-free. Even recently, the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) estimate that ad fraud is likely to exceed $50 billion by 2025. Much like a game of whack-a-mole, as soon as one source of fraud is stamped out, another three pop up. But by having our own technology and platform, regulation is a lot simpler for us and being transparent with partners is easier.

After nine years of a bumpy rollercoaster ride in the online advertising industry, we’re now proud to say we’ve come a long way, keeping our founder’s vision alive and continuing to aspire. We have a strong ethos on ad fraud and are always trying to be transparent, educate and work with partners to tackle ad fraud together.

Find out more about fighting ad fraud by reading our last blog post: “Combatting ad fraud on the wild, wild, web“.

Posted by Naomi Sandercock in Coull news
Combatting ad fraud on the wild wild web

Combatting ad fraud on the wild wild web

ad fraud infographicFilms are made about drug cartels and stories are told of famous bank heists. But why aren’t we talking about one of the biggest organised crimes in the world: online ad fraud? It’s not as dramatic as other crime stories, but the elusiveness of digital fraud is one of the many reasons it’s not stopping. And we think it’s worth talking about.

By 2025, the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) estimate that ad fraud is likely to exceed $50 billion, making it second only to the drugs trade in terms of income. The web is turning into the wild west; every advertiser, publisher and adtech company for themselves. Ad fraud is relentless and jeopardising free online content.

But not to worry, there’s a new sheriff in town.

Coull has come a long way since our humble beginnings, we quickly realised how huge ad fraud was and we had to change this. Since then, we have been trying to tackle fraud in the wild wild web.

First of all, what should we all be looking for?

Automated traffic: Otherwise known as non-human traffic (NHT), it is the most common form of ad fraud. These bots can come from software applications which run automated tasks over the internet to simulate human activity.

Invalid traffic: Traffic running through a domain being undesirable, this does not mean the domain itself is bad and therefore would not require blocking. However, the source of the traffic needs to be found and removed.

Ghost sites: Ghost sites are made to resemble real websites, but have no value and instead host a multitude of advertisements.

Proxy traffic: A proxy allows anonymous access to the internet and can browse the internet without leaving a footprint. This means all ad requests will go through a proxy, so for those monitoring the requests, the only thing visible is the proxy – there’s no way to know who’s behind it.

Spoofing: A malicious party impersonates another device (or user) on a network in order to show ad requests from more reputable sources.

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

With a free and open internet dependant on ad revenues, it’s important that the entire chain works together to ultimately strike out the risk of ad fraud.

Here’s Coull’s advice and ethos:

Transparency

Being able to be completely open and honest with everyone in the industry means that, things like invalid traffic and ghost sites are easier to detect. Without transparency, it’s like finding a needle in a haystack…in the dark.

Coull strives to be a transparent and trusted company to work with. Which is why we’ve put a huge amount of time, effort and investment into eradicating invalid traffic from our platform.

Teamwork

We don’t have to tackle this crime alone, using the best third-party vendors to verify traffic is much more effective. At Coull, we work with MRC accredited third-party verification tools to track all inventory and act accordingly.

Also, we have our very own fraud detecting hero, Nicola, Coull’s compliance manager. Every day, Nicola manually scans traffic and domains to cut out the pesky bots and *inappropriate* websites. This enables us to have a multi-level process targeting ad fraud and eliminating it from our platform.

We have introduced our Traffic Quality Assurance program. This helps publisher partners reach the required quality and to help our advertisers buy media with confidence.

No double standards

Much like the wild west, online advertising doesn’t have many set rules, turning the internet into a western shootout – fraudulent traffic coming from every direction. One way to stop fraud is by measuring genuine ad impressions and true viewability.

Although industry bodies like the International Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) are setting guidelines, not everyone follows them. There are a huge number of ad tech vendors running their own measurement of these standards. This means each vendor’s results will be different, affecting expected CPMs, creating a lack of expected inventory and mistrust.

Coull has been working on pre-bid viewability technology. We can detect where the ad unit is on the page before it’s served. This enables advertisers to decide what inventory to purchase based on whether their ad would likely be in view. The biggest advantage is that this minimizes wasted ad spend, giving demand partners real-time data to help them make the best buying decision.

Educate

Coull’s queen of compliance, Nicola says, “Educating people about the different types of fraud is one of the most important things at the moment. Unfortunately, law enforcement is still behind on tackling ad fraud, so we need to learn how to defend ourselves.” So that means, helping publishers recognise any fraudulent traffic and the different forms it comes in. Also, helping buyers achieve an efficient and valuable return on campaigns by evading traps and not buying blind.

Direct partnerships

With the hundreds of partners, networks and exchanges out there it makes it easier for fraud to creep in. Whereas, having direct partnerships can eliminate the risk. According to Integral Ad Science, nearly 9% of digital ads delivered via programmatic channels are fraudulent, compared with only 2% of ads delivered through direct deals with publishers.

Coull cut out the middlemen by hosting our own exchange, connecting demand partners directly to publishers’ ad servers. And our formats, OverStream and DoubleUp are direct publisher integrations, for a simpler environment.

What now?Coull ad fraud checklist

Many companies are working on anti-fraud techniques, particularly the buy side. However, this year will hopefully see more supply side and exchange take the lead.

Publishers: Fraudulent activity can compromise your business model and can damage the brand’s reputation. You need to be able to identify the different forms of invalid traffic and be transparent about inventory.

Advertisers: Fake views on your online campaign is wasting money and creates inaccurate data about the ad’s performance. Make sure you know exactly what inventory you’re buying to protect brand image and have a more valuable return on campaigns.

Ad tech suppliers: If fraud is being hosted by your technology, you’ll be liable for refunds to your advertisers and their agencies – and may even be removed from media plans. Work on keeping up standards and abiding by guidelines. Also, direct relationships with partners result in more trust and transparency.  

It’s all about teamwork and education to banish the fraud cowboys from the wild wild web, for good.

Posted by Naomi Sandercock in Coull news
Women in tech series: it’s about a balance

Women in tech series: it’s about a balance

This is the last post in our women in tech series, but it’s just the beginning of the conversation.

In this post, I speak to Coull’s compliance manager, Nicola Woodford, and demand side account manager, Laura Matthews.

We’ve already covered the issue of education and the steps that need to be taken to encourage more women in tech. This time, we’re going to talk about the work/life balance. This is a real concern for many women and something companies need to support.

Both Nicola and Laura have made a significant contribution to Coull’s business strengths. They both have very specialist skills, unique to the industry and unique to Coull. I was eager to find out how the work/family balance is managed in a male-dominated industry.

Nicola Woodford – Coull Compliance Manager

Nicola, Coull compliance manager - Women in tech

Nicola is Coull’s compliance manager, a role created specifically around her skill set. She helps ensure Coull’s inventory is valid and viewable traffic, that’s brand safe, human and trustworthy. Some cybersecurity vendors use machine learning and algorithms to detect fraudulent or non-viewable traffic. Whereas Nicola combines specific technologies and her own eyes to spot invalid traffic before it even enters the market.

How did you get started working in programmatic ad tech?

Before working at Coull, programmatic ad tech wasn’t something I knew existed. I noticed the ads on the websites, but it wasn’t something I’d really considered. After university, I gained an internship at Coull, which really opened my eyes to online advertising. Throughout my time at Coull, and with help from the people here, I’ve gained extensive knowledge in the industry.

Do you think there is enough emphasis on developing the kind of skills needed to keep digital advertising clean?

Over the last year, in particular, there have been some really positive moves forward pushing the digital advertising industry to be cleaner. With the increased use of ad-blockers, I think the importance of ensuring clean, non-intrusive advertising is becoming more apparent.

Do you think there’s a gender bias when it comes to women in ad tech?

There does seem to be a gender bias. There are more males in senior roles within the industry than women, however, in recent years that’s slowly changing. It’s only fairly recently that women have been encouraged to pursue these types of roles and that starts with education. For example, I was discouraged from taking electronics as a GCSE as it was seen as a boy’s subject (luckily, I’m extremely stubborn so I completely ignored them). I’m now 28 and those attitudes haven’t changed much. It will take some time, but I like to think the bias is changing.

You have a young family, do you feel there’s a good level of support for you to keep a work/family balance?

I’m very lucky that Coull allows me flexibility. I know many friends who aren’t so lucky in that respect. With the rising cost of childcare and living expenses, for some women, it’s just not possible to return to work after maternity – whether they’d like to or not. Unfortunately, this means we’re losing many skilled women from the workplace. My hope is that women have more support and encouragement to return to work.

Do you think working in tech allows you to manage work and family life? This could be a positive drawcard, especially for mums.

As mentioned, I’m very lucky to have flexible working and this seems to be something that’s more prevalent in the tech and emerging media industries. Flexible working is possible due to the nature of the industry being online.

Compliance teams in programmatic are a fairly new idea. Do you find partners value your input and what you’re doing to ensure the industry works better for everyone?

Most partners value the input. Many are not aware that certain inventory is invalid and don’t see the importance of using third-party verification. Often, it’s possible to tell the validity of a partner by how they react to the compliance emails. I aim to educate partners in understanding and spotting invalid traffic rather than being accusatory. That way, we can work more efficiently as partners and I hope, make the industry cleaner and more transparent.

How do you explain your job to your family?

I have sort of given up trying to explain it to them. After extensive explanations, people usually come to the conclusion that I work in IT. Though recently, I was at a family get together and I heard my partner explaining to his brother that my job was to look at porn sites! (That is not what I do!)

Laura Matthews – Senior Account Manager (Demand)

Laura, Coull account manager - Women in tech

Laura is one of the youngest in Coull’s adops team, yet, also one of the most experienced in managing demand relationships.

What is the most enjoyable part of your day to day work?

I’d have to say the people I work with make my job very enjoyable. Coull has a great team and I can honestly say that they’re all my friends. We’re able to get all the work done but also have a laugh and help each other out. I also get to speak to a wide range of people in the industry, which is really great. I can talk for England, so being able to use that skill is awesome.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most difficult part of my job is when you find yourself spending a lot of time getting an account or campaign up and running and it doesn’t quite create the results you were expecting.

In your experience as an account manager, do you find you often speak with a mixture of men and women or is it skewed one way?

I would say, in the past four years I have worked at Coull, there’s definitely been an increase in women working in the industry. The balance is still not 50/50, however, I’m being introduced to more female account managers every month so it’s great to see that number growing.

What sort of skills have you learned from working in tech?

I studied for a history and politics degree so my technical knowledge was very limited. My strength when I joined Coull was my people skills, rather than technical ones. However, I’ve picked up so many technical skills over the past couple of years including creating VAST/VPAID tags, production releases within our SSP and putting demand campaigns live. Don’t get me wrong, I often don’t understand what our dev team are talking about when it comes to coding but I’m hoping I’ll get there one day.

Are any clients surprised to find their account manager is a female?

No, I don’t think I have found this with any of the accounts I’ve worked with.

Working regular office hours when some of your clients are in different time zones must be difficult. Is it hard not to take work home with you?

Absolutely. I went through a period of being online from 7 am in the morning to 11 pm at night, which makes it very difficult to have time to yourself. I’ve learned that most emails you receive after you leave work can be dealt with in the morning.

Do you feel there is enough support for young women in tech roles or do you think more could be done?

The digital industry is changing constantly so we often have to be quick on our feet to pick new things up. I do believe it would benefit a lot of people if there was more training groups for these emerging trends in order to keep up.

Would you normally describe yourself as a techie or is this something that’s developed because of the nature of your job?

I wouldn’t describe myself as a techie, that part of me has definitely grown during my time at Coull. Luckily my role mainly focuses on relationship building, speaking to different people each day and analysing reports, which are my favourite things to do. I’m lucky enough to have a great technical team around me who can assist with any setups.


This brings our women in tech series to a close. We hope these insights into real women, in a variety of tech roles, will encourage more discussion and more interest in employment.

The gender gap is wide and women in tech sometimes find they’re not taken as seriously as their male counterparts. However, the trend is slowly changing, as reflected by the women I’ve spoken with. And hopefully, putting more women in the centre of tech will encourage young women to adopt an interest and a passion for tech industries.

#womenintech

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

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment
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?

Sophia:

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.

Alex:

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?

Sophia:

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.

Alex:

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?

Sophia:

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.

Alex:

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!

ladybird-women-in-tech-blog

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

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment

The Coull Quickie – Header Bidding

In the latest Coull Quickie, Elise explores header bidding. She is joined by Coull CEO, Aden Forshaw, and Developer, Tom Riley.

Find out how header bidding works, the industry benefits and the value of using it at Coull.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull video
Navigating Cannes Lions as an AdTech Company

Navigating Cannes Lions as an AdTech Company

Cannes Lions. Yachts, rosè, hors d’oeuvres and networking – lots of networking. This year we sent some of our finest team members (well, the ones with the biggest mouths) along to the festival for the very first time.

Cannes Lions Festival has long been about the creative side of media and advertising, but with the adtech industry playing an increasingly dominant role in this space, the festival has well and truly been taken over by us adtech folk. With media companies, agencies, brands and technology companies from all over the world in attendance, it’s an opportunity like no other to meet current and prospective clients and partners, all in one place, in one week, and in a beautiful setting that ultimately puts everyone in a jolly good mood!

To keep things simple, here are our pros and cons from our experience at Cannes Lions.

Pros

  • Topical focused events. There is a good selection of interesting and engaging events happening outside of the main Palais Des Festivals (for which you don’t need a pass). These took on formats such as the classic panel with Q&As and open discussion lunches. From what I saw, these events cover interesting and relevant topics of the moment, and don’t tend to take longer than an hour, which is just as well in the Cannes heat! For example, TubeMogul hosted a panel session with agency executives on the rooftop of JW Marriot, discussing what programmatic models are best for brands.

  • The jetèe of yachts. I must admit, I’m a yacht convert. Leading up to Cannes I had the idea that yacht events are pretentious and cheesy and didn’t really like the idea of Coull hosting our own. But you know what, they are pretty damn cool, and once you’re out there, it becomes the norm. I found that a lot of technology companies took up residence on their own yacht for the week, and hosted parties every evening. Boat hopping was without a doubt how we did most of our networking out there. Why? Relaxed atmosphere, free drinks and food in abundance, great scenery and plenty of space.

  • Everyone is feeling positive. This is not a one or two day conference hall packed with suits trying to fit in as many business deals as possible. It’s a week (give or take) of relaxed, informal relationship building in a fantastic place with the sun shining. It’s hard not to have a smile on your face. There’s an unmistakable vibe of positivity, excitement and genuine interest to meet new people and explore new opportunities. Get your lighters out.

  • Business gets done. Believe it or not, a lot of deals are made in Cannes, and a lot of strong relationships are built. Before the sun sets and the drinks are flowing, most people are in back-to-back meetings, taking full advantage of the opportunity to meet with people they usually only get to speak to over the phone.

  • Relationship building.  Tying in with the above point, Cannes Lions has proved invaluable to us in terms of building and strengthening relationships. The down-time and relaxed atmosphere takes away the pressure and the formality. This, dare I say it, feels more like making friends rather than forced partnerships.

  • Lions Innovation. If you want to step away from all the above, and do the seminar and talks thing, then you absolutely can. It was the first year for Lions Innovation, a two day event where the topics of data, technology and creativity come together to bring a line-up of inspiring sessions for those in the industry. For a full round-up on what happened during these two days, visit The Guardian, who have compiled a great hour-by-hour overview, full of photos and videos. One of my personal favourites from this event was #EMOTICANNES – an incredible digital installation

Cons

  • It’s easy to steer off course. To be quite frank, we’re all in danger of mistaking this work trip as a bit of a holiday, so it’s important that you keep your head screwed on. My tip? Devise a schedule before you go, that’s not too tight, and stick to it. Saying that, this festival experience can be very serendipitous, and you never know what may come out of a spontaneous decision, so don’t be too afraid to get caught in the moment!

  • It’s very broad. The festival as a whole covers a broad range of companies and topics and so there are thousands of people in attendance that aren’t relevant to your company. And aside from the adtech boats and focused events, everyone tends to hang out in the same places, so you need to be careful not to dilute your time there too much.

  • Productivity. It’s most likely that you’re sending some of your C-level execs out there – these really busy people at the heart of the business are taking a week out of the daily grind to focus on Cannes. However, I see this activity as the same thing as any other long-term marketing tactics. It’s about the end-goal. Which brings us on nicely to…

  • Everyone at the office hates you. It’s inevitable, they’re sat in the office and we’re in the French Riviera. We’re sorry, but not really.

Tips

  • Do your planning – make sure you book on to as many relevant events as possible before you go. Even if you don’t end up going to all of them, you need to have a rough schedule and be ‘in-the-know’.

  • Book meetings with everyone you know that will be there. If the person in your company who usually deals directly with certain clients aren’t going, make sure that someone still meets them. Remember that you are representing your company, so knock it out of the park!

  • Make your schedule realistic and you’re more likely to stick to it. Too many late nights make early morning meetings difficult, so my tip would be to avoid committing to them in the first place.

  • Know what you want to get out of it. Are you predominately there for networking? Then maybe you don’t need a festival pass. Are you there to close deals? Go prepared and nurture those conversations in the lead up to the event.

  • Bring value home. Once you get passed the bitterness in the office, your colleagues will want to know what the company has got out of it. No matter how senior you are, you need to communicate this, so have that in mind.

Overall, #CannesLions was an invaluable experience for the Coull team and we’re all feeling very positive, despite the post-festival blues. We’ll see you there next year, hopefully with our own pretentious adtech yacht!

Posted by simonholliday in Coull news